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Some big-name Democrats will be skipping Charlotte

The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week will feature an expansive roster of prominent elected officials and promising young stars, but there are some Democrats who find it more helpful, or necessary, to skip it all together.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, widely talked about as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, is 10,000 miles from Charlotte in Jakarta, Indonesia, on a Pacific Rim tour which will take her to China, Timor-Leste, Brunei, and the Russian Far East.

Enny Nuraheni / REUTERS

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference after meeting with Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in Jakarta September 3, 2012. China and its neighbours in Southeast Asia must move determinedly to draw up a code of conduct to help resolve disputes in the South China Sea, and should refrain from threats and coercion that have sent tension skyrocketing, Clinton said on Monday.

Although a secretary of state isn't barred by law from attending the convention as a spectator, tradition and protocol dictate that he or she doesn't take part in partisan election-year hoopla. While the secretary won’t be in Charlotte, her husband, former President Bill Clinton will deliver a high-profile speech on Wednesday night. 

Meanwhile some Democratic Senate and House candidates have chosen to stay at home and campaign rather than trekking to Charlotte. One common factor among those staying away from Charlotte: running in a state or congressional district where Obama isn’t hugely popular.

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Among Democratic Senate candidates, those skipping Charlotte include Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, Rep. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp who is running for an open seat in North Dakota. 

Donnelly is not going to the convention “because he think it is more important to spend his time here in Indiana,” said his campaign spokeswoman, Elizabeth Shappell.

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Instead of mingling with party activists and celebrities in Charlotte, Donnelly will be taking part in Labor Day festivities in southern Indiana, visiting a community college in Indianapolis to talk about his support for Indiana schools, and attending memorial services for former Rep. Lee Hamilton's wife, Nancy.

McCaskill told reporters that Obama approved of her plan to stay in Missouri. “The notion that I would be out hobnobbing with donors at cocktail parties after Labor Day rather than here in Missouri fighting -- if the Republicans think I'm that dumb, they've got me confused with somebody else," she said.

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Obama seemed to be trying hard to help McCaskill with Missouri voters in comments he made to television station KTVO in Ottumwa, Iowa on Saturday:  “I can tell you Claire is pretty independent and has disagreed with me on some stuff and I respect that. She is always thinking about the people of Missouri and what is most important for them. That is the kind of senator that I think you want and the kind that the Missouri people want to see.”

Two other Democratic Senate contenders, Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, will address the convention.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D- Fla., who is in a competitive race against Rep. Connie Mack, R- Fla., will also be in Charlotte.
But those on the left side of the party are most excited about the prime-time convention speech to that will be delivered by the Senate candidate from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee PAC is sponsoring house parties across the country so that progressive activists can watch Warren’s speech.

“Don't miss this inspiring and historic event, or watch it alone,” the group said in an email to supporters. “Celebrate it with your progressive neighbors at a watch party near you!”

The group is also offering T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan: “I’m from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party.”

There are also some Democratic House members, several of whom are in competitive races, who will not be attending the convention. They include Reps. David Loebsack and Leonard Boswell of Iowa, Rep. Mark Critz of Pennsylvania, and Reps. Bill Owens, Kathy Hochul, and Louise Slaughter of New York.