August 6, 2008 in Nation/World

Six GOP senators will skip convention

By MATTHEW DALY Associated Press
Associated Press photo

In this July 11 photo, Vice President Dick Cheney looks on as President Bush makes a statement on energy in Washington.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Will he or won’t he? Vice President Dick Cheney is one of the nation’s most prominent Republicans, but there are doubts about whether he will attend the GOP convention.

Cheney press secretary Megan Mitchell left the question open on Tuesday, saying Cheney’s schedule has not been set for September. Delegates are scheduled to meet in St. Paul, Minn., on Sept. 1-4, to nominate Arizona Sen. John McCain for president.

Separately, six Republican senators have decided to skip the GOP convention.

Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine all face tough re-election campaigns. Two others, Wayne Allard of Colorado and Larry Craig of Idaho, are retiring.

Stevens was indicted last month on felony charges of concealing more than a quarter-million dollars in gifts and services from an oil company that helped renovate his home. His spokesman Charles Abernathy said Stevens normally campaigns instead of attending the convention in years he’s up for re-election.

Smith, a two-term Republican, aired an ad in June touting his work with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on fuel efficiency standards. Last month another Smith ad cited his work with John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee for president, on legislation to protect homeowners against foreclosure.

Matt Canter, a spokesman for Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley, Smith’s Democratic opponent, called Smith’s decision to skip the convention “a political maneuver to distract from his record of supporting George Bush 90 percent of the time.”

Smith’s spokeswoman, Lindsay Gilbride, said Tuesday that Smith will campaign in Oregon during the convention and that his absence doesn’t indicate a lack of support for McCain.

Collins spokeswoman Jen Burita said she will be campaigning in Maine.

It would be highly unusual for a sitting vice president to skip his party’s nominating convention. For the last 32 years the vice president has been either renominated for that job or nominated for president.

Cheney has low approval ratings and is widely regarded as a secretive, behind-the-scenes power broker. But his approach plays well to conservatives. The White House has to calculate whether Cheney would help or hurt McCain’s campaign for the presidency.

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