Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would not be attending the Republican National Convention this week in Cleveland, Ohio, due to the second- and third-degree burns he sustained while on vacation with his family. Abbott got the burns from scalding hot water and has since received skin grafts and has been fighting a minor infection from the burns.
Abbott was supposed to lead the 155-member Texas delegation, but he entrusted Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick with that duty and announced that his doctor said he simply had to stay home.
Officially speaking, at least, no ranking member of the Republican Party should be downright cheerful about missing the Republican National Convention (despite the fact that a whole bunch of Republican big wigs won't be attending this year, as we've previously reported.) However, there are a lot of reasons Abbott should be thrilled that he's having to stay on the sidelines this time around as GOP prepares to nominate Donald Trump as the Republican presidential candidate for 2016:
5. No norovirus exposure. The norovirus is a nasty disease that can inflame the stomach, the intestines or all of the above. The virus can be picked up from touching infected people or surfaces or from contaminated food or water so it spreads easily in crowded places like cruise ships schools or, you know, political conventions.
Last week, about a dozen Republican staffers from California arrived at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio, about 60 miles from the convention site in Cleveland, and started coming down with the virus, according to the Washington Post. Now they're all sick with what authorities are fairly certain is the norovirus. Symptoms of the virus include nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea and throwing up, and the experience of having this virus is about as deeply unpleasant as the list of symptoms indicates it would be.
Republican officials have advised party members to wash their hands a lot and have set up hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the convention site, but considering Abbott's recent injuries and the subsequent infection, it's probably best that he isn't anywhere near Ohio. Plus, this gives him a perfectly reasonable excuse to avoid Patrick for the next six weeks or so. He can't risk infection, after all.
4. Plausible deniability. Abbott can't possibly be held responsible for what happens at the convention if he isn't there can he? The governor should send his doctor a fruit basket every Christmas from now on, because the doctor's orders and statement that it would be "irresponsible" to allow Abbott to travel right now gave him an actual doctor's note to excuse him from the convention.
This has already paid off well and we're barely halfway through the shindig. On Monday, about 70 Texas delegates who had originally supported Sen. Ted Cruz joined up with delegates from from nine states to petition for a roll call vote, the last chance the delegates had to avoid nominating Trump. The effort, led by supporters who were previously pledged to Cruz, ultimately failed and Abbott was able to stay out of it completely. He didn't have to try and rein his state's delegates in or to risk openly opposing Trump by supporting the roll call effort. If anything else anti-Trump comes up before the convention formally hands the Donald the nomination and then wraps up on Thursday, Abbott will be able to keep a straight face and still say he had nothing to do with it. Same goes for this whole actually-giving-Trump-the-presidential-nod business — Abbott will be able to say he had nothing to do with it. He was home sick.
3. Abbott got to roll out his Police Protection Act. Instead of presiding over the Texas delegation at a moment that some say is going to be a low point for the GOP, Abbott has been promoting his proposal to make it a hate crime for anyone to commit a crime against law enforcement, in response to the Dallas shooting. In other words, instead of having to internally lament this low painful moment in his party's history while also having to participate in the final steps of formally giving Trump the nomination, Abbott gets to talk about other things like the tragedy in Dallas, and this proposal he came up with in response to it and anything else that has absolutely nothing to do with Trump.
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2. No Abbott reaction shots. Imagine trying not to snort, grimace, chuckle or roll your eyes even once for four days solid: That's the challenge GOP leaders face during this convention. The roster of speakers has included Scott Baio, the guy that runs Trump's winery, all of the Trump spawn minus the 10-year-old son, "Duck Dynasty" star Willie Robertson, Jerry Falwell, soap star Antonio Sabato Jr., UFC President Dana White — it's a long list and we're rolling our eyes and laugh-coughing and snorting just reading through these names. Since Abbott is governor and all, he would have had to sit through all of these speeches, plus the ones given by Cruz and former-Gov. Rick Perry, while keeping a happy-and-proud smile plastered on his face the entire time while cameras stayed locked on him waiting for an even half-second of actual facial response to some of the statements being lobbed from that stage. But since he's not there, he gets to groan and face palm just like a real person when somebody says something ridiculous, and he gets to swear when that somebody is the little orange man who is his party's presidential nominee.
1. He doesn't have to be inflammatory to get attention. Often as not these nominating conventions are about as interesting as watching grass grow, but this time around the Trump-tacular proceedings are proving to be anything but dull.
We're only halfway through the convention, but we've already gotten Chachi's two cents on the Donald and watched as a wedge of the party made one more try at prying the nomination out of Trump's dainty cheeto-tinged fingers on the floor of the convention. And then there was that monkey's paw of a debacle when Trump's (third) wife Melania gave the traditional potential-First-Lady-humanizes-her-husband-candidate speech. She stood on stage on Monday night insisting her husband really is a human with sympathy and compassion and other basic human emotions while looking like a beautiful hostage and reciting a speech partially lifted from First Lady Michelle Obama and the unforgettable lyrical genius of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up."
In other words, this is turning out to be one colorful debacle of a convention and it's going to take some truly poor decision making to get any real attention and national exposure at this point. If Abbott appeared on stage, naked, swathed in the Texas flag and proceeded to light himself on fire while singing "Sweet Home Alabama" he might manage to grab the spotlight, but anything short of self immolation just isn't going to cut it. Luckily, he's here in Texas recovering, more than 1,000 miles away from Cleveland healing up from those terrible-sounding-yet-very-well-timed burns. He's even got a doctor's note.