January 31st, 2008
07:51 PM ET
3 years ago

Study: Obama most liberal senator last year

 A new study suggests Obama had the most liberal voting record in 2007.
A new study suggests Obama had the most liberal voting record in 2007.

(CNN) - Barack Obama has demonstrated his appeal to independent voters and even some Republicans as he campaigns for president, though a just-released study from the National Journal indicates the Illinois Democrat was the most liberal senator in 2007.

Chief rival Hillary Clinton held the 16th most liberal voting record last year, the non-partisan survey of 99 major Senate votes found.

The study also shows both senators have moved to the left compared to previous years. In 2005 - Obama's first year in the Senate - he was ranked the 16th most liberal, and he came in at number 10 in 2006. Hillary Clinton has long held a moderate voting record: she debuted on the list at number 25 in 2001, and has been as high as 34. In 2006, the New York senator was ranked 32.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, now a supporter of Obama, held the same distinction in 2003, the year he spent campaigning for the Democratic nomination. His high ranking was later used by Bush's re-election campaign to paint Kerry as an out-of-touch liberal.

"Ted Kennedy is the more conservative of the two senators from Massachusetts," Vice President Dick Cheney often said on the campaign trail, citing the study. The Republican National Committee also ran an ad against Kerry called "risky" in which an announcer said, "John Kerry…The most liberal man in the Senate. The most liberal person to ever run for president."

Kerry called the rating a "laughable characterization," and disputed its accuracy, pointing out that he missed 37 of the 62 votes on which the survey was based because he was campaigning for president. The publication has since raised the number of votes a senator must take to be included in the study.

Obama may be able to make a similar argument. According to the study, he missed 33 of the 99 votes that constituted the analysis. Clinton missed 16 of the votes.

But the details of the study suggest the Clinton and Obama's voting records are not as far apart as they appear in the rankings. Of the 65 votes included in the study that both senators were present for, they only differed twice - on a measure that sought to establish an Office of Public Integrity to handle ethics complaints (Clinton voted no, Obama yes), and on a measure that sought to allow certain immigrants to stay in the united states while renewing their visas (again, Clinton voted no and Obama yes).

Responding to the study, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, "Only in Washington can you get falsely attacked for being like Reagan one week and labeled the most liberal the next. The tendency of Washington to apply a misleading label to every person and idea is just one of the many things we need to change about how things operate inside the beltway."

The full study is set to be released in March. The National Journal also notes Sen. John McCain, who is criticized by conservatives for some of his positions, did not take enough votes last year to qualify for the survey.

– CNN Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (219 Responses)
  1. Bob, DC

    Stupid rating system. Clinton and Obama differed only on 2 out of 65 votes and she gets ranked 16th. Huh??

    January 31, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  2. Travis

    What does it matter? He is cute and smooth.

    January 31, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. JenniferS

    "...if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.""
    -John F. Kennedy

    January 31, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  4. AnnAloha, Independent Thinker. PA

    oops not a good label for a Democrat period.

    January 31, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  5. Hillary fan in California

    HILLARY '08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 31, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  6. Jarrod Snyter

    I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. As a moderate I would rather vote for a moderate Democrat, but this might help him pick up some votes from hardcore Democrats, but in the general election this might be somewhat bad. But nothing that Senator Obama can't overcome. Apparently as the "most liberal" senator he still can draw some Republicans to the Democratic side.

    January 31, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. LeeAnn N. Taylor, San Francisco, Ca

    Does this surprise anyone? As soon as the American people put down their big macs and lattes and begin paying attention they'll see he's not what this country needs right now. We have big problems and, while his speaking skills and vocabulary are great, we need more than that. Has anyone else in California seen his new ads? They are all about "hope" and "change" but he doesn't say one thing about what he believes in or what he would do as president. Hope doesn't change healthcare or education or poverty. Hope doesn't pay my rent or car payment. Hope is great, but give me something tangible. In his ads he says "vote with your heart." Interesting that he doesn't say vote with your MIND.

    I want a President, not a motivational speaker.

    January 31, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  8. Travis

    By all means, please nominate the most liberal senator in Washington. Once independents have gotten over the novelty of his candidacy they'll realize that he represents the same kind of gridlock that has become characteristic of Washington's inability to accomplish anything for the country. Then they'll look to the other side and see McCain with his proven record of bipartisanship and ability, let alone willingness, to work across the aisle and compromise to generate palatable solutions to America's problems. I mean, seriously, in spite of Obama's (and I'll grant this) compelling rhetoric and oratory, I have a hard time being persuaded by someone who talks about change and unity and whose record, scant as it is thus far, reflects neither, or even an effort towards either goal.

    January 31, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  9. karenSub

    wow again we see obama the show horse. THats a third of the votes he missed. His overal record of missed votes is pretty dismal and shows hillary has a way better work ethic.

    January 31, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  10. Susan

    now the Kerry and Kennedy endorsements make sense

    January 31, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  11. Chris

    On this issue they are both the same. Pot and Kettle.

    January 31, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  12. randy

    Who care if is the most lebral of 2007 what matter is if he have a good jurgement. Which he have and that is the reason why he is apeling to people.

    January 31, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  13. Tom , Flagstaff, AZ

    Just proves that Hillary is closer to being a Republican.

    January 31, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. Ed, Santa Fe NM

    Good for Obama! After 7 years of Bushco and its unending lies, evasions, corruptions, illegalities, and inept thinking, a LIBERAL WITH A BRAIN is like a BREATH OF FRESH AIR.

    OBAMA IS CHANGE; HILLARY IS CLINTON

    January 31, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  15. Sara

    Why is attracting independents and republicans?? must be a fairytail!!

    January 31, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  16. Undercover Brother

    Yeah, this will really help that 50-State strategy. I'm sure the folks in Middle America will love that in November. An anti-war, "Tax and Spend – Ted Kennedy" Liberal versus a P.O.W. War Hero. If he wins the nomination then we (Democrats) will get what we deserve!

    January 31, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  17. Matt, Chicago

    Ray – get to know illinois politics. they all vote 'present' on occasion for strategic purposes.

    He's a 1st term senator – obviously his record will be light. Beltway experience is overrated (see FDR, TR, Lincoln)

    Obama has vision + leadership qualities that are unmatched in the presidential field and routinely exercises good judgment. He's running for President, not Senator anymore.

    Obama '08.

    January 31, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. Dem of NJ

    Obama is a fake. He pretends he could unite republicans and democrats.
    Actually he is ultra liberal. You will have to pay a lot more taxes if he gets elected.

    January 31, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. michael, ny

    on a measure that sought to establish an Office of Public Integrity to handle ethics complaints (Clinton voted no, Obama yes), and on a measure that sought to allow certain immigrants to stay in the united states while renewing their visas (again, Clinton voted no and Obama yes).

    This does it for me.

    Obama08.

    January 31, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  20. J.K.

    The National Journal is owned by a former Richard Nixon intern.

    January 31, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. James L

    You think the Republicans know how liberal this guy is. ..

    January 31, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  22. jake

    study???

    what a joke

    January 31, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  23. James L

    Maybe this is why the Republicans want to run against him as President. ..

    January 31, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  24. randy

    He is still the most respected senetor till date he have a good way to reachout to independent and the republican,s so together the can get things done.OBAMA 08.

    January 31, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  25. Rob

    When is being liberal a bad thing?

    January 31, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
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