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A super PAC ad circulating on the Internet depicts U.S. Senate hopeful and local congressman Connie Mack as an absent legislator, gallivanting in California and stumping for his own campaign instead of casting votes in the House.
The group's basic premise holds up — the Fort Myers legislator has missed nearly 30 percent of House votes this year, one of the highest rates in Congress.
But what's Mack been missing?
With a few notable exceptions, not much.
A Daily News review of all 556 votes taken in the House this year shows Mack has mostly been absent for votes on amendments to bills, and his presence could have only swung the outcome once. He's been at the Capitol for nearly all major actions, though he's missed a few high-profile votes — vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's signature budget bill, a $310-billion spending bill and legislation opening investment opportunities for entrepreneurs.
In November, voters will decide whether Mack's missed votes matter in the larger picture of a still-struggling economy, debates about health care and a host of other issues.
But Mack's absence gets to a fundamental question about his responsibility as a legislator: Is it to vote, regardless of other commitments? Or is it to advance the principles of voters who chose the conservative by campaigning to win back the Senate and presidency for Republicans?
In many cases, Mack has chosen the latter.
Twenty-five days this year, Mack has missed votes in the House, often for his own campaign events or to support Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in swing-state Florida. Mack's campaign said his absence is a necessary cost for defeating his opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and President Barack Obama. Nelson has also skipped voting duties before, the Mack campaign says.
"In order to inject the change agent in Washington that's needed and his constituents have asked for, votes had to be missed," Mack spokesman David James said. "Connie is still working on behalf of the people."
Matt Thornton, spokesman for American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC running the attack ad, said Mack is skirting his primary obligation to Southwest Floridians.
"Voters in Florida elected Connie Mack to do a job, and he's been skipping out on that job," Thornton said.
Nelson's campaign added Mack's missed votes are another negative for a candidate who it claims has questionable character. This year, Nelson has made all but one of the Senate's 189 votes.
"It's part of broader picture of an undistinguished congressional record, a sense of entitlement, of a seriously flawed candidate whose spotty personal record involves bar room brawls and road rage incidents, not to mention a series of personal financial problems," Nelson spokesman Paul Kincaid said in an email.
Mack has never missed votes at his current rate, though he's not known for having a pristine attendance record.
He's missed 6 percent of votes during his four terms, when the median is 2.4 percent, according to govtrack.us, a website that tracks voting records. Yet virtually all votes in the House pass or fail by wide margins — all but one vote Mack missed this year has passed or failed by a double-digit margin — and some votes are for relatively trivial matters, such as naming post offices.
Richard Benedetto, a former White House correspondent who now teaches politics and journalism at American University in Washington, D.C., calls the debate over Mack's attendance record "campaign noise," adding Floridians are unlikely to choose a candidate based on missed votes.
"The public is smarter than that," Benedetto said. "Unless you can prove a person missed a vote that was costly to the district and show that the person was really shirking their duties, voters will evaluate legislators on how they served their district."
Mack isn't alone when it comes to skipping votes during campaign season, according to govtrack.us.
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who is also looking to unseat an incumbent Democratic senator, has missed 171 votes this year. Former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, has skipped 280 votes in 2012. And in the final 18 months of President Barack Obama's Senate term, spanning from mid-2007 to the end of 2008, the Democrat was absent for more than two-thirds of all votes.
Two other House members running against sitting senators, however, have made nearly all votes. Democrat Shelley Berkley, of Nevada, has been absent for 12, while Republican Denny Rehberg, of Montana, has made all but one.
Mack's campaign notes his race will be more fiercely fought, and that neither has spent as much time as Mack working as a surrogate for a presidential candidate.
The Mack campaign also points out Nelson has his own spotty voting record. When Nelson, a sitting House member, unsuccessfully challenged former Gov. Lawton Chiles for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Nelson missed 56 percent of votes in Congress, according to PolitiFact Florida, citing the Congressional Quarterly vote tracking service.
"I think it's certainly something that the Nelson camp overlooked when they attacked Connie on this," James said. "At the end of the day, what people care about most is jobs and the economy, and that's certainly what Connie is campaigning on."