GOP drags centrist Dems to Charlotte against their will

The GOP’s “rapid response” hive in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Monday greeted visitors with life-sized cardboard cutouts of Democrats including Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinIn the politics of healthcare reform, past is prologue Dem senator: UK attack shows importance of US intelligence community Heitkamp, Manchin under pressure over GOP regs bill MORE (D-W.Va.) and Jon TesterJon TesterCongress should act on measure to help Medicare, small businesses GOP senators distance themselves from House ObamaCare repeal bill Senators introduce lifetime lobbying ban for lawmakers MORE (D-Mont.) and Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.).

All three are skipping the convention. Republicans are highlighting the no-shows as they try and tether conservative-state Democrats – including a number in tight races – to President Obama.

Overall a total of 22 Democratic House members, senators and governors (including West Virginia’s Earl Ray Tomblin) aren’t showing up, according to Republicans.

Their likenesses are in the GOP’s messaging space that’s just blocks from the Time Warner Cable Arena where the main convention speeches occur, and even closer to the Charlotte Convention Center where many Democratic events are held and reporters camp out.

A Republican National Committee aide is promising a prop-heavy week of GOP counterprogramming. Others visual aides include children’s toys, such as a log cabin playset and other toys that create buildings.

They will be used to help Republicans bash Obama over his now-infamous “you didn’t build that” comment about U.S. businesses (Democrats say that Obama has been taken badly out of context).

“It is a lighthearted way to make a point,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said of the props.