Republicans Suddenly Finding ‘Scheduling Conflicts’ That Preclude Showing Up In Cleveland
An increasing number of Republican politicians are finding reasons to skip the Republican National Convention.
The New York Times notes that many Republicans are rushing to announce that they won’t be attending the Republican National Convention in July, and that even some of those who will be there won’t exactly be enthusiastically supporting their party’s nominee for President:
A wave of prominent Republicans have announced their intention to skip the party’s national convention in Cleveland this summer, the latest sign that Donald J. Trump, who last week secured the delegates needed to clinch the Republican presidential nomination, continues to struggle in his effort to unite the party behind his candidacy.
The list of those who have sent regrets includes governors and United States senators — almost all facing tough re-election fights this year — and lifelong party devotees who have attended every convention for decades. Some are renouncing their seats like conscientious objectors.
“I could not in good conscience attend a coronation and celebration of Donald Trump,” wrote one Indiana delegate, Josh Claybourn, in a blog post resigning his position.
The coolness toward Mr. Trump amounts to a remarkable rebuke. A broad range of party leaders are openly rejecting the man who will be their nominee. And the July 18-21 convention, usually a moment of public catharsis for political parties after contentious primaries, is shaping up to be another reminder of the disarray and disunity that is still rocking theRepublican Party after a bitter 17-way fight for the nomination.
The coolness toward Mr. Trump amounts to a remarkable rebuke. A broad range of party leaders are openly rejecting the man who will be their nominee. And the July 18-21 convention, usually a moment of public catharsis for political parties after contentious primaries, is shaping up to be another reminder of the disarray and disunity that is still rocking the Republican Party after a bitter 17-way fight for the nomination.
Even the two highest-ranking Republicans in the convention’s host state of Ohio — Gov. John Kasich and Senator Rob Portman, who is fighting to hold onto his seat — say they do not know if they will set foot in the convention hall.
Mr. Kasich, who only four weeks ago quit the presidential campaign and has not endorsed Mr. Trump, has no idea “what role if any he will have,” a spokesman said. He will be in Cleveland that week but has no plans, as of now, to partake in any official convention activities.
Several other of Mr. Trump’s former rivals for the nomination have said they will not attend or have not committed. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, will not be there. Neither will Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
“I’m sure it will be fun, I’m sure it will be entertaining,” Mr. Graham said last week. “And I can watch it on TV.”
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is a delegate as well as a former presidential candidate, has yet to decide. “T.B.D.,” a spokesman said. “The schedule is still being firmed up.”
At least two former competitors of Mr. Trump’s are expected to attend: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who last week offered his services as a speaker should they be wanted.
Among those staying away include some major corporations like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.
And some who do plan to be there might find the atmosphere somewhat uncomfortable.
Mr. Trump has still not fully reconciled with Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the convention’s chairman, who said in early May that he was not ready to support the nominee and would relinquish the role if asked.
Mr. Trump is also at odds with the head of the Republican Governors Association, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, who will lead her state’s delegation in Cleveland. Ms. Martinez has also withheld her endorsement, a slight that evidently prompted Mr. Trump to attack her performance in office last week.
Scheduling conflicts seem to be a surprisingly common excuse for missing an event that was announced a year and a half ago. Others offered mushy noncommitments.
“Just as they’re firming up the schedule, it kind of looks like there’s a lot of stuff for me to do,” said Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, explaining why he probably couldn’t make it.
Asked if Mr. Trump had anything to do with his reluctance, Mr. Johnson, who is in a heated re-election campaign, broke into a big smile and said, “Oh, of course not.”
Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, a state Mr. Trump has said he believes the Republicans can wrest from Democrats this year, also might have more important things to do at home. “Michigan has some pressing challenges right now,” a spokeswoman said last week, “and state issues are his foremost priority.”
Mr. Snyder is one of at least nine Republican governors who are noncommittal or skipping the convention: Mr. Kasich, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Bruce Rauner of Illinois, Larry Hogan of Maryland, Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina, Matt Mead of Wyoming and Nathan Deal of Georgia.
“I don’t even want to be involved,” Mr. Hogan said in an interview in March. “It’s a mess. I hate the whole thing.”
Obviously, the “scheduling conflict” excuse is something of a canard that candidates are delivering to reporters with a wink-and-nod attitude that acknowledges what the truth actually is in this situation. The date of the convention has been known for the better part of two years now, so the idea that there’s already something on the schedule that takes priority is the kind of white lie that politicians tell to avoid admitting the truth. If these politicians believed that attending the convention was in their interest, or that not attending would harm them politically in some way, then they’d find a way to be there. What’s obviously happening here is that a number of Republican office holders and candidates, alarmed by what has been unleashed with the triumph of Donald Trump, are choosing to put as much distance between themselves and Trump as possible. This is true not only of many of Trump’s former rivals for the Republican nomination, but also, understandably, among Senators who are up for re-election in battleground states. This is a list that includes everyone from Mark Kirk in Illinois to Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Rob Portman from Ohio. Even John McCain, who once again faces a challenge from the right in a primary this year in addition to what could be a tough re-election battle in the fall. In each case, the rather obvious concern is that being seen as associated too closely with Trump will do more harm to their campaigns than it will do good.
Obviously, news like this doesn’t bode well for the Trump campaign since it calls into question just how united the Republican Party will be headed into the fall. Traditionally, it’s been the case that former rivals bury the hatchet well before the convention and that everyone puts on a brave face for the convention and headed into the General Election. These are not ordinary times, though. Trump isn’t just a controversial candidate, he’s one that many Americans outside of the Republican Party rightfully find offensive and distasteful. Given that many of these public officials are up for re-election in 2016 or beyond, openly associating with someone who is so disliked is far riskier than any price they’ll pay for failing to show up for a four day party in Cleveland that is likely to become even more garish than ever thanks to the fact that someone as boorish and tasteless as Trump will be dictating much of the agenda and the entertainment. It’s not exactly a profile in courage given the fact that most of these same politicians also won’t publicly denounce Trump for fear of alienating the Republican voters they will also need to win re-election. Nonetheless, it’s also bad news for Trump since it virtually guarantees that the story out of Cleveland will be as much about the people who aren’t there and what that says about lack of unity in the Republican Party as it will be about Trump’s triumph. Those aren’t the kind of headlines you want to see heading into a General Election.