Many GOP regulars are skipping Cleveland entirely. (“I would rather attend the public hanging of a good friend,” says Will Ritter, an up-and-coming Republican digital strategist who worked on the three previous conventions.) And among those who are making the trek, there’s an overwhelming sense it won’t be fun at all. At a time when many Republicans are deeply dissatisfied with their nominee, pessimistic about their prospects for victory in the fall and alarmed about the direction of their party, there’s a reluctance about attending the convention more typically reserved for going to the DMV, being summoned for jury duty or undergoing a root canal.
“This is the first year in the past two decades that Republicans aren’t excited about attending the convention. Normally, we’re all jazzed up about getting together and celebrating our nominee,” said Chris Perkins, a GOP pollster who has attended every Republican convention since 1996. “There’s nothing to celebrate this cycle. I’m going because I have to, not because I want to.”
Those who are going often say they’re doing so out of a sense of obligation — to meet with clients or to hold meetings before making a beeline back to the airport. As the Republican Party prepares to nominate a figure who is registering historically high disapproval ratings, some don’t want to advertise their presence in Cleveland. “Don’t use my name,” said one senior party strategist. “I don’t want anyone to know I’m there.” (A few days after the interview, the strategist got back in touch, having decided not to go, after all.)