Washington — When Republicans from all over the United States gather in Tampa, Fla., at the end of August to formalize Mitt Romney’s candidacy, some Connecticut Republicans, including Senate candidate Linda McMahon, won’t be there.
Party conventions usually offer great opportunities for candidates to raise money, support and their profiles, perhaps with a prime-time speech.
But if McMahon wins the Aug. 14 Republican primary for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seat, she will not attend the Republican National Convention that begins in Tampa Aug. 27.
“Our focus is going to be on campaigning in Connecticut,” said McMahon campaign spokeswoman Kate Duffy.
Other high-profile GOP congressional candidates are also staying home, including Steve Obsitnik, who is running for Democratic Rep. Jim Himes’ 4th District seat, and Andrew Roraback, who is running to represent the 5th District.
Both the 4th and 5th Districts have been represented by Republicans in the past and are home to many independent voters whose support may be crucial.
“I’m running for Congress, and I’m going to be busy campaigning,” Roraback said. “The voters whose trust I am working to earn will be here and not in Florida.”
John Puskar, spokesman for the Obsitnik campaign, said the candidate “would much rather speak with voters here.”
But there may be a more pressing reason for these candidates to reject a chance to head to Florida and meet with their party’s leaders.
Obsitnik and other Connecticut Republicans have distanced themselves from the national Republican Party, which has trended to the right.
For example, Obsitnik, unlike most members of his party, has declined to call for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He has instead called for changes in the health care law.
Roraback also considers himself a moderate Republican, as does Lisa Wilson-Foley, another Republican candidate in the 5th District race, who is also staying home if she wins the Aug. 14 primary.
“She plans to win the nomination and campaign in the district,” said Wilson-Foley campaign spokesman Chris Syrek.
Former Rep. Chris Shays, a Republican who is running against McMahon for the Senate seat, is among the few Connecticut GOP candidates heading to Florida. Because he’s a delegate, he’ll go whether or not he defeats McMahon in the primary, said Shays campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bergen.
Some Democrats who are running in swing states or districts outside of Connecticut also plan to skip their party’s national convention in September. They include Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana and Reps. Mark Critz of Pennsylvania and Jim Matheson of Utah.
Last week, the campaign of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney dubbed Democrats who are shunning their national convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September “defectors” who had jumped ship on President Obama.
The Republican National Committee said the no-shows are concerned about Obama’s economic record.
“You know Team Obama has problems when some of Obama’s biggest supporters don’t want to be seen with the president as he’s nominated to run for a second term,” said RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski.
But Kyle Kondik, an analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said candidates from both parties want to distance themselves from their party’s standard bearers, and rhetoric, this year.
“Their reasoning is obvious — skipping the convention gives them a talking point to illustrate their independence from the national party, which is unpopular in their particular state or district,” Kondik said.
There appear to be few Democratic candidates in Connecticut who won’t go to Charlotte.
Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District, who, like McMahon, is running for Lieberman’s seat, plans to attend his party’s convention, as does his Democratic rival, former Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, if she defeats Murphy in the Democratic primary.
Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat who is running for the 5th District seat, is focused on the Aug. 14 primary and hasn’t thought about her party’s convention, a campaign spokesman said. The campaign of Esty’s Democratic rival, Chris Donovan, did not return calls inquiring about his plans.
In the end, Kondik said, voters may not care if a candidate attends a convention.
“With that said, it’s possible in this case that the standard answer these convention-skipping candidates give — they simply want to spend more time campaigning in their home states — might actually be true,” he said.
“It’s probably more productive to hit the trail for a few days and talk to potential voters than to spend that time out of state hanging out with one party or the other’s true believers.”