Republicans are playing it safe at the upcoming GOP convention, hoping to prevent controversy from raining down on the proceedings by keeping all of their biggest potential lightening rods well off the speaker’s platform.
But many of these politicians are among the most important and conservative leaders in the country, and their failure to appear is likely to cause grumbling among conservatives and may well sap some of their enthusiasm.
Republicans may still be haunted by Pat Buchanan’s 1992 “culture war” convention speech, which fired up conservatives but which some believe alienated moderate voters and helped lead to the defeat of George H.W. Bush.
First among those not invited to the 2012 convention is George W. Bush, who will be watching the convention from home, or from anywhere that is not Tampa, where the convention is being held. Dick Cheney, who has lately reemerged from ill health as a surprisingly active commentator, will also skip the proceedings.
Sarah Palin announced Sunday she won’t be on hand either.
While Mitt Romney’s most successful rival for the convention, Rick Santorum, was belatedly given a speaking slot, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann are out.
So is Ron Paul, a hero to libertarians and others on the right. Paul’s more moderate son Rand, a Republican senator from Kentucky, will have a speaking role.
Donald Trump was thought to have a chance at a podium appearance, but he’s out too, though he apparently will be at the convention and is planning some kind of “memorable surprise.”
Gingrich will also have a role, but it’s been confined to conducting “policy workshops” during the day, away from the podium.