Marco Rubio second-guessed his “voters don’t care how many Senate votes I miss” position on Monday night, skipping a Florida fundraiser in order to be in Washington, D.C., for a briefing on North Korea. This was quite the last-minute change of plans, with Rubio planning to do the fundraiser and skip the Monday late afternoon briefing until earlier Monday afternoon.
Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, Rubio’s rivals for the establishment Republican vote, have been hitting him hard over his absences from his day job, which are many:
Rubio missed at least 12 classified Senate Intelligence Committee briefings in 2015, at least 40 committee or subcommittee hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and attended just two full committee hearings of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship since 2013.
For Rubio’s rivals, it’s not just that he has the worst attendance record in the Senate, which he did in 2015. Instead, it’s part of a broader argument that Rubio is a lightweight who cares more about his personal ambition than taking care of his constituents. And his record has already given his critics plenty of material to piece together negative ads and fuel whisper campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Rubio’s answer has basically been that voters agree with him that being in the Senate is not a job worth doing, anyway (whereas, I guess, asking rich people for money is totes important). But, as Zeke Miller and Philip Elliott point out, it’s not just that the attacks are registering enough that voters are asking him questions about his Senate absences. At a certain point, he’s undermining his own claims:
Rubio, a skilled campaigner, has his counterpunch ready and touts his membership on the Senate intelligence committee. “If you take all the other candidates, as Republicans, and put them together no one has had more intelligence briefings over the last five years that I have—if you combine all of the other candidates,” he said.
But in an era when voters are looking for someone who is an outsider, bragging about your elite intelligence briefings while skipping others to fundraise is a tricky case to make. That is why Rubio decided he shouldn’t skip Monday’s session.
This is the thing about Marco Rubio. He’s good—really good—at delivering his talking points earnestly, at looking boyishly handsome from certain angles, at presenting the image of the change-agent politician on the rise. But when you poke at the surface a little, it turns out to have a lot of weak spots.
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