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History shows Marco Rubio resignation would be rare event

in 2017/Top Headlines by

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s editorial on Wednesday that called on Marco Rubio to resign “and not rip us off” ignited a number of others to follow suit.

It came as Rubio has continued to miss votes in the upper chamber of Congress while on the campaign trail and unapologetic about it. Instead, he’s indicated he doesn’t even really like the job.

Historical precedent, though, indicates  that if Rubio quit, it would be the exception to usual presidential politics.

On his Smart Politics blog, Eric J. Ostermeier of the University of Minnesota writes that since 1972 there have been a total of 50 presidential candidacies by 45 sitting U.S. senators. Only one of these resigned before the presidential election: Bob Dole of Kansas in 1996.

Dole only did so, in June 1996, after he had already secured the GOP nomination, and after the last batch of presidential primaries.

During the past 40 plus years no other sitting U.S. senator running for the White House cut short their day job before the presidential election.

Like Rubio, several of those senators were running for president in cycles in which their term in the nation’s upper legislative chamber was coming to an end – 12 in all:

  • Four opted not to run for re-election: Democrat Fred Harris of Oklahoma (1972), North Carolina Democrat John Edwards (2004), Florida Democrat Bob Graham (2004), and Florida Republican Marco Rubio (2016)
  • Seven failed in their presidential bids but still won re-election to their U.S. Senate seats that cycle: West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd (1976), Texas Democrat Lloyd Bentsen (1976), Washington Democrat Scoop Jackson (1976), Kansas Republican Bob Dole (1980), Texas Republican Phil Gramm (1996), Utah Republican Orrin Hatch (2000), and Delaware Democrat Joe Biden (2008)
  • One is currently running for both offices: Kentucky Republican Rand Paul (2016)

And one stat where Rubio would definitely like to emulate Barack Obama: Of those 50 senators who have run for president since 1972, only one – Obama –  actually became president.

Much has been made of Rubio’s voting record. He’s missed about 34 percent of his from from the start of the year through last week.

However, as reported by PolitiFact,  from 2007 to 2008, Obama missed more than 64 percent of votes. From 2003 to 2004, John Kerry missed 72 percent of votes, and former Florida Sen. Graham missed about 37 percent of his votes when he ran in 2003-2004.

Ironically, the man that Rubio succeeded in the Senate, Mel Martinez, did leave his seat more than a year before his term was set to expire.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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