North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who is up for re-election, confirmed this week that she won't be attending the Republican convention in Minnesota. Why, you ask, isn't this one-time presidential hopeful and speaker at the last convention making an appearance? According to campaign spokespeople, it's because the Senate has a break - and Dole likes to spend her breaks among her constituents in the Tar Heel state.
Um, ok. Likely story.
News that Dole will be a no-show came amid what has already been an awkward few weeks of media coverage for the senator. Her Democratic challenger is gaining in the polls, she was lambasted for trying to rename a new AIDS relief bill in honor of the late Jesse Helms, and she purged $10,000 worth of campaign donations received from recently indicted Sen. Ted Stevens.
So what's a GOP candidate to do? Engage in a delicate balancing act, as Dole is doing, and hope you get away with it. Don't condemn the party outright, but don't show too much support either. Muster reasons to be hundreds of miles away from the Twin Cities in September without acting like being there might lead to contracting the plague (or worse, electoral defeat). Find just the right distance from convention centerpieces President George W. Bush and presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain -- they are pretty much avoiding each other but won't be able to do so under the Minnesota spotlights -- without blatantly criticizing the pair for dragging the party down, down, down.
Dole's camp insists she has very important business to attend to down South, although her schedule while there has yet to be determined. So don't think her absence has a thing to do with the state of the GOP, her relative support of McCain, her stint as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, during which the GOP lost its majority in 2006, or any fears of losing her own seat....
Again, likely story. I can see Dole wobbling on one foot.