The North Carolina GOP’s annual convention is drawing the top Republican presidential contenders to Greensboro this weekend.
Former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis and former Vice President Mike Pence are slated to speak at the convention that begins Thursday. The annual convention brings together Republican delegates and top state party leaders each year.
The presidential primaries aren’t until next year, but the three Republicans have already been courting voters across the country. Pence formally joined the presidential race Wednesday morning.
North Carolina is considered a purple state, about evenly divided between Democratic and Republican voters. Trump won in North Carolina in both his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. It could prove to be a crucial state in the 2024 elections.
But first, the party will have to pick its presidential nominee in the spring primary contests. There too, North Carolina’s delegates could be key to winning the GOP nomination.
Trump is polling well ahead of the other candidates for the nomination.
“This is a testament to the importance of NC as a battleground state and strength of our Republican Party going into the 2024 cycle,” North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley said on Twitter last month after the convention speakers were announced.
Thrilled to welcome @realDonaldTrump, @Mike_Pence and @GovRonDeSantis for the 2023 @NCGOP State Convention in #GSO. This is a testament to the importance of NC as a battleground state and strength of our Republican Party going into the 2024 cycle. pic.twitter.com/jTHNkTwW3T— Michael Whatley (@WhatleyNCGOP) May 8, 2023
Pence is scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Trump, his former boss, will take the stage six hours later. Desantis will speak Friday evening.
Trump and Pence seemed to maintain a good relationship through most of their term. But the two men split after the 2020 election, as Trump tried to enlist his VP to help overturn President Joe Biden’s win.
Pence, as vice president, presided over the joint session of Congress to verify the results of the election on Jan. 6, 2021.
When a mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, one of their chants was “hang Mike Pence.” Trump has continued to repeat false narratives about the 2020 election as he campaigns a third time for president.
Trump spoke at the North Carolina GOP convention in 2021.
The annual convention brings together Republican leaders from across North Carolina. Paul Newby, chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, will speak Saturday morning at the Judicial Victory Fund Breakfast. Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, is the speaker for the Sunday prayer breakfast.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will also be in North Carolina Friday. They plan to visit Nash Community College in Rocky Mount before traveling to Fort Liberty, formerly Fort Bragg, to meet with service members and their families.