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Divisiveness Over Trump Means No-Shows for Republican National Convention

Associated Press

The majority of Virginia Republican members of Congress are skipping their party’s convention in Cleveland this week. It's a party that remains divided over Donald Trump.

Party conventions are a time to unify and hopefully spark a flame that propels the party’s nominee into the White House. But in the era of Donald Trump, many Republicans from the region are skipping the festivities. Though, when asked, most argue they’re not trying to distance themselves from their new standard bearer. Northern Virginia Republican Barbara Comstock is seen as vulnerable this cycle and she says she’s staying home to campaign.

“Well, I’ve, you know, when I’ve gone before, in 2012, I wasn’t up that year for election, so I’m focusing on my district. We’ve got a lot of places to get around my district, and I really look forward to spending more time here.”

Only two of Virginia’s eight Republican members of Congress have confirmed they’re going to Cleveland this week. Virginia Republican Scott Rigell says he's going because he’s vehemently opposed to Trump. 

“I don’t see that there be any constructive role for me to play. I’m very clear about my views on our obvious nominee, Mr. Trump, and I made those clear before the Virginia primary, and I didn’t prevail in this effort, so I just don’t have any interest in going.”

Then there are those who are eager to attend. Virginia Republican Rob Wittman says it represents a time to get to know Virginia politicos better but he doesn’t fault others for skipping this year.

"I don't know, I mean everybody has their own schedules and their own elements there, I want to go there just to talk to our Virginia Delegates, kind of get their perspective on things, and to make sure, you know, we're part of the discussions there. I'm not a voting delegate so we're not going to stay for the voting times but I will be there on Monday and Tuesday just to meet with folks in the Virginia delegation."

As for Trump, Wittman says he's not worried about sharing the ticket with him this fall even though their brands are quite different.

"Yeah, I mean, I've told folks where I disagree with him and that's the key, but you know he was elected by over 14 million people and that's a part of our process and that's what makes this country great, the people have made their choice and I’m going to honor their choice; but I'm also going to speak out to whether there are differences.”

Virginia Republican Randy Forbes lost his primary this year and is skipping the convention. Still, he says he supports Trump.

“Well, I think everybody has different things they would like to see in different candidates, you know? But I think for most people it’s going to come down to a choice between Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton. And I think Mr. Trump is going to have a better opportunity to change the country’s direction than certainly Ms. Clinton is going to have.”

Trump recently met with congressional Republicans near the Capitol. While Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith won’t be in Cleveland, he says Trump impressed him when they met.

“Was it perfect? No. But did he say the things that we needed to hear, like he was going to work with Congress, he was going to bring in experts in different fields to help him make decisions on a lot of things and he was going to rely on, you know, our expertise as well, I thought all that was great.”

Still, Griffith offered this thought on his party’s standard bearer.

“I mean, look, I would want every candidate to continue to grow and become better and better every day, so is there more that I would like to see? Sure." 

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