Nixon plans to show up in Charlotte for national Democratic convention, but McCaskill won't
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and her campaign announced Tuesday that she won't attend the Democratic National Convention in September in Charlotte, N.C.
But a spokeswoman said that the senator's decision -- made Tuesday afternoon -- should not be interpreted as a snub at President Barack Obama.
Rather, it's because McCaskill has a tough re-election fight and "it's more important for her to spend time here at home in Missouri talking to voters," the aide said.
(Start of update) McCaskill herself made the same point Wednesday morning on MSNBC's morning cable show with Joe Scarborough. The senator said it would look bad if prospective voters saw her mingling with "honchos at a cocktail party" in Charlotte.
McCaskill also repeated her key point (reported in the Beacon's earlier story posted Monday, below) that she usually doesn't attend presidential conventions in the years that she's on the ballot.
NBC political correspondent Chuck Todd, who joined McCaskill on the show, said that her no-show in Charlotte would mean that she couldn't collect money from donors, who often attend the conventions. But McCaskill pointed out that this year's convention is in September -- later than previous Democratic gatherings -- so that she should have already collected much of her money.
McCaskill also reaffirmed what she has told reporters in Missouri for months: that she has asked President Barack Obama to come to the state to campaign for her and help her raise money. (End update)
The Missouri Republican Party, which has made McCaskill its top target, contends she's trying to distance herself from the president.
"This obviously does not change the fact that McCaskill was one of Barack Obama’s earliest and staunchest supporters," a GOP spokesman said. "It doesn’t erase McCaskill’s enthusiastic prediction at the 2008 convention that 'Barack Obama is going to be one great president.' And it can’t make up for the fact that McCaskill has voted with Barack Obama 95 percent of the time since 2010."
The GOP spokesman also said her decision "does cast more doubt on McCaskill's insistence that she wanted the convention to be held in Missouri," and her denial of a report in the New York Times that she had "privately lobbied the White House against choosing St Louis because she was concerned about how it would affect her re-election prospects."
McCaskill has repeatedly said she supported St. Louis' unsuccessful convention bid.
Said one of McCaskill's GOP rivals, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman: "I don't care if Sen. McCaskill joins her fellow Democrats at the convention in Charlotte or not....Skipping a few cocktail parties and rallies in Charlotte doesn't distance her from the president, and it won't convince voters that she's a born-again moderate."
As the Beacon reported earlier:
By uttering a single word, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon put to rest any speculation from activists in either party that he might join a small group of conservative-to-moderate Democrats in other states who have decided against attending their party’s national presidential convention this September in Charlotte, N.C.
Does Nixon plan on attending the convention?
“Sure,’’ he replied Monday during a question-answer session following an unrelated bill-signing in Webster Groves.
Nixon didn’t offer any details, including how much of the three-day convention that he plans to attend.
But the fact that he plans to go at all speaks volumes, by making clear that Nixon apparently has no plans to distance himself from the national presidential ticket, including President Barack Obama. Those announced no-shows include West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and its U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, plus at least four Democratic members of the U.S. House.
Nixon – who has promoted a bipartisan image – will share the Missouri ballot with the president in November in their mutual bids for re-election.
Nixon will be leading Missouri's convention delegation, aides say.
Plans are less clear though for U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who continues to be hammered by Republicans and allied groups because she was one of Obama’s early supporters.
A campaign aide said the senator’s schedule for September was still in flux. McCaskill expects to be in a tough re-election battle.
McCaskill had missed the state Democratic convention several weeks ago because her mother has been ill. She did make the party's biggest fundraising event of the year, the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, last Friday.
McCaskill also skipped the 2004 Democratic presidential convention in Boston because she was engaged in a spirited contest for governor. McCaskill was in a difficult political position that year because she was challenging a fellow Democrat already holding the office, then-Gov. Bob Holden.
The national convention that year was held in late July, just weeks before Missouri’s 2004 presidential primary, in which McCaskill defeated Holden. She lost that November to the Republican nominee, Matt Blunt.
Holden, by the way, did fly to Boston that year to attend the closing night of the convention.
Sources close to Nixon have said that he might not attend all of the convention in Charlotte. Nixon hinted as much when he quipped that “it would be easier if it was in St. Louis’’ – one of the 2012 runners-up to host the convention.
Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party, dismissed any talk about any major Missouri no-shows in September. "We expect an excited and strong delegation of elected officials past and present, as well as party activists to join us in Charlotte," Sanders said.
(Start of update) Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told the Beacon on Tuesday that he and his wife, Abby [Abigail], do plan to attend the GOP convention in Tampa.
"I think Abby and I are going to be there, maybe two nights and
three days," Blunt said. "I guess that will be in kind of the middle
part of the convention."
Blunt, who spearheaded Mitt Romney's endorsement efforts on Capitol
Hill, said he talks fairly often with Romney and his campaign staff,
but has not been asked for his opinion or advice on Romney's choice of
a running mate. (End of update)
Meanwhile, Nixon arguably has a more immediate concern at the moment – his right hand, which is encased in a sort of soft cast.
The governor said he had a medical procedure on his hand, which he declined to specify. H did say it was linked to his old days as an ardent athlete.
Nixon joked that he had decided that it was preferable that “I can’t shake hands for a week now, rather than in October’’ when he will be actively campaigning.
His hand should be in fine shape in September, whenever he plans to head to Charlotte.
New laws aimed at assisting foster-care services
The governor, who is right-handed, was still able to use his hobbled hand to sign into law several bills aimed at helping foster-care families.
The bills in question are:
-- House Bill 1576, which allows "career foster-care parents" -- particularly those caring for special-needs children -- to purchase the same state health insurance as state employees. Because of the state requirements regarding the parents' roles in caring for such foster-care children, advocates say the parents cannot hold a full-time job and thus often have no insurance. Several other states offer similar insurance assistance.
“Foster parents throughout Missouri have opened their homes and hearts to children in need,” Nixon said. “Some foster parents have received additional training and a specialized license to care for children with special needs. For these foster parents, caring for these children is literally a full-time job. That’s why we want them to have the opportunity to purchase the same health care plan as state employees.”
-- House Bill 1577, aimed at dealing with academic issues facing foster-care children who often change school districts several times.
The provisions would, for example, allow a foster-care teen who changes schools during his or her senior year to graduate from the first school if they complete all the requirements. Now, some teens find that the requirements have changed at their new school, preventing them from graduating on time.
“When a young person comes into, or moves within, foster care and transfers schools, we want to make sure their hard work and good grades don’t go away,” Nixon said. “The legislation I’m signing today ensures that when young people in foster care transfer schools, their credits transfer, their coursework is honored, and they graduate on time.”
-- House Bill 1172, "which extends and expands a program allowing tax credits for residential treatment agencies... and also establishes a tax credit program for donations to developmental disability care providers," the governor's office said in a statement.
All the new laws go into effect Aug. 28.
Rob Koenig, Beacon Washington correspondent, contributed information for this article.