Democratic leaders are trying to deflect criticism that vulnerable members of their party are avoiding September's national convention, insisting that any Democrat facing a tough race in his or her state should spend the time campaigning, not glad-handing.
Pundits have charged that Democrats from conservative districts want to avoid being seen cheering on President Barack Obama ahead of hotly contested elections in November.
"If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Steve Israel (D-NY) said Wednesday. "A trip to Charlotte may be interesting," he said, adding, "but why leave your districts?"
Israel's response at the annual Reuters Washington Summit in the nation's capital came the day after vulnerable Senator Claire McCaskill announced she would forgo the September convention to campaign in her home state of Missouri. On Wednesday morning, she lashed out at pundits making a story out of her decision.
"I've never gone when I've had a contested race," McCaskill said on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' today. "You've got to say to people at home, which is more important - going to a place with a bunch of party honchos and having cocktail parties, or being at home talking to them? So this has never been a hard call for me. Everybody is trying to make this a big deal and narrative. It's just stupid."
On Tuesday, she also 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."
But the first-term Senator won't be the only vulnerable Democrat skipping the convention. Sen. Joe Manchin, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Rep. Nick Rahall - all of West Virginia - announced earlier this month they would also skip the event to campaign. Reps. Kathy Hochul and Bill Owens of New York, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Rep. Mark Critz of Pennsylvania are also not attending.
The Romney campaign shot back in a statement Wednesday. "Last month, President Obama's fellow Democrats deserted his shameful attacks on free enterprise," Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul said.
"Now, with the President doubling down on his misleading attacks, even more Democrats are jumping ship - this time from the President's own Democratic convention. As president, Mitt Romney will unite all Americans around pro-growth policies that will jumpstart our economy."
The drop in attendance piggybacks on additional recent Republican criticism of the convention. Late on Monday, Democratic organizers of CarolinaFest, the independent festival coinciding with the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, announced the venue would be changed from the Charlotte Motor Speedway to downtown.
Although Democrats said the change was to better facilitate transportation from the festival site to the convention center, Republicans criticized the change, saying it was a further example of poor planning and coordination. The festival is being coordinated by Charlotte In 2012, a local non-profit.
Republican National Convention Communications Coordinator James Davis tweeted about the change Monday, mentioning the Speedway event was "much touted" and noting the convention is only 70 days away.
The Democratic National Convention will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina between September 4-6, 2012.
by RTT Staff Writer
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