Some prominent Republicans aren’t attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week because they see presumptive nominee Donald Trump as unfit to be president, morally unacceptable or a political third rail. Others just say they have better things to do.
“I will not support Mr. Trump. That is not a political decision, that is a moral decision,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida told CBS-TV’s Miami affiliate.
Many Republicans skipping the convention cite the need to attend to local races or crises to avoid Trump’s nomination.
Among them are former Republican presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Neither has endorsed Trump, who defeated former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the primaries.
Also skipping the convention are Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the party’s nominee in 2008, and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who was the GOP’s nominee in 2012. Romney led the “dump Trump” movement, which sought to force a second ballot vote to try to deny Trump the nomination.
Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who lost to Trump in the GOP primaries, said America has been “conned” by Trump.
“I don’t believe that Donald Trump has the temperament and judgment to be commander-in-chief,” Graham told CNN after leaving the race. “I think Donald Trump is going to places where very few people have gone and I’m not going with him.”
Prominent Republicans who will attend include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is a delegate; Trump’s vanquished primary rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas; Ben Carson, another former rival; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
The political website Talking Points Memo reported that 16 of 54 GOP senators have announced they won’t attend the convention, and six others were still mulling the idea.
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska tweeted that he’d rather “watch some Dumpster fire,” and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona told The Associated Press that he needed to mow his lawn instead.
“I’ve got important things I want to work on in Michigan,” Gov. Rick Snyder told the Detroit News.
One of the most glaring absences is expected to be Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the third-place finisher in the Republican primaries and the last to pull out. The Ohio governor said last week that he had no plans to enter the convention he helped bring to Cleveland or to be seen with Trump.
“We’ve never seen a year like this,” said Assembly Republican leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua), an at-large member appointed by the state Republican Committee. He said some Congress members won’t attend the convention because of Trump’s potential damage to candidates lower on the ballot.
The no-Trump bids are more than symbolic, said political science professor Brooks D. Simpson at Arizona State University.
“If they are not at the convention . . . they need not be on the TV booth interviews because there will be this continued mantra,” Simpson said. “It is much more important for them to present a facade of party unity.”
“Everyone has their own way of looking at it,” Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said in an interview. “Obviously, I have had differences with Donald Trump. But I am endorsing him. . . . A convention is a moment in history and you can be part of it. Life is too short to let it pass by.”