Some GOP senators plan to skip Trump convention

Senate Republicans not known for being ardent backers of former President Trump are weighing whether to attend the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee this summer or sidestep it fully, as he moves closer to a White House return next year.

Four Senate GOP members in that mold — Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Todd Young (Ind.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) — told The Hill they do not plan on traveling to the convention in July to celebrate what will be a coronation of the ex-president. Five others — Sens. Mike Rounds (S.D.), Susan Collins (Maine), Bill Cassidy (La.), Jerry Moran (Kan.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) — indicated they have not decided whether to go at this point.

Of the group, all except for Tillis have not backed Trump’s third bid for the White House, with the North Carolina senator only lightly supporting him after holding out throughout the primary fight. While none specifically cited Trump as the reason for not attending, their feelings — or lack thereof — for the former president are largely well-known.

“Everybody’s got to make their own call about it, but it’s part of our political life,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said. “The conventions have been going on for a long time, and I think the parties are tasked with trying to pull people together and make the decisions that are important to the leadership of our country.

“I understand if there are people for whom it is not a big priority,” Thune added.

Murkowski and Young both said they both have travel plans that week but did not divulge what they were. Romney was never expected to go, given the mutual disdain between him and Trump, whom he twice voted to convict in impeachment trials.

Tillis said in a brief interview that while he hasn’t finalized his plans, he is “likely not going to go.”

“I’m just not a convention-goer, quite honestly. Back in the state, we have races to run. We’ll be represented,” Tillis said of the convention, noting that he cannot be a delegate. “There’s other competing priorities that week that I have to sort out before I make a decision.”

Collins said that she has not made a decision and needs to go over her schedule. Cassidy told The Hill to ask him closer to the convention and indicated he has not decided either. Both voted to convict Trump in the second impeachment trial over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Rounds indicated that while he has no plans to attend, he still could be swayed if Trump selects someone he approves of as his running mate. The South Dakota Republican was an ardent supporter of Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) during the presidential primaries this cycle, but he also name-checked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as someone to whom he would give his stamp of approval.

“Yeah, it might,” Rounds said when asked if Trump selecting Scott could sway him to show up in Milwaukee. “If we could go and support his candidacy, that would be something I would really take a hard look at. … I haven’t got any hotel rooms yet, but that doesn’t mean I might not in the future.”

The 2016 convention in Cleveland was also checkered by a number of notable absences from within the Senate GOP ranks, as the event officially cemented Trump as the party’s standard-bearer. In total, more than 20 Senate Republicans stayed away, including some key Trump supporters this time around.

Top backers of the ex-president believe times have changed, however, and it is time for all Senate Republicans to appear in the Badger State as part of a show of unity.

“I don’t know why there would be a debate [about going]. Are they not concerned about our country? This isn’t about the president, this is about our country,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), the first GOP member to back Trump’s reelection campaign.

The 2020 convention was abbreviated due to the COVID-19 pandemic and held in Washington, D.C. It was initially set to take place in Charlotte, N.C., before restrictions forced it to be relocated.

One group that will be in attendance is all corners of Republican leadership, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). A spokesperson for the GOP leader confirmed he will be in Milwaukee for the RNC.

McConnell officially endorsed the former president in early March after it became clear the GOP primary fight was over, despite their frosty relationship dating back to Trump’s 2020 loss to President Biden.

Both of his potential successors — Thune and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) — also plan on showing up at the convention.

While most of Trump’s supporters in the upper chamber are expected to travel to Milwaukee, attendance will not be unanimous on that front.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) said that while she fully backs the former president’s return to office, the logistics of the quadrennial confab are keeping her away.

“The hotels tend to be an hour away from the venue, and it’s always really hard to get in and out logistically,” Lummis said. “I’ve been to multiple conventions. … I’d rather watch on television just because it’s a challenge logistically.”

Others who plan to be there, though, are excited about the four-day event that is expected to be a right-wing festival to celebrate Trump.

“When they open the doors, I’ll be there,” Tuberville said. “When they close them, I’ll be leaving.”

Updated at 8:13 a.m. EDT

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