Thursday, June 19, 2008


Do a Google search for obama most liberal senator and you'll get nearly a quarter of a million hits. That's because he's #1 according to one ranking -- that of National Journal (which just so happened to declare John Kerry the most liberal senator in 2004).

But (via Taegan Goddard), here are some rankings you never hear about:, a site created by political scientists that plots lawmakers on a liberal-conservative scale based on their voting patterns, calculated there were nine senators more liberal than Obama in the current Congress.

"Obama is a liberal, but he's not the most liberal," said Keith Poole, a University of California-San Diego professor who runs the site. By comparison, McCain is the eighth-most conservative.

(Yup -- according to VoteView, McCain's rank among conservatives is slightly closer to the far end than Obama's rank among liberals.)


Ratings from Congressional Quarterly also provide a mixed picture.

In CQ's calculation of party unity, which measures how often members vote with their party on bills where the parties split, Obama got a 97 percent rating last year. Ten Democrats had higher scores....

McCain had the Senate's highest presidential support score last year, 95 percent, but he missed more than half of the votes because he was campaigning. And McCain hasn’t always been such a strong backer of President Bush. He supported Bush 77 percent in 2005 and has averaged 89 percent since 2001.

Did you catch that? I'll repeat it:

McCain had the Senate's highest presidential support score last year, 95 percent

Why don't we ever hear this?

Is it because McCain's many campaign absences make it an unreliable statistic? The same is true for Obama's "most liberal" ranking from National Journal. Is it because McCain hasn't been quite as loyal to Bush in other years? Well, Obama hasn't been National Journal's most liberal senator in other years, either.

Last month, Progressive Media USA did pick up on the 95% presidential support score for 2007 -- and McCain's 100% presidential support score for 2008. A lot of bloggers picked up on that 100% statistic, but now it's gone from the collective memory, as is the notion that McCain was the most pro-Bush senator in 2007.

Let me repeat that one more time:

McCain had the Senate's highest presidential support score last year, 95 percent

Sounds like a meme, doesn't it?

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