Salena Zito

U.S. Rep. Mark Critz said Tuesday he will skip the Democratic National Convention in favor of campaigning in Pennsylvania, much like top elected Democrats in neighboring West Virginia who are disgruntled with President Barack Obama.

Critz and others shying away from Obama’s renomination party in Charlotte, N.C., the week of Sept. 3 believe it’s more important to shake constituents’ hands and listen to their concerns about the economy and the administration’s energy policy than to attend an event geared toward party politics.

“Since I was elected, my focus has been on creating jobs for people here, rather than focusing on the agendas of the political parties in Washington,” Critz, of Johnstown, told the Tribune-Review.

His campaign spokesman, Mike Mikus, said their internal polling shows the president is down double digits to Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the redrawn, six-county congressional district where Critz won a close victory against U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire of McCandless in the April primary. He faces Republican Keith Rothfus, an Edgeworth attorney, in the general election.

That makes the decision to avoid the convention “pretty easy,” Mikus said. Moreover, he said, “it is fair to say” that Critz will not ask the president to campaign with him.

Though U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. of Scranton and Rep. Mike Doyle of Forest Hills said they plan to attend the convention, Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn of Millvale said he suspects that other candidates for House seats will stay home.

“Like Critz, that is the right thing for them to do,” Burn said. “They should be home winning votes, not be seen at a party.”

Larry Puccio, chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, is clear about why U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin won’t go.

“It is obvious we are frustrated with the administration over coal and energy issues,” Puccio said.

Manchin in 2008 addressed the national convention in Denver, urging Democrats to elect Obama. Then, he was a popular governor seeking reelection. But since winning a special election in November 2010 to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd, Manchin has criticized Obama’s economic and energy policies and hasn’t endorsed Obama for reelection.

Much like in Pennsylvania, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1 in West Virginia, despite a growing number of independents, and Democrats hold 70 percent of local elected offices, Puccio said.

“So, rather than go to a party in North Carolina, our guys will be focused on shaking hands with voters and earning their votes,” he said. “That is how we do it here.”

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.