seven three [see update] weeks to go before Republicans stage their national convention, will they find enough content to fill out the schedule? According to Politico’s Alex Isenstadt, the RNC will have trouble getting officeholders and office-seekers to come to the main stage in Cleveland, thanks to Donald Trump’s nomination:
With the convention less than a month away, POLITICO contacted more than 50 prominent governors, senators and House members to gauge their interest in speaking. Only a few said they were open to it, and everyone else said they weren’t planning on it, didn’t want to, or weren’t going to Cleveland at all — or simply didn’t respond. …
In past conventions, up-and-coming young senators — think Obama, Barack — have used the limelight to raise their profiles. Not so with Republicans this year: Nebraska Ben Sasse, who’s said he won’t vote for the real estate mogul, isn’t expected to be at Cleveland. Utah Sen. Mike Lee, another outspoken Trump critic who will be serving on the convention’s powerful Rules Committee, hasn’t been asked to speak, said his spokesman, Conn Carroll. Would he if asked? Said Carroll: “If I got a hypothetical question I probably wouldn’t answer it.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who recently changed his mind and announced a reelection bid, has said it’s unlikely he’ll be asked to speak — but if he did, it wouldn’t be on Trump’s behalf.
Even the GOP leaders in charge of maintaining the party’s congressional majorities — Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker and Oregon Rep. Greg Walden — wouldn’t say whether they’d take the podium.
The outright demurrals come from those who have already gone on the record — Trey Gowdy, Ben Sasse among them. Most of Isenstadt’s references are undecided rather than refusing to speak. That is significant in itself, but the lure of national coverage will undoubtedly lure a number of them to make appearances, on their own behalf if not on behalf of the nominee. There will likely be fewer open slots in the end than this article implies, but it might be problematic if the scheduled gets stocked with people who limit themselves to discussing House and Senate races.
Of course, Trump himself might not want them on stage if that’s the case, as Jazz pointed out earlier. The RNC will have to find a way to manage that, though, because the convention isn’t only about the presidential election. It’s intended to build momentum up and down the ballot, not just for testimonials to the presidential nominee, although it certainly needs the latter as well. Trump can find his celebrity supporters for some of that — and that will certainly get media attention — but the RNC and the state parties that form its constituencies have needs that require addressing, too.
The solution will be to have those people — like Marco Rubio — refrain from discussing Trump at all in these speeches. As mothers are wont to advise, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything when it comes to the nominee. Unless Trump’s campaign really implodes before Cleveland — and we’ll have some new fundraising numbers to see by then — bet on that being the way in which the RNC fills out its speaking slots.
Update: Three weeks, not seven. Obviously, I was still on vacation mode when I wrote that sentence. #headdesk