More than 35,000 people are coming to Charlotte for Septembers Democratic National Convention. But the buzz Wednesday was on 14 who arent.
Thats the number of Democratic congressional candidates whove said they plan to stay home and campaign rather than attend their partys convention. And theyre doing it with the blessing of the man trying to get them elected.
U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said this week he would advise any candidate to stay home.
If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts, he told Reuters. A trip to Charlotte may be interesting, but why leave your districts?
Among the prominent no-shows: U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana, both in tight races.
It didnt take Republicans long to make hay.
Democratic candidates across the country cant pedal away fast enough from President Obamas convention, said Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Its part of the usual jockeying by each party to use convention attendance as a proxy for support of the opposing presidential nominee.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll Wednesday showed Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney locked in a tight battle across the country, though the president enjoyed a lead in a dozen swing states including North Carolina.
Several Republican congressional candidates also plan to stay home from Augusts GOP convention in Tampa. One is Testers Montana Senate opponent, Rep. Denny Rehberg.
In North Carolina, gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory isnt planning to attend the GOP convention, though that could change. His Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, does plan to be in Charlotte.
My guess is in terms of Democratic candidates not coming to Charlotte its both true and nothing terribly important, said political analyst Charlie Cook.
Cook said one reason for no-shows is the timing.
The Democratic convention, which starts Sept. 4, is the latest in memory. Republicans convene a week earlier. Not long ago, conventions typically took place in mid-July.
When you have conventions as late as these are youre starting to cut into the last 75 to 80 days before the election, and this isnt free time anymore, he said.
There are also fewer potential big donors at conventions, he said, removing another inducement for candidates to attend.
This years Democratic convention begins the day after Labor Day, typically the start of the fall campaign. Many candidates may choose to woo voters in parades back home rather than attend the conventions CarolinaFest 2012 on Tryon Street.
In 2008, with President Bush unpopular and nominee John McCain trailing Obama in the polls, Democrats were quick to point out GOP candidates who stayed away from their convention in St. Paul.
At the same time, however, the then-head of the DCCC was advising his own candidates to stay away from the Democratic convention.
Our overall advice to candidates has been to stay home, then-DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen told The Associated Press. The reason: Because thats where their constituents are.
You dont find your constituents in Denver.