Michele Bachmann has been so focused on her presidential campaign that she has been neglecting some of her duties closer to home: namely, her job as a member of Congress.
According to congressional records, Bachmann, a third-term U.S. representative from Minnesota, has missed 58 percent of House roll call votes since July 1, when her campaign began in earnest, Minnesota Public Radio reported this week. In September, according to The Hill, she missed all 60 votes.
She has even missed several votes on legislation from the House Intelligence Committee, of which she is a member, including votes to reauthorize intelligence and national security programs.
Bachmann's congressional spokeswoman defended her, saying that her presidential campaign serves her constituents, too.
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, spokeswoman Becky Rogness told The Hill. She remains in regular contact with her congressional staff and is actively ensuring that her constituents in Minnesota's Sixth District are being served and represented in Washington.
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A political science professor at the University of Minnesota added that she doubted Bachmann's constituents would mind.
Constituents want their members of Congress to be active for them in the chamber, but the reality is, when it comes to a lot of constituent requests, staff are really carrying a lot of the load, Kathryn Pearson told Minnesota Public Radio.
But at the same time, Bachmann's high absence rate does clash with one of her major talking points: that she has been at the forefront of the fight to cut federal spending. In reality, while she has sharply criticized government spending on the campaign trail, she has missed a number of major spending votes. And when Standard & Poor's downgraded the United States' credit rating in August, Bachmann called for Congress, which was on recess at the time, to reconvene immediately -- but she wasn't there when Congress did reconvene, The Hill reported.
It is always a struggle for presidential candidates to balance the demands of their campaigns with the demands of their current jobs, and Bachmann's record is not that much out of the ordinary. At this point in the 2008 campaign, for instance, President Obama -- then a U.S. senator from Illinois -- had missed 56 percent of roll call votes, and Republican candidate John McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona, had missed just under 50 percent.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, one of Bachmann's competitors for the 2012 Republican nomination, has also had to make difficult choices about how to divide his time. In early September, when the winds from Tropical Storm Lee whipped up devastating wildfires across Texas, Perry canceled some campaign stops in South Carolina to return to Texas and oversee relief efforts. But just a couple days later, he left Texas again to participate in a Republican debate in California.
These records are common, but they aren't inevitable.
Another 2012 candidate, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, has missed only 19 percent of House roll call votes since July 1, and his campaign hasn't suffered from it -- he remains several percentage points ahead of Bachmann in most polls.