Gone Fishing: Republicans Skipping the GOP Convention

The Grand Old Party is bringing out the young guns to help herald in Mitt Romney as its presidential nominee during the Republican National Convention next week.

While Republican up-and-comers like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio scored the most coveted speaking slots, the elders of the GOP establishment like former Vice President Dick Cheney and Former President George H.W. Bush are nowhere to be found on Tampa's guest lists.

In fact, neither of the only two former Republican presidents who are still living will be attending this year's conventions. Here's a rundown of the Republicans who said they'll skip their party's biggest event this year.

Former President George W. Bush

The man who turned over the White House to President Obama four years ago has stayed largely out of the public spotlight ever since. Former President George W. Bush is sticking with that tradition and passing up an invitation to the Republican National Convention.

"President Bush is confident that Mitt Romney will be a great president," Bush spokesman Freddy Ford told media outlets via email. "But in keeping with his desire to stay off the political stage at this point in the post-presidency, he respectfully declined the invitation to go to Tampa."

Bush skipped the 2008 convention as well, deciding instead to visit with Hurricane Gustav evacuees in Texas.

Former First Lady Laura Bush

Former First Lady Laura Bush has no intention of going solo to the RNC this year. While she has ventured into the public eye more than her husband after leaving the White House, Bush said she won't be making the trek to Tampa.

"We just felt like we will stay and be watching from the sidelines," Bush told ABC's Jon Karl last month.

Former President George H.W. Bush and wife, Barbara, attend the NCAA Final Four semifinal basketball game in Houston, Texas, April 2, 2011.
Mark Cornelison/MCT/Getty Images
Former President George H.W. Bush

Former President George H.W. Bush, the oldest living former Republican president, is 88 years old and that is excuse enough for skipping the Republican convention this year.

"George's dad played the age card," his daughter-in-law former First Lady Laura Bush told ABC's Jon Karl.

PHOTO: Former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks to ABC's Jonathan Karl in his first interview since his heart transplant.
ABC/Taylor Glenn
Former Vice President Dick Cheney

Four years after leaving the White House, former Vice President Dick Cheney has big plans during the Republican National Convention this year, fishing plans that is.

Cheney, an avid fly fisherman, told ABC's Jon Karl in July that he will be out of the country during next week's convention for a fishing trip in Canada.

"I've got a fishing trip planned that week," Cheney said. "I've done a lot of conventions over the years, but this is a special trip I've been planning on for a long time."

Sarah Palin

She was the talk of the town at the last GOP convention in 2008, but in 2012 former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is steering clear of Tampa.

"Everything I said at the 2008 convention about then-candidate Obama still stands today," Palin said in a statement first released to Fox's Greta van Susteren. "This year is a good opportunity for other voices to speak at the convention and I'm excited to hear them."

Palin's statement came the same day that Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate. The former vice presidential candidate said she supports the Romney-Ryan ticket, but plans to focus her efforts on congressional races.

"I intend to focus on grassroots efforts to rally Independents and the GOP base to elect Senate and House members so a wise Congress is ready to work with our new president to get our country back on the right path," Palin said. "This is imperative."

PHOTO: Former Governor Jon Huntsman appears on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno at NBC Studios on February 7, 2012 in Burbank, California.
Kevin Winter/NBCUniversal/Getty Images
Jon Huntsman

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has attended every Republican National Convention since 1984, but you won't find him there this year, or any subsequent years for that matter.

"I will not be attending this year's convention, nor any Republican convention in the future until the party focuses on a bigger, bolder, more confident future for the United States," Huntsman told the Salt Lake Tribune in July, "a future based on problem solving, inclusiveness, and a willingness to address the trust deficit, which is every bit as corrosive as our fiscal and economic deficits."

Huntsman chided the Republican party for losing sight of the party it once was, encouraging the Grand Old Party to return to a party "that was always willing to put our country before politics."

As a former GOP presidential candidate, Huntsman was set to have three delegates pledged to him at the RNC, two from his third place finish in the New Hampshire primary and one from the Texas primary. He released all three delegates to Romney.

