March 20, 2007

Is Obama More Liberal Than Kucinich?

No wonder Dennis Kucinich scolded Democrats for deploying over the debate horizon when confronted with Fox News Channel's cameras for their Nevada debate. It turns out that Kucinich has harbored a secret conservative streak -- at least compared to the supposedly moderate Barack Obama. McClatchy reports on a National Journal analysis of the declared candidates for President from both parties and ranks those who have served in Congress (via Memeorandum):

The most liberal member of Congress running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination isn't Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

It's Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

And the Republican candidate who's grown less conservative over his years in Congress? Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Those are among the interesting findings in a recent analysis of votes by all the members of Congress who are running for president. They cut to the heart of debates going on among activists in both major parties: Can a liberal Democrat win a general election? Which Republican is ideologically pure enough to win support from conservatives?

Okay, no one will be surprised by that analysis of McCain, but the details may still generate a couple of raised eyebrows. McCain drew only a score of 46 for his 2006 voting record on social issues, placing him in the left-of-center category in the Senate, and over 20 points behind Ben Nelson, the Nebraska Democrat. He only manages a wan 64 on economic policy and a surprisingly low 58 on foreign policy.

On the liberal side, Obama rides high for 2006, one of only two years he has in national office. He generated the 10th most liberal voting record in the Senate. He joins a multiple-tied first place for most liberal economic record, sharing that with Barbara Boxer, Ted Kennedy, and John Kerry, among others. On foreign policy, he's almost as bad, with an 85 rating and a #13 ranking among liberals. He scores a 77 on social issues, which puts him more towards the center of the liberal caucus. He is no moderate in practice, even if he purports to be moderate in his approach.

Whither Hillary? She drifts into the center of her caucus overall, with 63 on economics and 62 on foreign policy in 2006. Those came from a concerted effort to become more appealing to centrists and moderates in preparation for this run. Her 70.8 rating for 2006 shows a significant change from her 78.8 lifetime rating, which comes closer to her 80 on social issues -- slightly more liberal than Obama.

One of the interesting aspects of the Democratic field from Congress is the remarkable similarity in their scores. All of them come from the more liberal faction of their party. Their lifetime liberal scores run in a narrow range from 84.3 (Obama) to 76.8 (Joe Biden), meaning that all of the Democrats in the race come from the liberal half of the caucuses. Hillary only gets edged by Dennis Kucinich by 0.6 points, who gets beaten by Obama by almost 5 points. They do not have a moderate in the race, despite Hillary's attempts to paint herself as such.

The Republicans running from Congress have a much wider profile. Their conservative scores run from 82.5 (Duncan Hunter) to 51.7 (Ron Paul). Paul's number comes as a big surprise, as some conservatives in Texas have made a point of touting him as a credible alternative to the current frontrunners. And while McCain may have a lifetime 71.8 rating, he has drifted into the 50s the last three years and four of the last six.

Of course, these candidates have the disadvantage of actually having voting records, while other contenders like Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney do not have that track record. That's why Americans have traditionally not elected Presidents from Congress.


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» Socialists from Sarge Says
Over at Captain’s Quarters, Jim provides a great look at some of the candidates for President and what types of voting record they have. Of particular interest is the third paragraph from the end. I quote it here and wish I could have said it b... [Read More]

» Obama More Liberal Than Kucinich (UPDATE: Maybe Not) from Outside The Beltway | OTB
Steven Thomma of McClatchy Newspapers has gone through the National Journal 2006 Congressional Vote Ratings and discovered that, “The most liberal member of Congress running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination isn’t Rep. Dennis ... [Read More]

» Obama il Rosso from The Right Nation
Dennis "The Red" Kucinich? Un dilettante, vagamente destrorso. Secondo gli ultimi Congressional Vote Ratings elaborati dal National Journal, non pi l'ex sindaco "socialista" di Cleveland il pi sinistro tra i membri del Congresso USA che correrann... [Read More]

Comments (4)

Posted by Mr Lynn [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 20, 2007 7:21 AM

How does Fred Thompson score?

/Mr Lynn

Posted by Monkei [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 20, 2007 8:47 AM

where does the independent from Connecticut, JoeMentum, score?

Posted by unclesmrgol [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 20, 2007 11:07 AM

A single number sums up the conservative or liberal potential of each member?

It sort of works... the "mason/dixon" line seems to separate, with minor exceptions, the Republicans from the Democrats.

I'd like to know what votes (and why) on each of the bills makes one a conservative versus a liberal. For example, the bill on asbestos S852 -- why would people voting yea be conservative and nay be liberal?

Posted by Joe Marier [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 20, 2007 6:38 PM

Remember: Dennis Kucinich had a strong pro-life voting record before 2003. Then he turned on a dime. That could be the difference, if you're looking at lifetime voting records.