How RNC 2020 will be dif­fer­ent from DNC 2012,

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY TIM FUNK [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Char­lotte’s done this po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tion thing be­fore, and not too long ago –2012 with the Democrats. So some things – more traf­fic, pro­test­ers in the streets, all the me­dia at­ten­tion – will look and feel the same when the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion comes to town in 2020.

But there will be dif­fer­ences. The nov­elty has worn off. And in just six years, the city and the coun­try have changed. Amer­ica is more po­lar­ized and the prospect of host­ing a con­ven­tion star­ring Don­ald Trump is deeply un­pop­u­lar with many in an in­creas­ingly Demo­cratic Char­lotte.

There were high-fives all around last time, when the Democrats an­nounced they were com­ing to Char­lotte. But this time, af­ter hear­ing from 100 speak­ers on both sides, the pre­dom­i­nantly Demo­cratic City Coun­cil nar­rowly voted last week to sup­port the GOP con­ven­tion.

Here, then, are six ways RNC 2020 may be the same – and dif­fer­ent – from DNC 2012.

1. THE PARTY

Same: They don’t call them po­lit­i­cal par­ties for noth­ing. When Democrats got to Char­lotte in 2012, they mostly wanted to don cam­paign but­tons, hit ev­ery re­cep­tion in town, cheer till they were hoarse and, of course, renom­i­nate Pres­i­dent Barack Obama for a sec­ond term. In 2020, it’ll be the Repub­li­cans’ turn to cel­e­brate as they gather in the same up­town arena to of­fi­cially launch Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re-elec­tion bid*. The 2012 signs in Time Warner Arena read “Yes we can – again!” In 2020, imag­ine a sea of red hats in what is now Spec­trum Cen­ter, each of them spell­ing out some­thing like “Make Amer­ica Even Greater!”

Dif­fer­ent: Trump’s path to renom­i­na­tion looks free and clear right now – af­ter all, he has a 90 per­cent fa­vor­able rat­ing within the GOP. But spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s on­go­ing probe re­mains a gi­ant ques­tion mark. Hence the as­ter­isk above. If Mueller turns up hardto-deny ev­i­dence against Trump, the pres­i­dent could face im­peach­ment. Or at least a cred­i­ble pri­mary chal­lenge.

2. THE CELEBRI­TIES

Same: Part of the fun of liv­ing in a con­ven­tion city is all the celebrity sight­ings. A sam­pling from the Democrats’ shindig in 2012: Ash­ley Judd, Com­mon, James Tay­lor, Al­fre Woodard, Jeff Bridges, Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton, Scarlett Jo­hans­son, Kerry Wash­ing­ton, Mary J. Blige, Amer­ica Fer­rera and Wayne Knight, bet­ter known as New­man on “Se­in­feld.” Repub­li­cans have po­lit­i­cally-at­tuned celebri­ties, too. They’re just not the same ones.

Dif­fer­ent: In 2020, you might just get self­ies on Tryon Street with such fa­mous fans of Trump as Sylvester “Rocky” Stal­lone, Jon Voight, Ted Nu­gent, Roseanne Barr, Hulk Ho­gan, Don King, Scott Baio, Loretta Lynn, Bobby Knight, Tim Allen and new NRA Pres­i­dent Oliver North.

3. THE ME­DIA

Same: About 15,000 mem­bers of the press cov­ered the

2012 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Char­lotte. At least that many will be back for the GOP soiree. As be­fore, the net­works and ca­ble chan­nels will dress up sky­box suites in Spec­trum Cen­ter for their an­chors, while their re­porters hunt for in­ter­views on the floor. But in 2012 the big­ger me­dia buzz was out­side the arena. Com­edy Cen­tral’s “The Daily Show with Jon Ste­wart” set up shop nightly at Imag­inOn. And MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe” host Joe Scar­bor­ough did his early morn­ing talk­fest from up­town’s Epi­Cen­tre.

