Analysis: Nelson, Rubio more divided ideologically than senators from almost every other state

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A new independent analysis of key congressional votes in 2012 shows Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio became more divided ideologically than senators from almost every other state. Only Wisconsin, South Dakota and Ohio elected senators parted company more often, according to a study by National Journal reported by Gannett.

On tax reform, gun control, health care, federal spending, and other issues, Nelson, an Orlando Democrat, and Rubio, a West Miami Republican, frequently take opposing sides. 

“Voters sent us here and they expect us to stand for the things we stand for,” Rubio said. “The better way to look at the issue is that virtually everyone in Florida has a senator who agrees with them.” 

Florida was one of 17 states in 2012 that was represented by a Republican and a Democrat in the Senate. 

National Journal based its analysis on a weighted review of 116 Senate roll call votes (out of 251 total) and considered key votes in three areas: the economy (such as spending and taxes), foreign affairs (war funding and foreign aid), and social issues (gun control and abortion rights). 

All senators received a composite score on a 100-point conservative/liberal scale based on how they voted. 

Nelson’s score was 75.3 on the liberal scale, making his conservative score 24.7. Rubio’s liberal score was 17.2, meaning he scored 82.8 on the conservative scale. That 58.1-point difference ranked fourth in the Senate.

That marked an increase from 2011. The disparity that year was 46.8 and there were nine states whose senators disagreed more with each other than Rubio and Nelson, according to National Journal.

Nelson, 70, ranked as the Senate’s 28th most liberal member, downplays the division with Rubio, 41, ranked as the chamber’s 17th most conservative member.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.