The Republican National Convention just moved to Jacksonville. What does that mean for us?
By Christian Borio
PHOTO: Mark J. Terrill, AP Photo
Just a stone’s throw away from the Hostess City, Jacksonville is poised to host part of the Republican National Convention after disagreements with North Carolina authorities. Is the Lowcountry in for a mass influx of visitors?
The 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio was estimated by Politico to bring in approximately 50,000 people. Now, according to NPR, GOP officials expect the same turnout this year — despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The upcoming RNC, scheduled for August 24th, has been moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida.
According to Fox News, the president and Republican officials were frustrated with North Carolina Governor Goy Roy Cooper, a Democrat, for refusing to guarantee the RNC a full arena for their convention in Charlotte; this is because, as Fox says, “North Carolina is among at least 10 states that have seen a spike in new coronavirus cases since Memorial Day.” President Trump tweeted his disappointment in Governor Cooper, saying that the convention “would have showcased North Carolina to the World and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, and jobs, for the State.” Governor Cooper responded in a tweet that “protecting public health and safety during this pandemic is a priority.”
The president considered several cities throughout the South to relocate the RNC. Jacksonville’s current mayor, Lenny Curry, is a Republican, making the city a more attractive pick for the GOP. Mayor Curry and the 2020 Jacksonville Host Committee announced their excitement on twitter alongside a promotional video.
Florida is a crucial swing state that President Trump only narrowly won in the 2016 election (it was his fifth-closest state win). Florida had 29 electoral votes, making it an important focal point. The location of the RNC in Jacksonville could potentially help President Trump win over that state again. In addition, Jacksonville is just half an hour away from the Georgia state line, putting the president in a position to strengthen his presence in two critical states (Georgia had 16 delegates in the previous election, and was also only narrowly won).
So how much money exactly does the RNC bring to its host city? Well the magic number that’s floating around is $100 million, as claimed by the Republican National Committee and by Mayor Larry Curry in this tweet. According to Cleveland.com, an RNC research committee found that $110 million was spent in Cleveland as a result of the 2016 RNC.
Over 5,000 people have signed a petition to keep the RNC out of Jacksonville amidst coronavirus fears and the likelihood of protest movements. The Guardian estimates that 18,349 people came to the 2016 RNC in Cleveland to protest. We can only speculate about what that number will look like this year, but it’s sure to be high amid nationwide demonstrations against the murder of George Floyd.
With Jacksonville just two hours away, Savannah is sure to receive some additional traffic into the city. Whether or not the inevitable protests will touch the Hostess City is another question. All we know now is that this year’s election will most likely be as divisive and controversial as the last.