(WASHINGTON) — There may be some extra hotel space in Charlotte, N. C. come the beginning of September, as several Democrat officials have announced that they will not be attending the Democratic National Convention this year, and President Obama’s low approval ratings in their respective states are likely to blame.
Earlier Tuesday, Talking Points Memo reported that Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill will not be attending the convention, becoming the third Democratic senator, and eighth Democratic member of Congress, to opt out of the event.
Late Tuesday she tweeted, “Whole lot of nothing over me campaigning w/Mo folks instead of going to convention w/party honchos. Bet POTUS agrees with my decision.”
Several of the elected officials who have decided to forgo the convention hail from places where Obama is unpopular; West Virginia’s Democratic House Rep. Nick Rahall, Sen. Joe Manchin and its governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, have all announced they’re not going. Obama’s low popularity in the state is perhaps best exemplified by the strong performance of prison inmate Keith Russell Judd in the state’s Democratic presidential primary. Other elected Democrats not going include Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.
McCaskill is in the same boat as her colleagues from West Virginia, Utah and Montana, in the sense that she hails from a state where Obama is unpopular — a Gallup poll from January, 2012 put his approval rating in the state at just 39 percent — and she faces a tough re-election campaign this cycle.
However, her decision to stay away is significant because she was an early endorser of Obama in 2008, and a big surrogate for his campaign. Obama narrowly lost Missouri in 2008 — but by a margin of less than one percentage point — making it one of the closest states in the general election. “You can’t underestimate the importance of Claire McCaskill to this campaign,” senior Obama campaign adviser Anita Dunn said at the time. This cycle, ABC News rates the state as solidly Republican.
Democrats are not alone, Republican elected officials have opted not to attend this year’s GOP convention in Tampa Bay, Fla. as well. Recently, Montana Rep. and GOP Senate nominee Denny Rehberg announced he would not be attending. Rehberg has been distancing himself to some degree from the Republican Congress, he recently ran an ad in which he criticized Paul Ryan’s budget proposal.
Party leaders skipping their party’s conventions is not an entirely new phenomenon: Claire McCaskill has actually skipped her party’s convention before, in 2004. In 2008 several GOP senators facing re-election including Susan Collins of Maine skipped out on the festivities in Minnesota.
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Dylan Byers, CNN
Z. Byron Wolf, CNN
Dylan Byers Sara Murray and Kevin Liptak, CNN