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Rubio Opponents Say He Prefers Fundraisers Over National Security

Rubio has been criticized for missing votes to run for president. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has tried to make his name in the Republican presidential field, in part by touting himself as prepared to deal with America's security challenges.  

But on Wednesday, his rivals smelled political blood in the water when the first-term lawmaker who has risen in Republican presidential polls missed another classified briefing for all senators — this time about the American role in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. Rubio was instead on his way to Newport Beach, Calif., where he was scheduled to attend a fundraiser at the home of businessman Jim Glidewell — an event in which tickets ranged from $1,000 to $2,700 per person.  

"Apparently fundraising in Southern California is more important to politician Rubio than protecting the homeland," an aide to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's presidential campaign said Wednesday.  

Christina Freundlich, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said in an email to reporters, "While the rest of the world is focused on the terror attacks in Paris, Rubio is skipping critical briefings on national security to focus on high-dollar fundraisers."  

As Rubio has risen in polls, he has become more of a target of rivals from both parties. During the CNBC debate in September, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush suggested Rubio, who is not seeking re-election, should "just resign and let someone else take the job" if he wanted to continue his presidential campaign, echoing the sentiment of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's editorial board.  

In a statement Wednesday, the Rubio campaign shrugged off the criticism.  

"Apparently the DNC doesn't realize that Marco is on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Marco returned to D.C. yesterday to receive a highly classified intelligence briefing on the Paris attacks," said Alex Conant, Rubio's communications director.  

Rubio did attend the Senate Intelligence Committee's regular Tuesday afternoon meeting in which members were briefed about the Paris attacks. Rubio aides emphasized that the Intelligence Committee's meetings generally contain more detailed information than the kind of all-senators briefing that was held Wednesday. The Intelligence Committee meets generally twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in a secure room in the Hart building.

Still, Wednesday's absence highlighted Rubio's lackluster attendance record at his day job as he has run for president. Since January, Rubio has held fundraisers during at least a dozen Senate Intelligence Committee meetings — earning negative news stories for his campaign in January, April and October. Since Rubio arrived in the Senate in 2011, he has missed several Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings dealing with Syria,  including one in September during which "The U.S. Role and Strategy in the Middle East," including Syria, Iraq and ISIS, were discussed. That time, he was at a fundraiser, too. According to GovTrack, Rubio has missed more than 34 percent of his votes this year — more than any other senator running for president — and his total his risen throughout the year, as has his standing in the race. One poll, released Wednesday by Florida Atlantic University, found Rubio polling only second to Donald Trump, 36 percent to 18 percent, in the Sunshine State. He ranked the same in a New Hampshire survey by Fairleigh Dickenson University. And in a poll of Colorado voters released by Quinnipiac University on the same day, Rubio ranked second again, there to Ben Carson. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.