When asked Tuesday if he would be attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, former presidential candidate Jeb Bush gave CNN a resounding "No." He's not alone: Following a rough-and-tumble primary season, many top Republicans are thinking they would rather campaign at home than dive into what has the potential to become an all-out brawl in Ohio.
"I've got a lot of work to do in New Hampshire, I have my own re-election and I'm going to be focusing on my voters in New Hampshire," Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said when asked if she would be packing her bags for Cleveland this summer.
"I'm up for re-election. I'm more valuable outside of Cleveland than inside of Cleveland," explained another Republican, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.
But according to unnamed insiders who spoke with CNN, staying out of Ohio might just be the best strategy for establishment Republicans:
The decision underscores the dilemma confronting Republicans in being tied too closely to the top of the ticket — particularly incumbents from swing states worried that Trump's divisive candidacy and Ted Cruz's rigid brand of conservatism will doom their chances at keeping power in both chambers of Congress.
Quietly, some officials in the highest rungs of Republican leadership are advising their rank-and-file members to stay away from Cleveland. One top GOP party leader, who asked not to be named so they could discuss internal thinking, told CNN privately that he has advised his colleagues to hold campaign rallies and town halls in their home states during the time of the July convention. A senior Senate GOP leadership aide echoed that sentiment. [CNN]
Even Tea Party conservatives are hesitant about leaving their posts for the convention. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he wanted "the activists... the people" to decide on the nominee in July.
"I've decided not to go to Cleveland," Mulvaney told CNN. "I'm going to stay home and work."