Claire McCaskill, convention-dodging and why it won’t work

The news that Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has decided to skip her party’s national convention in Charlotte this fall drew national headlines and sparked a series of stories about who else isn’t going to the party’s quadrennial gathering.

Yes, it’s an interesting story, but it won’t change anything.


FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2011 file photo, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. Claire McCaskill, one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in 2012, plans to skip the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Let’s start with what McCaskill cited as her reason for skipping. “In years when Claire is on the ballot, she has historically not gone to the convention,” an aide told Talking Points Memo, “because she believes it’s important to stay in Missouri to talk to voters.”

Um, right. Unless you were born yesterday — and there are some kids out there to whom this actually applies — you know that the reason McCaskill is staying away from the national convention is to avoid handing Republicans a ready-made opportunity to tie her to President Obama who is, well, not so popular in the Show Me State at the moment.

Ditto West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, New York Reps. Kathy Hochul and Bill Owens, as well as Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz — all of whom have also said they won’t be at the Democratic National Convention and who, totally unsurprisingly, hail from conservative-minded states and congressional districts. And then there is the decision by former New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson, running for the Senate in the Democratic-leaning Land of Enchantment, not to attend the Republican National Convention. (Coincidence? Those don’t exist in politics.)

Of course, the symbolic move of skipping your party’s convention if you happen to be in a tough race or conservative state isn’t the sort of strategy likely to pay political dividends. (If it was, every targeted House or Senate member would skip the four-day pep rally/party every four years.)

Take McCaskill. There is absolutely no chance that Republicans let her off the hook for her past closeness to Obama.

Thanks to the advent of YouTube and the web, nothing a politician either says or does disappears. And, not only that, but the opposition can, in moments, pull those old quotes up and broadcast them to the political world.

And so, within seconds, the National Republican Senatorial Committee had sent out a message to Missouri reporters remind them of a bevy of quotes from McCaskill in support of Obama — including her speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Simply put: Not going to the convention won’t save McCaskill from having to defend herself against attacks that she was a major Obama backer. The same goes for Wilson and former Hawaii governor Linda Lingle, who is running for Senate and will have to find ways to get separation from their national party, even though they won’t be at the Republican National Convention.

Having to answer for your party — in any and all of these cases — is far from a political death sentence. After all, there is a Republican senator from Massachusetts and a Democratic senator from Alaska. People can be convinced that you are your own person — particularly in these high-profile Senate races.

But simply skipping the convention won’t make the problem go away.

Enthusiasm check: In a day chock full of polling data, some of the most interesting numbers had to do with enthusiasm.

Perhaps most surprising: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll showed that Latinos are no more enthusiastic about voting than they were before Obama’s decision to exempt young illegal immigrants from deportation. And just 65 percent indicated that they are very interested in the election, compared to 80 percent at this time in 2008.

The poll asked respondents to rate how interested they are in the election, on a scale of 1 to 10. Responses of 8, 9 or 10 were considered to be very interested.

Other groups with significant drops in enthusiasm include liberals (from 90 percent to 83 percent), African-Americans (from 94 percent to 81 percent), moderates (84 percent to 75 percent), and, most strikingly, 18-to-34-year-olds (78 percent to 61 percent). Most of these numbers are bad news for Obama.

Fixbits:

Obama is going to Colorado to deal with the wildfires.

Romney’s campaign pushes back on Washington Post report that tied Bain Capital to companies that outsourced.

The Post is standing by its story, despite pleas from Romney’s campaign and a meeting Wednesday.

The Congressional Black Caucus will walk off the House floor on Thursday to protest the looming contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder, who is African-American.

How many Democrats will cross over to vote for contempt? Potentially a couple dozen, according to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

Even though Condoleezza Rice isn’t going to be Romney’s vice president, she seems to be trying to manufacture some wiggle room.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) releases an internal poll of the state’s GOP primary (you read that right), showing former governor Tommy Thompson and businessman Eric Hovde in the lead.

Must-reads:

Old rivalries dog Romney foreign policy team” — Mark Hosenball, Reuters

Future of an Aging Court Raises Stakes of Presidential Vote” — Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times

GOP lawsuit challenges campaign contribution caps” — T.W. Farnam, Washington Post

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