Dif­fer­ent: In 2020, with the Repub­li­cans run­ning the show, the star me­dia at­trac­tion will al­most cer­tainly be Fox News. Its sta­ble of stars will get the lat­est news tips and the big­gest names for in­ter­views. “Fox & Friends” could do their morn­ing show from, say, the NASCAR Hall of Fame. POTUS, mean­while, will be the king of so­cial me­dia dur­ing con­ven­tion week: Ev­ery del­e­gate and ev­ery re­porter will start their day by check­ing in on Trump’s lat­est tweets. What nick­name will he give Char­lotte?

4. THE CITY

Same: Char­lotte will again be in the na­tional – make that in­ter­na­tional – spot­light as the city be­comes, for a week, the cen­ter of the po­lit­i­cal and me­dia uni­verse. In 2012, we were like the ris­ing star mak­ing its big de­but. Del­e­gates from all over com­pli­mented our South­ern hos­pi­tal­ity and our sky­scrapers and our oh-sowalk­a­ble up­town. Yes, there were com­plaints about bed­bugs at some of the ho­tels, but Char­lotte mostly shined as a wel­com­ing can-do city.

Dif­fer­ent: The im­age of Char­lotte that wowed ’em in 2012 took a beat­ing a few years later. First, there was the na­tional study in which Char­lotte fin­ished dead last – 50th of the 50 largest cities – in eco­nomic mo­bil­ity. Then, in 2016, the city made the na­tional news again – this time for ri­ots sparked by the po­lice shoot­ing of Keith La­mont Scott. In 2020, out-oftown re­porters may not be so wide-eyed when they do their sto­ries on Char­lotte. The gleam­ing up­town/downtown will still get a men­tion, but so will the city’s poverty prob­lem.

5. THE MONEY

Same: When the Democrats were in Char­lotte, they at­tended about 1,200 events at lo­cal venues and at­trac­tions. They spent $20.9 mil­lion on ho­tels, $5.7 mil­lion on food and drink, and $5.3 mil­lion on ground trans­porta­tion. Repub­li­cans have fewer del­e­gates at their con­ven­tions – 2,472 in 2016, com­pared with the Democrats’ 4,763. Still, they also will spend millions in Char­lotte in 2020.

Dif­fer­ent: Some of the venues might be dif­fer­ent with Repub­li­cans set­ting up the events. Re­cep­tions at the Billy Gra­ham Li­brary, the Char­lotte Mo­tor Speed­way and the Trump Na­tional Golf Course in Mooresville could prove pop­u­lar. But in a Char­lotte that’s grown in­creas­ingly di­verse, Demo­cratic and anti-Trump, some venues may take a pass on con­ven­tion busi­ness to reg­is­ter their op­po­si­tion to the pres­i­dent’s record on Char­lottesville, Va., Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, the Supreme Court and sep­a­rat­ing im­mi­grant chil­dren from their par­ents.

6. THE POLITICS

Same: In 2012, North Carolina was cho­sen to host Obama’s sec­ond con­ven­tion partly be­cause it was a Demo­cratic-blue city in a bat­tle­ground state. North Carolina will still be a pur­ple state in 2020. And like the Democrats, the Repub­li­cans will want to show off their Caroli­nas con­tin­gent by giv­ing them time on stage and, in some cases, hold­ing elec­tion-year fundrais- ers to build up their war chests.

Dif­fer­ent: The wel­com­ing chores in 2012 were han­dled by then-Char­lotte Mayor An­thony Foxx, a Demo­crat who was later re­warded with a post in Obama’s Cab­i­net. The cur­rent mayor, Demo­crat Vi Lyles, spent po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal lob­by­ing for the GOP con­ven­tion, but also an­nounced she would not ad­dress the del­e­gates. With so few Repub­li­can of­fice­hold­ers in Char­lotte, the spot­light might shift to U.S. Sen. Thom Til­lis, R-N.C., who is at least from Meck­len­burg County. He’s also up for re­elec­tion in 2020. Oth­ers from the Caroli­nas who might get some na­tional TV time at the con­ven­tion: Trump Bud­get Chief Mick Mul­vaney, who grew up in Char­lotte and was later elected to Congress from South Carolina; S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, a Trump fa­vorite; and evan­ge­list Franklin Gra­ham, a Trump sup­porter.

Ob­server file photo

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is joined on stage by his wife Michelle and daugh­ters Malia and Sasha at the 2012 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Char­lotte.

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