“Arizona is in real trouble.”
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is scouting new locations to hold Trump’s nomination acceptance this August after the governor of North Carolina said he couldn’t guarantee his state would be ready to hold a mass gathering in Charlotte by then due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite a record 1,127 new cases reported Tuesday in Arizona, an increasing number of positive cases, hospitalizations, and other up-and-to-the-right metrics used to track the disease, multiple Arizona political figures are pushing to hold the event here.
Two members of the RNC were expected to visit Arizona to scout possible locations, according to Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, who has been lobbying for the move.
“Unlike the NC Governor, I’m ready to welcome the RNC to AZ! @AZCardinals Stadium in my district would be the perfect place to kick off a Trump Victory in 2020. Lots of sunshine, great views, wonderful people. What do you think @GOPChairwoman ,@GOP, @realDonaldTrump? #RNCinAZ” she said in a tweet Tuesday.
The RNC said Thursday it will plan to continue conducting convention business in North Carolina, but Trump will plan to accept the nomination in another city. Besides the Phoenix area, the committee is considering Nashville; Orlando, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; New Orleans; and Dallas.
The chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, Kelli Ward, and Republican Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio have also supported the move, notably echoing Gov. Doug Ducey’s oft-repeated slogan that Arizona is “open for business.”
That slogan, which was previously mostly connected to Ducey’s platform goals of reducing taxes and accepting out-of-state occupational licenses, was cited as a reason to reopen Arizona businesses, despite the state not yet fully showing COVID-19 was under control.
Coronavirus Getting Worse in Arizona
Following a visit from Trump in early May and multiple calls from the president to begin reopening the economy, Gov. Ducey began allowing certain businesses to reopen as early as May 8. He also let the state’s stay-at-home order expire May 15.
In recent weeks, Arizona has seen cases begin to pick back up. The percentage of positive diagnostic tests, hospitalizations for COVID-19, and emergency room visits for the virus have also all been trending upward.
Topher Spiro, director of health policy at the Center for American Progress, tweeted graphs showing Arizona’s outlook growing worse. “Arizona is in real trouble,” he said. “New cases and positive rate rising steadily.”
Maricopa County Public Health also acknowledged Tuesday that cases “are starting to rise beyond the increase from additional testing.”
However, Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ maintained their position Thursday that there’s no cause for alarm.
“We are seeing [the percentage of positive cases] go up,” Christ said at a briefing. “It’s not unexpected, especially as we are targeting more of those vulnerable higher areas and higher numbers of long-term care, higher numbers of correctional officers and prisons. So we are going to see changing numbers, and we expect that.”
Trump Downplays Health Concerns
Trump has consistently downplayed the severity of the pandemic, supporting the economy over public health.
During his time in Arizona, the president said, “Will some people be affected badly? Yes, but we have to get our country open, and we have to get it opened soon.”
The possibility of moving the Republican convention came about after Trump told Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper he wanted a guarantee the convention could be held with “full attendance.”
Copper responded that state health officials were working with the RNC and relying on “data and science” to protect the public.
The Democratic National Convention was originally scheduled to be held in late July in Milwaukee. The committee has since moved it to August, the week before the RNC, but said they are still monitoring the situation and have not forced Wisconsin officials to guarantee the event will go on as planned.
COVID Isn’t the Only Problem
Coronavirus isn’t the only concern on some people’s minds. Deciding to hold an event supportive of Trump while the state and rest of the nation are protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has some worried about the potential for more civil unrest.
“Certainly, it would be something of an economic boon, but honestly, be careful what you wish for,” Burdett Loomis, professor emeritus at the University of Kansas, told The Arizona Republic. “Not on when it comes to the virus, but you have the most problematic presidential candidate in a long time … and with the protests, there is a great possibility of violence. There certainly would be protests, and the logistics of handling that, to say nothing of handling the convention, would be extraordinary.”
Despite no major issues the last time Trump held a rally in Phoenix, his presence in the state has led to violence in the past. When he visited the state in 2017, police ended up deploying tear gas and pepper balls on protesters.
Police have used the same tactics against protesters in the Phoenix area in recent days, arresting about 300 people over the weekend after declaring an unlawful assembly. However, protests ended in no arrests for the third day in a row Wednesday, also the seventh consecutive day of protests in the city.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.