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Paul puts campaign before duty

Misses all but nine votes this year despite light schedule on stump

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rep. Ron Paul has missed 93 percent of all floor votes in Congress this year as he's focused on his presidential bid, even as he's kept one of the lighter campaign schedules of any of the candidates.

All told, Mr. Paul has been in the House chamber for just nine of the 142 votes taken through Wednesday afternoon. During that time, he missed the final vote on the payroll-tax-cut extension, a pay freeze for members of Congress, a crackdown on congressional insider trading, and repeal of part of the new health care law.

Campaign manager Jesse Benton said it's a balancing act, and the presidential campaign is the priority.

"Dr. Paul is trying to make important votes when his participation could mean a bill passes or fails, but his attention is 100 percent focused on his presidential campaign," Mr. Benton said.

He and fellow Rep. Michele Bachmann also missed most votes at the end of last year, when they both spent time in Iowa and other early primary states. Mrs. Bachmann dropped out of the presidential race in early January, after the Iowa caucuses.

Mr. Paul has continued, though he is the only remaining candidate who has yet to win a primary.

He has said he is counting on picking up delegates as the process plays out in caucus states such as Colorado, where voters met earlier this year but delegates won't be bound to candidates until district and state conventions in mid-April.

One of the votes Mr. Paul did make came Jan. 18, when he broke away from the campaign trail in South Carolina and returned to Washington to vote against a debt-limit increase, and cast two other ballots.

The debt-limit vote gave Mr. Paul a chance to highlight one of his strengths: He is the only candidate who still holds office, and the only one whose day job allows him to go head-to-head with President Obama.

The other day Mr. Paul voted was Feb. 28, when he was already in town to hold a rally in Northern Virginia that night, ahead of the state's March 6 primary. He cast six votes that day.

On Wednesday, Mr. Paul was also in town - he had an evening rally scheduled for College Park, just across the Maryland border about 25 minutes from the Capitol. But he missed all four floor votes held Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Benton said Mr. Paul missed those votes because he was raising money, doing interviews and preparing for a major speech at the rally.

Rachel Mills, a spokeswoman for his congressional office, said Mr. Paul "does try to make votes that are particularly important."

Missing votes is common for candidates. During the 2008 campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama missed nearly two-thirds of floor votes, while his opponent Sen. John McCain missed about 80 percent. In 2004, Sen. John F. Kerry missed 90 percent of floor votes.

But that year, even as he also ran for the GOP's nomination, Mr. Paul made 82 of the 107 votes held up until March 6, when he announced he was winding down his campaign. And he used his floor vote to take a stand on a number of key votes that year, including being the sole House lawmaker to vote against a resolution condemning Palestinian attacks on Israel.

This year, Mr. Paul has been absent far more often, though he's maintained a relatively light public campaign schedule.

He's held fewer events than any of the other three candidates still in the race, and regularly takes days off entirely. He's had public events scheduled on just 10 of the 20 weekdays so far this month, according to Politico.com's candidate tracker.

"It is surprising that Ron Paul has missed so many congressional votes when he has a light campaign schedule," said Darrell M. West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

Mr. Paul has already announced he isn't running for re-election to his Texas congressional seat, and Democrats are eagerly eyeing it as a potential pickup.

"The folks in Southeast Texas deserve a whole lot better than a 6 percent attendance rate," one Texas Democratic Party official said.

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