Let Us Count The Ways: How GOPers Are Explaining Ducking Their Convention

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Update: This story has been updated to include additional reasoning from some Republicans as to why they plan on skipping the convention.

It’s not new that some politicians facing tough re-elections will skip out on national party convention, particularly when associating with the top-of-the-ballot nominee isn’t a good look for them.

But the calculus facing GOP lawmakers in the 2016 cycle is particularly ugly. Senators defending seats in purple states might be show up to July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland for a pageant crowning Donald Trump — who has alienated minorities, women, and many others — their party leader. Or they might risk getting tangled up for a messy floor battle, in which a candidate perhaps just as toxic ends up wresting away the nomination.

So vulnerable Republicans have come up with some creative ways to explain why they haven’t booked their plane tickets to Ohio just yet.

Here are the Republicans thinking about skipping the GOP convention and how they’re spinning their reasons:

For Chrissake, I Have A Re-election Campaign To Run!

John McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) blamed his re-election campaign for keeping him from Cleveland this year.

“I have to campaign for reelection, and I have always done that when I’m up,” McCain said, according to The Hill. “We have a late primary in Arizona.”

Well, actually … the last time McCain was up for re-election during a presidential election year was 2004, and he spoke at the convention that year.

Mark Kirk

Sen. Mark Kirk’s (R-IL) campaign manager confirmed to the The Daily Herald that his tough race against Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) would be a priority over the convention.

“Senator Kirk has his own re-election to win, so he will be working hard toward that goal, not going to the Republican convention in Ohio,” Kevin Artl, Kirk’s campaign manager, said.

Kirk reiterated that he would be focusing on his re-election when asked about his plans on WGN Radio’s “The Roe Conn Show” Thursday, but also said he wanted to avoid the “jamokes” running for president.

“I’ll be back home in Illinois, talking to the people of Illinois, and running for re-election, very much focusing on Illinois and its issues and not hanging out with those ’16 jamokes who are running for president,” Kirk said.

Kelly Ayotte

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) said that it was “unlikely” she would attend the convention, citing the challenge she faces from New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D).

“I’ve got a lot of work to do in New Hampshire, I have my own re-election and I’m going to be focusing on my voters in New Hampshire,” she said, according to CNN.

Lisa Murkowski

Like McCain, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also has a late-in-the-season primary that she used to explain her absence at the convention.

The convention, she told Bloomberg, “is very shortly before my primary. So I’m going to be home with Alaskans.”

Count Me Out If It’s A Trump Coronation Or A S***show

Jeff Flake

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) isn’t up for re-election, but he said his attendance at the GOP convention will depend on whether Donald Trump has won the nomination.

He told Bloomberg that his decision to go will be based on “whether it’s a Trump coronation or not. If it is, I see no reason to go.”

Lindsey Graham

Like Flake, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) presence at the convention will hinge on how the primary unfolds.

According to Bloomberg, his decision will depend on “how crazy it looks.” Graham’s Senate seat is not up for grabs this cycle.

I’m Keeping My Options Open!

Rob Portman

It would be pretty awkward for Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to skip a convention in his home state, but it appears the vulnerable Republican is going to try to have it both ways.

He is planning a “mini-convention,” according to Bloomberg, of campaign events for himself in Cleveland while the national convention is underway.

“I’m going to have my own thing. We’re bringing volunteers from around the state,” he said, The Hill reported. “We’re going to have an event in what’s called Tri-C, which is a community college. It’s near the convention center but outside the perimeter so people can get there.”

Ron Johnson

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) played coy about his intention to go to the convention, as he faces a challenge from the Democrat who used to have his seat, Russell D. Feingold.

“Those are my plans, but things could change,” said Johnson, according to The Hill.

Roy Blunt

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) faces a primary days after the convention, so he told Bloomberg that he’s a maybe, and that if he goes, it will be for only a “ day or two.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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