U.S. President Donald Trump makes a statement in the briefing room at the White House on May 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump announced news CDC guidelines that churches and places of worship are essential and must reopen now.
Trump threatens to pull RNC from North Carolina
01:01 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

President Donald Trump is poised to announce the city where he will accept his nomination for a second term as early as Thursday, with Jacksonville, Florida, emerging as one of the leading final contenders, two GOP officials close to the matter tell CNN.

Republican Party officials are scrambling to try to put on the kind of convention Trump wants after the President decided to ditch the original location, Charlotte, North Carolina, over a dispute with the state’s Democratic governor about social distancing guidelines put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

An announcement is not expected Wednesday, though the officials say the President controls the timing and the final decision, but Republicans involved in the planning say they expect the city to be revealed in a Trump tweet on Thursday or Friday.

“The President loves Jacksonville,” a senior Republican official tells CNN, but cautioning that a final decision has not yet been made.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Wednesday that Jacksonville is “absolutely in the frontrunning position” to host the celebration for the Republican convention.

“We are going to keep our convention of, the business of the convention in Charlotte. That is for sure. It’s going to be smaller and scaled down. And then we are looking for a different city for a celebration. There’s a couple more things we need to do before we can announce that, but Jacksonville is absolutely in the frontrunning position,” McDaniel said on The Hugh Hewitt Show.

Republican officials visited Jacksonville and other cities this week and are making final comparisons Wednesday and Thursday. Jacksonville has a Republican mayor and city council, along with a Republican governor, which gives it an edge.

“This is Trump country here. This is the single best city in America, in which to host the Republican National Convention, and for several reasons. It’s a battleground county in a battleground state, in a city where you have unified Republican governance,” Duval County Republican Chairman Dean Black told CNN.

The scramble to find a new home for the convention comes after tense negotiations between Republican officials and officials from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s office broke down last week. Trump, over the last two weeks, started to target Cooper because he refused to lift social distancing guidelines and allow massive crowds inside the host arena, a strategy that Republicans have said looks to turn the Democratic governor into a scapegoat should the convention not be able to go off as planned due to coronavirus.

As CNN previously reported, the RNC will still have to hold some formal portions of the convention in Charlotte due to contractual obligations. However, the performative aspects – such as Trump’s speech accepting the nomination – are expected to take place elsewhere.

The communications director for the North Carolina Democratic Party, Austin Cook, said in a statement, “If the president is genuinely delusional enough to think that demanding a full-scale convention is reasonable, then Jacksonville is more than welcome to host his acceptance speech.”

“Governor Cooper has made it clear that no political event is worth risking the public health of the Charlotte community and the lives of more North Carolinians,” Cook continued. “Evidently President Trump’s calculus is different.”

As party officials began searching for a new location, state lawmakers and officials started courting Trump directly, believing he would be making the final decision on where to hold the event. Georgia and Florida emerged as two states pursuing the convention the most aggressively, according to multiple sources involved in and around conversations on the convention.

Both states have the advantage of being the home to some of Trump’s most ardent supporters – including GOP Sen. David Purdue in Georgia and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida – as well as a slew of lawmakers and state officials who have the President’s ear.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry pitched his city as the next convention host on Twitter last week and DeSantis, who talks to the President regularly, told Fox last week that the state was ready to host the event.

“We’ll be able to make those decisions about what precautions need to be taken as you get closer, but to just rule out a convention at this stage, I think, is a mistake,” DeSantis said. “So we’ve said we want to get to ‘yes’ on it, and I think you’ll be able to do it.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Kristen Holmes, Kate Sullivan, DJ Judd and Ryan Nobles contributed to this report.