During the third Republican debate on Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) brushed off an editorial earlier that day from a newspaper in his state. The Sun-Sentinel called for his resignation due to the number of Senate votes Rubio had missed while campaigning.
Rubio named several other senators with bad attendance records while running for president -- Bob Graham and John Kerry in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 -- and noted that the same paper had endorsed them. "This is another example," Rubio said, "of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative movement."
His first point is valid. His second isn't.
Since the beginning of the year, Marco Rubio has cast votes about two-thirds of the time he could have -- the worst attendance of any senator seeking a presidential nomination.
But compared to senators running in past cycles, Rubio's record is, indeed, not terribly exceptional. Particularly once a senator receives his party's nomination, he tends to miss a lot of votes. Running for president, as Rubio has reminded us, is itself a full-time job.
That said, Rubio still has a worse attendance record by this point of the year prior to an election than did Obama or Hillary Clinton at this point in 2007. As Rubio pointed out in his easy dismissal of Jeb Bush's clumsy debate attack, the record of John McCain in 2007 was much worse.
All of that said, critique of a senator missing votes is nothing new and not a function of partisanship. In fact, neither are calls for a senator's resignation.
In the 2004 cycle, John Kerry came under repeated fire for missing votes -- even before he was his party's nominee:
- March 6, 2003. AP: "Republicans: Kerry missing Senate votes to campaign"
- March 22, 2003. Greensboro News & Record: "Edwards, rivals skip voting in Congress; Presidential campaigning takes candidates away from their elected duties"
- May 10, 2003. Boston Herald: "Dem hopefuls skipping votes; Presidential campaigns conflicting with day jobs"
- Feb. 15, 2004. Indianapolis Star: "Democratic candidates were no-shows on votes"
- March 2, 2004. Boston Herald: "Missed votes sway outcome; Campaigning senator skipped key roll calls"
In March of 2004, the Lowell Sun made the same request of Kerry as the Sun-Sentinel did of Rubio -- Kerry should resign for missing so many votes. On June 16, the then-lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, Kerry Healey (R), made the same demand.
The 2008 candidates were also criticized for not showing up for work:
- April 2, 2007. Gannett compares Obama and Clinton's missed votes with the worse records of Joe Biden, Sam Brownback and Chris Dodd.
- April 9, 2007: Politico: "Dear Senators: About Those Missed Votes..."
- May 17, 2007. Washington Post: "McCain Misses 42nd Straight Vote ... and Counting"
- Sept. 5, 2007. Washington Times: "'08 runs leave no time for Senate; Candidates skip voting"
- Sept. 30, 2007. Newsday: "A no-vote from Obama; Busy campaigning, presidential candidate has missed 23.7% of votes, three times as many as rival Clinton"
- Oct. 29, 2007. Buffalo News: "Clinton slipping in Senate attendance; 30 of the 39 floor votes are missed this month"
- Nov. 2, 2007. CNN: "Obama making less than a quarter of Senate votes"
In other words, the critique of Rubio isn't a function of his being a Republican. It's a function of his missing votes.
Despite his bravado at the debate, Rubio might have been somewhat chastened by the critique. In a news release Friday, the senator's campaign announced that he'd be late to events in Iowa.
He was busy in D.C., casting votes.