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For some Illinois pols, Florida trip more trouble than it’s worth

TAMPA FL - AUGUST 28:  South CarolinGov. Mark Sanford attends Republican National ConventiTampBay Times Forum August 28 2012 TampFlorida.

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 28: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford attends the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Today is the first full session of the RNC after the start was delayed due to Tropical Storm Isaac. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Updated: October 1, 2012 5:16PM

CLEARWATER, Fla. — On a day designed to showcase targeted GOP members of Illinois’ congressional delegation, only one incumbent on the political bubble showed up Wednesday to make the case for re-election.

Just Rep. Judy Biggert, who is in a heated west suburban congressional battle against Democrat Bill Foster, appeared before Illinois delegates at the Republican National Convention during a breakfast session that included an appearance by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.

Rep. Joe Walsh and Rep. Robert Dold, who each have their own pitched suburban battles, were no-shows. Dold, facing Democrat Brad Schneider, was expected to make the trip to the central Florida Gulf Coast to meet with Illinois delegates on Thursday. But Walsh, facing Democrat Tammy Duckworth, put out the word early that he saw no use in coming to the convention.

A senior party leader said for targeted Republicans such as Dold, there is an “optics problem” in joining others at a beachfront hotel in Clearwater. It could create potentially dangerous opportunities for Democrat operatives to catch them lounging poolside or wading in the Gulf of Mexico during what essentially is a partisan vacation.

But Biggert made the trip, staying away from those potential pitfalls while telling delegates she’s doing everything she possibly can to keep her seat in Republican hands.

The Hinsdale Republican also ridiculed predictions by Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, that her seat and others would be retaken by Democrats.

“Steve Israel said after the remap … what they were going to do was sweep through Illinois and regain the four seats they’d lost [in 2010], plus take [U.S. Sen.] Mark Kirk’s seat,” Biggert said. “Well, we’re not going to let that happen.”

Biggert was followed onstage by Boehner, who likened Illinois Democrats who controlled the mapmaking process to pigs.

“In the Midwest, we’ve got a little saying that some of you will recall: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. They did a lot of overreaching, the Illinois Democrats,” the Ohio Republican told Illinois delegates. “And as a result, I think we’ve got some real opportunities, but we have some tough races there and so I want to urge all of you from Illinois to continue to work with your members, make sure they get reelected because that’s the only thing that’s going to keep Nancy Pelosi from getting this job back.

“The only way she’s going to get that gavel back is to pry it out of my cold, stone hands,” he said.

During his five-minute speech to Illinois delegates, Boehner never actually named any of the Chicago-area congressional Republicans on the Democrats’ hit list.

Rep. Aaron Schock later acknowledged the three major congressional elections in the Chicago area “are huge” and pointed out the inroads both Biggert and Dold have made in their Democratic-heavy districts. A reporter then pointed out to the Peoria Republican that he didn’t mention Joe Walsh, a Tea Party-endorsed Republican who has been derided by Democrats as child-support deadbeat owing more than $100,000 to his ex-wife.

“I think Joe is doing what he should be doing, which is back home competing for an election. It is a very tight race. So if I were Joe Walsh right now I would be back home competing for those votes as well.”

Even with Walsh’s well-documented political baggage, Schock said his re-election is vital to keep Boehner in the speakership.

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