Campaign chief to vulnerables: Stay away from GOP convention

Campaign chief to vulnerables: Stay away from GOP convention
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the Senate Republican campaign arm is telling vulnerable colleagues in tough races to stay away from the GOP presidential convention this summer.

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Republican Senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal MORE (R-Miss.), the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, warns that a fight between supporters of candidates Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBarr criticizes DOJ in speech declaring all agency power 'is invested in the attorney general' Military leaders asked about using heat ray on protesters outside White House: report Powell warns failure to reach COVID-19 deal could 'scar and damage' economy MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzLoeffler calls for hearing in wake of Netflix's 'Cuties' Health care in the crosshairs with new Trump Supreme Court list 'Parks and Rec' cast members hosting special reunion to raise money for Wisconsin Democrats MORE at a contested convention in Cleveland is the last place vulnerable Republicans need to be.

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“If there’s going to be a brouhaha, I’m advising candidates to be present for more unifying events,” Wicker told The Hill.

And he’s far from alone in his opinion.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainKelly's lead widens to 10 points in Arizona Senate race: poll COVID response shows a way forward on private gun sale checks Trump pulls into must-win Arizona trailing in polls MORE (R-Ariz.) told reporters on Tuesday that he’s skipping the Republican National Convention for the first time in years.

“I have to campaign for reelection, and I have always done that when I’m up,” the 2008 GOP nominee told reporters.

McCain was up for reelection in the Senate in 2004 and 1992, however, and still found time to speak at the GOP convention in those years. He also spoke at the convention in 2012, 2000, 1996, 1988 and 1984.

The senator acknowledged that it’s possible the party’s eventual standard-bearer could drag down GOP candidates down-ballot such as himself.

“That’s always a concern,” said McCain, who faces a potentially tough race this year against Democratic Rep. Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickArizona Rep. Tom O'Halleran wins Democratic primary Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick wins Democratic primary Cook shifts 20 House districts toward Democrats MORE. He also has to worry about an Aug. 30 primary.

GOP Sens. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkLiberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' MORE of Illinois and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBottom line Bottom line Bottom Line MORE of New Hampshire are also planning to skip the convention. Both face tough reelection races.

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

A spokeswoman for Ayotte said she won’t be there either.

A fourth vulnerable Republican, Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanRomney undecided on authorizing subpoenas for GOP Obama-era probes Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery House passes B bill to boost Postal Service MORE of Ohio, said he isn’t sure he’ll be at the convention — which is in his home state.

Portman said he has planned political events in Cleveland and as of now does not plan to participate in floor activities at the Quicken Loans Arena — though he might pop over if he has the time.

“I’m going to have my own thing. We’re bringing volunteers from around the state,” he said. “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.”

He will also help build a Habitat for Humanity house in Cleveland.

Portman’s campaign emphasized it was planning these alternative events long before it was known the presidential race would boil down to Trump and Cruz.

The caution shown by all of the GOP candidates underlines the unusual nature of this year’s Republican convention.

Republicans haven’t held a contested convention since 1976, when President Gerald Ford battled Ronald Reagan for the nomination. Since then, the convention has generally been a piece of theater designed to bolster the party’s nominee.

This year, there are worries of riots or violence if Trump supporters believe the nomination is being unfairly wrested from their favored candidate.

The business mogul, who has assailed the delegate selection process as “corrupt and crooked,” could still win the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nod before Cleveland. If he doesn’t, he’ll head to Ohio with more delegates than Cruz or John Kasich but no guarantee he’ll leave with the crown.

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranLobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes MORE (R-Kan.), who served as NRSC chairman in the last Congress, said Cleveland could be a “bruising convention.”

“That convention has the capability of people going home with a poor taste in their mouths,” he said. “We may have a nominee before the convention, I don’t know. But in the absence of that happening, tough decisions will have to be made.”

Moran, whose Kansas seat is considered safe Republican territory but was threatened last month with a possible primary challenger, is also staying away from Cleveland.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntOn The Money: Trump undercuts GOP, calls for bigger COVID-19 relief package | Communities of color hit hardest financially by COVID-19 | Businesses, states pass on Trump payroll tax deferral Trump undercuts GOP, calls for bigger COVID-19 relief package Businesses, states pass on Trump payroll tax deferral MORE (R-Mo.), who has a tougher-than-expected reelection bid against Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, says he’s undecided.

“I don’t have any idea. I usually don’t go for very long if I go. I am not a devoted attender of the conventions,” he said, noting he has a primary election in early August. “There’s going to be a lot going on.”

Two vulnerable Republicans running in states that President Obama carried in 2008 and 2012, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator blocks Schumer resolution aimed at Biden probe as tensions run high The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Big 10 votes to resume football season GOP votes to authorize subpoenas, depositions in Obama-era probe MORE of Wisconsin, do plan to attend the convention. Both are betting they’ll need to energize their party’s base to win in November.

“Those are my plans, but things could change,” said Johnson.

“I think so,” Toomey said when asked whether he would be present.

“Everyone will make their own decision,” he added when told of Wicker’s advice.

Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump, Biden renew push for Latino support Former Intel chief had 'deep suspicions' that Putin 'had something on Trump': book Overnight Defense: Woodward book causes new firestorm | Book says Trump lashed out at generals, told Woodward about secret weapons system | US withdrawing thousands of troops from Iraq MORE (R-Ind.), who is retiring at the end of the year, said his colleagues are better off staying at home.

“You’re better off being in your own state, running your own race and not being caught up in all the machinations that may take place at the convention,” he said.

“This one is potentially toxic,” he said. “You don’t see too many candidates endorsing anybody for that very reason. You endorse Trump and the Cruz people are mad, you endorse Cruz and the Trump people are mad.”