On Sept. 6, President Barack Obama will accept the Democratic Party's nomination before thousands of people in Charlotte, N.C.
Sen. Jon Tester won't be among them. Neither will embattled Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, or West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. North Carolina Congressman Larry Kissell is also taking a pass.
National conventions seem to have fallen out of vogue on both sides of the aisle this year. More than a dozen Democrats opted not to attend the festivities in Charlotte next month—most from moderate or conservative states where Obama has little to no chance of carrying the top of the ticket. And a number of Republicans are steering clear of the Republican National Convention in Tampa at the end of August, including Rep. Denny Rehberg.
Tester's opponents have repeatedly portrayed the senator as an Obama clone. Tester has fought hard against that, highlighting the times he's disagreed with Obama's policies. A recent ad from Montanans for Tester, for example, states the Senator "took on the Obama administration to delist wolves" and that he was the only Democrat who voted against Obama's auto industry bailout.
Similarly, Rehberg has kept the GOP at arm's length. As we mentioned last week, one ad this summer paints Rehberg as an "independent thinker," a maverick among Republicans in D.C. Both candidates appear to be vying for a position somewhere in the political center, which would seem to explain the physical distance each is placing between himself and his party's convention.
Rehberg's campaign promptly denied any such motive in avoiding Tampa. "Denny is focused on doing what's best for Montana, not on party politics," the campaign wrote in an email. "And he simply feels it's a bigger priority for him to be in Montana at that time."
Tester was perhaps a tad more candid when excusing his absence from Charlotte. It goes back to 1998, he told the Indy during an interview last week. During Tester's bid for the Montana Senate, he was encouraged by a friend to skip the Mansfield-Metcalf dinner in Helena and remain in his district, where his votes were. "My votes are in Montana," Tester says, "and that's where we're going to be."