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High-profile votes — like on the bill to raise the debt ceiling — can become the prism through which voters view the candidates and determine support for a campaign. They can also be used to demonstrate leadership on major issues. However, opponents can use them to create political vulnerability.
Ultimately, because Bachmann and Paul are long shots for the nomination, their attendance for Congressional votes is especially irrelevant, this GOP strategist argued.
"Presidential campaigns are a much bigger stage than a House or Senate floor vote," the strategist said. "If I'm faced with the choice of using a vote in Congress to make my case or $5 million in ads in early primary states to make my case, it's not even close. I'd take the latter."
Bachmann, unlike Paul, does not post a schedule of her campaign events on her website, making it difficult to track her campaign schedule in relation to her missed votes. Bachmann's campaign did not respond to several requests for comment, but the Congresswoman's spokesman told Minnesota Public Radio earlier this week that Bachmann is not apologetic about her missed votes.
"By continuing to lead the fight against the president's job-destroying policies, Congresswoman Bachmann is serving not only her constituents, but countless more Americans," Bachmann spokeswoman Becky Rogness said.
When Bachmann has returned to Washington recently, it has not been to vote. Bachmann came to D.C. the evening of Sept. 8 for President Barack Obama's jobs speech to a joint session of Congress. At a press conference "rebuttal" in a House television studio 45 minutes after the speech, Bachmann said her flight was delayed by inclement weather, preventing her from attending the speech.
The next morning, the House passed an intelligence authorization bill, setting the 2012 budget for the nation's intelligence agencies. But Bachmann, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, had already left town. She had no public campaign events that day but did a television interview on CNN from Cherry Hills Village, Colo.
Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said that while "the campaign is his priority," Paul is doing his "absolute best" to attend votes, weighing campaign events against House votes on an "individual basis."
A close look at Paul's voting record, however, shows some irregularities.
For instance, on Sept. 21, Paul began his day in D.C. at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, where he made news by saying he'd consider putting liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in his Cabinet if elected.
His next scheduled campaign event was not until the next day at 3 p.m. in Orlando, Fla., according to a detailed calendar on his campaign website, but Paul did not manage to attend any of the House votes that day. Paul missed a crucial vote on the short-term continuing resolution spending bill that was defeated at 5:43 p.m. that day on the House floor.
Benton did not respond to questions about why Paul missed specific votes.
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), who voted a relatively high 87 percent of the time during his short-lived presidential bid, could face re-election difficulties from voters back home now that he's abandoned his aspirations for higher office. McCotter announced his presidential bid July 2 and dropped out Sept. 22.