Florida deserves better than often-absent Rubio
© Greg Nash

As noted in The Hill, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game GOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight Rubio's pragmatic thinking on China MORE (R-Fla.) — who had a high absentee rate for Senate business even before he launched his ill-fated run for president, and who ran for president with the promise he would not run for reelection to the Senate even if he lost the presidential sweepstakes — will be running for reelection after all.

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According to the independent fact-checker Politifact, from March 2015 to March 2016, Rubio's attendance record in the Senate was the worst of any senator running for president: He missed more than 40 percent of Senate votes. By comparison, Politifact found that Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDemocratic Socialists of America endorses Sanders for president Trump on 2020 Dems skipping AIPAC: 'I think they're anti-Jewish' The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game MORE (Vt.), when he was running for president, missed only 19 percent of votes. To make matters worse, Rubio's high truancy rate was high throughout his Senate career, as he missed almost 15 percent of all votes from the moment he entered the Senate.

Throughout Rubio's presidential campaign, my columns were relatively friendly to the Florida senator. I predicted in 2015 that he would have his moment in the campaign where the eyes of the nation would turn to him to judge his fitness as a serious presidential candidate. This did indeed happen, but when it did, Rubio did not rise to the occasion, but most famously discussed the size of presumptive GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE's hands (and by implication, other parts of the male anatomy).

During a presidential debate, Rubio famously seemed to freeze, repeating his talking points in a robotic style, doing grave damage to his campaign by creating the widespread impression that he was not ready for prime-time.

Even more disturbing than his poor performance during the presidential campaign is the manner in which Rubio, who once dreamed of being the first Hispanic president, has been so weak in denouncing Trump even after the latter's remark about a Hispanic judge that even Republican House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFormer Dem candidate says he faced cultural barriers on the campaign trail because he is working-class Former House candidate and ex-ironworker says there is 'buyer's remorse' for Trump in Midwest Head of top hedge fund association to step down MORE (R-Wis.) denounced as a "textbook definition of a racist comment."

Rubio ultimately disapproved of Trump's comments, but will be running for reelection to the Senate as someone who believes that Trump should be America's next president no matter how heinous his comments are about Hispanics or others. Rubio has said, with the kind of equivocation that is the hallmark of Republicans in the age of Trump, that he would stand by his pledge to support "the nominee" — the nominee who until recently called Rubio "Little Marco."

This is not exactly a profile in courage.

Meanwhile, even after the Orlando, Florida mass murders, Rubio has opposed even modest gun legislation that according to polling is supported by 80 to 90 percent of voters. His obedience to the National Rifle Association, regardless of the brutality of the mass murders in Orlando, is weak and shameful.

Fortunately for Democrats, their most likely nominee for Rubio's Senate seat is Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.). Murphy is highly respected by his colleagues in the Congress and is seen as a Democratic rising star. He demonstrated a true profile-in-courage on guns, unlike Rubio, taking a strong and consistent position in favor of preventing terrorists from getting guns to kill Floridians and other Americans. His campaign is well-managed and well-funded.

Murphy is a strong advocate of major new programs to create high-paying American jobs, provide affordable healthcare to Americans, stand up for seniors against GOP programs that would hurt their interests, and make college more affordable for students and their moms and dads.

Floridians will have a clear choice in the Senate campaign and Democrats have a strong chance of regaining the Florida seat, even with Rubio in the race. As for Rubio, in my columns I always gave him a fair chance, but Florida deserves a senator who will demonstrate profiles in courage and diligence on the job — someone like Murphy, not a senator with a long record of absenteeism and truancy like Rubio.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at brentbbi@webtv.net.