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Val Demings, Marco Rubio square off over attendance records

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s attendance sheet is back in the fore in the latest ad from Democratic challenger and U.S. Rep. Val Demings.

In a 2016 redux, Demings latched onto Rubio’s attendance records, a line of attack against the Republican incumbent popularized by former President Donald Trump. Rubio’s attendance has been one of the worst in Congress, and in an ad released Wednesday, Demings says Floridians are worse off because of it.

The ad also doesn’t miss on the opportunity to highlight that she was Chief of the Orlando Police Department.

“Listen here Marco Rubio. For 27 years, I showed up every day to put dangerous criminals away, never knowing I’d come home to my family, and when I was Chief, we reduced violent crime by 40%. But Marco, you’ve got one of the worst attendance records in the Senate. When Florida needs you, you just don’t show up,” Demings said in the ad.

Through the 116th Congress, which ended in January 2021, Rubio missed 9.8% of votes since taking office in 2011, one of the worst rates in the Senate. The only Senators with worse attendance rates were, like Rubio, former presidential candidates.

During a 2016 presidential debate, Trump criticized Rubio for having the “No. 1 absentee record” in the Senate. That comment earned “mostly true” rating from PolitiFact, a rare rating for the former President.

Meanwhile, Demings has missed less than 1% of votes since she took office in 2017.

“I approve this message because it’s simple: you don’t show up for work, you lose your job,” Demings said.

But Rubio is punching back. In a news release soon after Demings’ ad went live, the Rubio campaign criticized his challenger for having a “do-nothing record.”

In contrast with the attendance question, Rubio’s campaign noted his list of achievements and hit Demings for siding with President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Marco’s bills have been signed into law by both Republican and Democrat presidents. Meanwhile, Pelosi Puppet Val Demings’ version of ‘showing up’ for the people of Florida is voting for Joe Biden’s failing agenda 100% of the time and delivering zero results in her six years in Congress,” said Rubio campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Gregory.

“Demings is desperately hoping Floridians will look past her do-nothing record, but this November, Floridians will remember who consistently delivered for them.”

The Rubio campaign’s response included a list of accomplishments, like his input on the Paycheck Protection Program and doubling the Child Tax Credit. However, it did not include his years sponsoring legislation for red flag laws, parts of which became law with the gun violence legislation Biden signed earlier this week.

Meanwhile, his campaign highlighted Demings’ record, including when she missed a March 5, 2020, House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the response to the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic and for frequently using proxy voting during 2021. The campaign also criticized Demings for holding a campaign event while remotely attending a hearing in May.

FiveThirtyEight gives Rubio a 94% chance at re-election and expects him to secure it with 55% of the vote. And according to a poll Center Street published Wednesday, Rubio leads Demings 50% to 42%.

But at least one pollster says there is still room for the race to change before Election Day. The results when compared to the centrist organization’s last poll in March also showed Demings with the momentum, with a 13% swing in her favor among registered voters.

“Marco’s still the favorite, but what’s interesting is that he’s sort of stalled out,” said Center Street Co-Founder Jacob Perry. “He has a motivated base of voters locked in, but he’s not making any new pitch to draw in new voters.”