A handful of Republican senators say they won't be attending the GOP convention

Some who won't be attending are not among the president's favorites anyway.
Image: Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Susan Collins
Sen. Lamar Alexander with Sen. Susan Collins as they arrive for a vote on Capitol Hill on Feb. 12, 2019.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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By Allan Smith, Frank Thorp V and Julie Tsirkin

At least five Republican senators say they will not be attending the Republican National Convention next month in Jacksonville, Florida.

They include Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The lawmakers gave varying reasons for why they won't be at President Donald Trump's renominating convention on Aug. 24-27, but some are not among Trump's favorites anyway.

"I’m not going to go. And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation," Grassley, 86, said Monday on a conference call with Iowa reporters, according to The Des Moines Register. Grassley's office confirmed the comments to NBC News. It is the first time in 40 years that Grassley will not be at a GOP convention.

Alexander on Monday said he would not attend "because he believes the delegate spots should be reserved for those who have not had that privilege before as he has had." A Collins spokesman told NBC News on Tuesday that she has never attended conventions during years she is up for election.

A Murkowski spokeswoman said Tuesday that the senator "can confirm that she does not plan to attend," adding that she typically spends the Senate's August recess in Alaska. She did not attend the 2016 GOP convention.

On Wednesday, a Romney spokeswoman told NBC News he will not be attending, though no reason was given. Romney did not attend the convention in 2016.

The president has no love lost for Murkowski and Romney. Of Murkowski Trump tweeted last month that he would endorse anyone with "a pulse" over her in an upcoming election while of Romney, Trump has called him a "grandstander" after the Utah senator voted to impeach the president this year. Last month, Trump mocked Romney for participating in a Black Lives Matter protest, tweeting, "Tremendous sincerity, what a guy."

Republicans shifted the site for the convention to Jacksonville from Charlotte after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper threw cold water on hosting a full-scale convention amid COVID-19 concerns.

But in the weeks since the move was announced, Florida has seen a huge uptick in coronavirus cases. Speaking with Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday, Trump seemed more open to the idea of not having as big of a convention in light of the spike.

"It really depends on the timing," he said. "Look, we’re very flexible, we can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible."

For Democrats, on the other hand, former Vice President Joe Biden will accept the party's presidential nomination at a nearly all-virtual convention in Milwaukee the week before the GOP event. Due to health concerns, delegates were told to stay home.