Louisiana Gov. Bob Jindal

With Louisiana under a state of emergency, New Orleans residents evacuating and a Category 1 hurricane expected to slam the shoreline, Gov. Jindal decided he better stick around his state rather than pop over to the GOP convention.

"There is no time for politics here in Louisiana," Jindal said at a press conference Monday.

Jindal was slated to speak at the convention Wednesday evening. Bad weather kept Jindal from attending his party's 2008 shindig as well when Hurricane Gustav bore down on Louisiana.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley

With tropical storm Isaac bearing down on the gulf coast, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced he will skip the GOP convention in order to prepare his state for the storm. Bentley declared a state of emergency in his state in anticipation of Isaac, which is expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane before it makes landfall.

"I will not be leaving the state while there is a danger of a hurricane approaching our coast," Bentley said in a statement. "I am going to stay in Alabama and will continue to make sure preparations and resources are in place. We will see our state through this storm until the danger has passed."

Isaac is forecast to make landfall between Louisiana and Florida along the gulf coast on Tuesday or Wednesday.

PHOTO: Joe Walsh
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Rep. Joe Walsh

Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, a Tea Party-backed candidate, is blatantly bucking his party's elite, denouncing the Republican convention and refusing to attend.

"The conventions are nothing more than an excuse to mingle with insiders and party with the elite," Walsh said in a July statement, as The Hill reports. "This district does not want just another insider to represent them; they want an independent who will fight for real solutions to the issues."

Walsh is embroiled in a tough re-election campaign against Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who has not yet said whether she will attend the Democratic National Convention.

Walsh called for Duckworth to also skip her party's convention "to tour the district to discuss the real issues that matter to real people."

New Mexico Senate candidate Heather Wilson

With control of the Senate hinging on a handful of races, the woman vying for one of New Mexico's seats isn't wasting four days in Florida. Former Rep. Heather Wilson, who is facing Rep. Martin Heinrich for retiring Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman's Senate seat, will not attend her party's convention, the National Journal first reported.

Heinrich is planning to attend the Democratic convention.

Virginia Senate candidate George Allen

Across the country in an equally tight and equally vital senate race, former Virginia Gov. George Allen is skipping the Republican National Convention to campaign for a spot in the U.S. Senate.

"Since we are locked in a close race and can't be in two places at once, the focus will continue to be listening and meeting with Virginia families, veterans, and small business leaders on the campaign trail," Allen spokeswoman Emily Davis said, as the Washington Post first reported.

Allen's opponent former Gov. Tim Kaine, on the other hand, plans to attend the Democratic convention.

Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon

WWE co-founder Linda McMahon is opting for campaign time over convention time, deciding to stay in Connecticut instead of heading to Florida for the Republican convention.

"Our focus is going to be on campaigning in Connecticut," McMahon campaign spokeswoman Kate Duffy said in July, according to the Connecticut Monitor.

PHOTO: Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle attended a Sales and Marketing Executives International luncheon at the Pacific Club in this Oct. 11, 2011 file photo in Honolulu.
Cindy Ellen Russell/Honolulu Star-Advertiser/AP Photo
Hawaii Senate candidate Linda Lingle

Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, who is vying for the state's open U.S. Senate seat, has no plans to make the 14-hour flight from Hawaii to Tampa for the GOP convention.

A campaign spokesman told the Honolulu Civil Beat that Lingle will be "at home campaigning at that time" instead.

PHOTO: Rep. Denny Rehberg R-Mont., speaks at the Red Lions Hotel in Helena, Mont., Feb. 5, 2011.
Lisa Kunkel/AP
Montana Senate candidate Denny Rehberg

Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., has bucked his party in the past and will snub it again next week when he skips out on the Republican convention.

Rehberg, who faces incumbent Sen. Jon Tester in Montana's Senate race, confirmed to The Hill that he plans to campaign in his state rather than attend the convention. Tester is not going to his party's convention either.

Rehberg has often distanced himself from his fellow Republicans, running an ad denouncing vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. He was one of four House Republicans who voted against Ryan's budget in 2011.

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