Dozens of GOP lawmakers staying away from Trump's convention

Dozens of GOP lawmakers staying away from Trump's convention
© Getty Images

The overwhelming majority of House Republicans in competitive races this fall won’t be at the Republican National Convention to watch Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE accept the party’s nomination for president. 

Many have concluded that keeping their distance — figuratively and physically — from Trump is in their best interest, particularly in racially diverse districts where the businessman is unpopular.


Despite the reduced attendance, most of the House GOP leadership team is slated to be in Cleveland to make a show of unity behind the nominee.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocratic super PAC quotes Reagan in anti-Trump ad set to air on Fox News: 'Are you better off?' Trump lashes out at Reagan Foundation after fundraising request The Memo: Trump's grip on GOP loosens as polls sink MORE (Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) are both expected to deliver speeches during the GOP convention. Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (N.C.) and Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), the chairman of House Republicans’ campaign arm, plan to be in Cleveland as well.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing More than 100 lawmakers urge IRS to resolve stimulus payment issues MORE (Wash.) will not attend the convention, however. McMorris Rodgers endorsed Trump after he became the presumptive nominee but expressed concerns about his inflammatory comments regarding women and people with disabilities. 

Most of the more than two dozen Republican incumbents in competitive reelection races offered nearly identical answers when asked if they would go to the convention.

“Rep. Hurd will spend next week in the district meeting with constituents,” said Rep. Will Hurd’s (Texas) spokeswoman.

“Rep. Knight has several important commitments in the district that week and will not be attending,” Rep. Steve Knight’s (Calif.) office said in an email.

“He will be working hard in his own Congressional District, touring businesses and meeting with voters throughout the Central Valley,” Rep. David Valadao’s (Calif.) spokeswoman said.

Rep. David Jolly (Fla.) also said he plans to work in his district, which is currently rated as leaning Democratic, instead of going to the convention. He told The Hill that he offered his convention credentials to local party officials, but so far there haven’t been any takers.

“Apparently it’s a buyer’s market right now, if you will,” Jolly said. “At this point, mine will go unused.”

Jolly remains undecided on Trump and isn’t sure if he’ll endorse him at any point. He took to the House floor late last year to call on Trump to drop out of the Republican primary race for proposing to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

“I don’t know if I’ll get there,” Jolly said with a sigh. “I really don’t.”

Other Republican lawmakers who aren’t necessarily in tough reelection races but have trouble stomaching Trump have other plans this week as well.

Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.), a centrist who originally endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said he only planned to go if the convention was contested. But with Trump seemingly a done deal, he says Republicans are better off concentrating on their individual races. 

“We have two candidates who have wildly high unfavorability image ratings, and so it’s better that we focus on our own races,” Dent said.

Libertarian Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashPeter Meijer wins GOP primary in Amash's Michigan district Amash confirms he won't seek reelection Democrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle MORE (Mich.) said he’s not going to the convention, either, and plans on finding another candidate to support instead of Trump in November.

In addition to Ryan and McCarthy, at least five other prominent House Republicans are expected to speak at the convention: Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (Texas) and Reps. Chris Collins (N.Y.), Ryan Zinke (Mont.), Sean DuffySean DuffyCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Bottom line McCarthy blasts Pelosi's comments on Trump's weight MORE (Wis.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGOP may face choice on tax cut or stimulus checks Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases MORE (Tenn.).

A handful of House Republicans who are top targets of Democrats this year will be in Cleveland.

New York Republican Reps. Lee Zeldin and Tom Reed are among the few incumbent lawmakers representing swing districts to embrace Trump, and both plan to attend. Longtime GOP Rep. John Mica (Fla.), who’s considered more vulnerable this year, also expects to be at the convention. 

Yet the list of targeted GOP incumbent no-shows is far longer: In addition to Hurd, Knight, Valadao and Jolly, it extends to Reps. Mia Love (Utah), Bruce Poliquin (Maine), David Young (Iowa), Bob Dold (Ill.), Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Erik Paulsen (Minn.), Frank Guinta (N.H.), Tim Walberg (Mich.), John Katko (N.Y.), Cresent Hardy (Nev.), Barbara Comstock (Va.) and Scott Tipton (Colo.). 

Offices for other members in tough races, including Reps. Rod Blum (Iowa) and Mike Coffman (Colo.), wouldn’t say if they were going to the convention.

Some lawmakers will be emphasizing physical distance from the convention this week. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (Utah) will be leading a congressional delegation abroad as other Republicans gather in Cleveland. Chaffetz’s office declined to specify where the delegation is headed, citing security concerns.

Most Republicans opting against the convention cited other work commitments during the week. But at least one frequent Trump critic offered a perhaps more flimsy excuse: Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (Ariz.) said he had to mow his lawn.

“He must have a really big lawn,” Zeldin joked.