The live version of the Republican convention that President Trump is insisting on holding in Jacksonville is worse than useless, as New York’s Ed Kilgore put it it recently; it is causing financial stress to the party, risks severe COVID-19 exposure in a state recording thousands of new cases everyday, and isn’t likely to result in a polling bump for the incumbent.
Now, another reason is emerging that may turn the convention into the must-skip event of the political season: In the past two days, five Republican senators have declined their invitations to the convention beginning on August 24. On Monday, Chuck Grassley, the oldest Republican senator at 86, stated that he would not attend “because of the virus situation.” On Tuesday, 80-year-old Lamar Alexander joined him, with a spokesman for the retiring senator telling the Washington Post that he will not attend “because he believes the delegate spots should be reserved for those who have not had that privilege before as he has had.”
Three more senators who occasionally buck the president’s legislative agenda —Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Utah’s Mitt Romney, and Maine’s Susan Collins — will also not attend. As the Post notes, Murkowski “often spends August in Alaska,” while an aide for Collins told the paper that she has never attended a national convention in a year in which she is up for reelection. A spokesperson for Senator Romney did not provide a reason, though spending a week among the president’s most ardent supporters following his vote to convict Trump in the impeachment trial doesn’t sound like the ideal summer trip.
While it’s unlikely that any more senators will join the trio of Collins, Murkowski, and Romney — who express the closest thing to dissent the modern GOP can muster — it’s quite possible that more Republicans could drop out citing coronavirus risk. The party has three lawmakers of advanced age — Jim Inhofe, 85; Pat Roberts, 84; and Richard Shelby, 86 — for whom travel to a state that consistently clocks over 5,000 new COVID-19 patients per day could be considered an unnecessary risk.