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Fact Check: Trump overstates Rubio’s absenteeism in Senate

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a campaign rally in Sarasota, Fla., on Tuesday. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a campaign rally in Sarasota, Fla., on Tuesday. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)
Donna Cassata Associated Press

EDITOR’S NOTE – An occasional look at political claims that take shortcuts with the facts or don’t tell the whole story.

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump charges that Republican presidential rival Marco Rubio is the worst Senate delinquent in years, perhaps decades.

Not so.

Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama missed a higher percentage of votes in 2008 when the two were seeking their party’s nomination, underscoring how common absenteeism is when elected officials seek the presidency. Florida’s Rubio has been absent for long stretches in the Senate, but his percentage of missed votes is still short of McCain’s and Obama’s.

A look at the criticism and the facts:

TRUMP: “What’s he do with all his free time? He’s got the highest delinquency record in the U.S. Senate in many, many years, it could be decades.” – Saturday at a rally in Orlando, Florida.

“Let me tell you the real con artist… The real con artist is Senator Marco Rubio who was elected in Florida and who has the worst voting record in the United States Senate. He doesn’t go to vote. He’s absent. He doesn’t go. Now, the people of Florida can’t stand him. He couldn’t get elected dogcatcher.” – At last week’s Republican debate.

A Trump ad unveiled Monday calls Rubio a “total no-show in the U.S. Senate,” and says he has the “worst voting record of all sitting senators.” But the image in the ad is the floor of the U.S. House, where Rubio has never served.

THE FACTS: Rubio has missed votes, but he is not as delinquent as Trump claims.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona missed 62 percent of Senate votes over a year-long period when he was running for the GOP nomination in 2008, according to, which keeps tabs on who votes and who doesn’t. Of the 420 votes the Senate took, McCain was absent for 260.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama skipped 45 percent of Senate votes during the same stretch on his way to the Democratic nod and eventually the presidency, or 189 missed votes out of 420.

As for Florida’s Rubio, he’s inching up but his missing votes stand at 41 percent. Of the 302 votes cast between March 9, 2015 and March 7, 2016, Rubio has missed 125. In the previous year, Rubio missed 55 of 374 votes tallied, or 15 percent.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, another White House hopeful, has missed 36 percent of the votes taken in the past year. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, has missed 19 percent.

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