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Many Blue Dogs in Denver; Others Stay Home

Fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats say they serve the crucial role of expanding their party’s majority, but several are distancing themselves from the national convention this week to hang on to their vulnerable seats.

The 49-member House Blue Dog Coalition, with its roots in fiscal responsibility and its Members from conservative- leaning districts, is “key to increasing the number of new Congressional and Senate seats” for Democrats, Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.) said. Blue Dogs, he said, are major assets to the party because they “run in tough states.”

However, you won’t spot the entire Blue Dog pack at the Democratic National Convention.

Several who are in tight races are skipping the convention to make sure they don’t lose their hold of their districts. Rep. Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), elected in 2006, is staying in his district until Wednesday, the day before the convention ends, at which point he will head to Denver for the roll-call vote. Rep. Nick Lampson (Texas), who represents a majority Republican district, also will be absent until later in the week.

Cooper said candidates in tough races often stay in their districts to campaign rather than attend the convention. “Most don’t have life as easy as I do. I’m fortunate,” he said.

Obama has been a hard sell in rural areas, home to many Blue Dogs. Some look to re-election even though the party’s standard-bearer might be an anchor on their campaigns.

Rep. Mike Ross (Ark.), a Blue Dog co-chair, said most of the group’s members will be in Denver and “that’s because we’re Democrats. … We’re conservative-to-moderate Democrats, but we’re proud to be Democrats, and we’re proud to be at the DNC.”

For the “handful of Blue Dogs” who are not in Denver, Ross said they are “where they should be: back home in their districts raising money and with their voters. … They’re not at home because they’re not good Democrats. They’re out there fighting the good fight, winning to ensure their majority in the House.”

He noted the increasing number of Blue Dogs who have helped to swing the House to Democratic control and emphasized that the Blue Dog PAC has raised $2 million in this election cycle.

Pointing to his own tough district fight in 2000, Ross said if he had “spent a week away from my district at the DNC instead of being out with my voters … I wouldn’t be talking to you as a Member of Congress right now.”

Some first-term Blue Dogs are opting for the convention over campaign events despite challengers back home.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.) is attending the convention for the week, as is Rep. Dennis Moore (Kan.).

Moore said he believed Obama “will be on board with us” on fiscal issues, though the convention “may not be the right time” for Obama to pitch fiscal responsibility since some Democrats support increased spending without offsetting the costs.

“Some people don’t want to do it. They don’t want to be responsible,” Moore said. “Doing the right thing is not always the easy and popular thing. … I’m not sure [Obama] would want to come out with this during the campaign.”