Some plead scheduling conflicts with their campaigns or their kids. Others say the meetings are too time-consuming or too far.
The common thread tying the convention-skippers together is that each is locked in a tight race, and some distance from their parties, their nominees and Congress may improve their chances of winning.
Among those staying away from the GOP’s gathering in Tampa is Virginia Senate candidate George Allen, who faces former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D) in one of the nation’s most closely watched races.
“Since we are locked in a close race and can’t be in two places at once, the focus will continue to be listening and meeting with Virginia families, veterans and small-business leaders,” said Allen spokeswoman Emily Davis.
A spokeswoman said Kaine plans to go to his party’s meeting in Charlotte.
But so far, more Democrats than Republicans are opting out of their convention, leading GOP officials to suggest that vulnerable Democrats are trying to avoid President Obama.
Paul Lindsay, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, joked in an e-mail that “more people were lined up to see today’s matinee of ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ ” — a movie with lackluster ticket sales — “than the number of Democrats willing to be seen with President Obama in Charlotte.”
Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.) is among those who faced a choice. “I’m a Democrat; I don’t forget from whence I come,” he said in an interview. “But I have made plans to campaign hard in my district starting Labor Day and right on through.”
Rahall, who has voiced support for the president, faces a difficult campaign against Republican Rick Snuffer in a state where a Texas prison inmate got 41 percent of the vote in a Democratic primary challenge to Obama.
While Democrats gather in North Carolina the week of Labor Day, Rahall said he will attend rallies with coal workers, meet with constituents at his district offices and give “civic club speeches.” Reflecting the president’s unpopularity, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and the state’s Democratic governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, also plan to stay home.
Among Senate candidates, the absence of Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) may be the most notable. She was an early Obama supporter in 2008, but her approval rating is stuck in the 40s, and she’s running dead-even with potential GOP opponents, so she plans to campaign aboard an RV and avoid Charlotte.
On Monday, McCaskill told Missouri reporters that the president supports her decision to hit the trail instead of going to Charlotte: “He thinks it’s the right thing to do. The notion that I would be out hobnobbing with donors at cocktail parties after Labor Day rather than here in Missouri fighting — if the Republicans think I’m that dumb, they’ve got me confused with somebody else.”