Gaffe Track: Skipping a Vote in Order to Cast It

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Marco Rubio

The gaffe: Speaking to CBS News, the Republican blasted the omnibus spending bill. “I want these votes to start to matter again.” The only problem: As John Dickerson pointed out, Rubio skipped the vote. “In essence, not voting for it is a vote against it,” Rubio said.

The defense: He certainly didn’t vote for it! Rubio’s vote wouldn’t have flipped the result anyway.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): Earlier in the campaign, Rubio KO’d attacks on his missed votes with a brutal shutdown of Jeb Bush. But his tongue-tied answer—which belongs in the awkward quote hall of fame along with “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” and “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it”—will reawaken the controversy. His argument implies (as a Bush super PAC staffer noted) opposition to plenty of other bills he says he supported but missed the votes on. Ted Cruz, who Rubio had on a back foot on immigration, was quick to point out he’d returned to D.C. to vote against the omnibus. On the other hand, Cruz used exactly the same rationale when he missed the vote on Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s nomination.

The lesson: Speaking nonsense about suffrage causes nothing but suffering.