September 26th, 2008
09:35 PM ET
6 years ago

Fact Check: Is Obama the most liberal U.S. senator, as McCain claims?

Statement:
Sen. John McCain, speaking at the University of Mississippi debate on September 26, said Sen. Barack Obama "has the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate."

Get the facts!

Facts:
The National Journal magazine, in its annual vote rating, said Obama moved left last year to the "most liberal senator" rating "after ranking as the 16th and 10th most-liberal during his first two years in the Senate."

Americans for Democratic Action, the liberal activist group, and the American Conservative Union, the conservative activist group, also rate Congress members on their votes. Their findings describe Obama as one of, but not the most liberal U.S. senator.

The ADA gave Obama a 75 percent liberal score in 2007, 95 percent in 2006 and 100 percent in 2005. Other Democratic senators received 100 percent during those years. David Card, ADA communications director, said Obama's score was lower last year because he missed certain votes.

Obama has a lifetime ADA average of 90 percent. Other senators - such as Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and others - have higher lifetime ADA ratings. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, was ranked as the most liberal senator by the National Journal in 2003.

"He is one of the most liberal senators," Card said, referring to Obama.

The ACU, which customarily places conservative Republicans on the top of its list and liberal Democrats at the bottom, has given Obama a lifetime ranking of just 7.67, according to the figures on the group's Web site.

It says Obama scored 8 percent in 2005, 8 percent in 2006 and 7 percent in 2007. Other Democratic senators in the ACU rankings have had lower yearly and lifetime scores, the site shows.

"He's one of the most liberal," said Larry Hart, the ACU director of government relations.

Verdict: True, according to National Journal, but liberal and conservative rating groups reached a slightly different conclusion.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • John McCain
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. jon samuel

    ACU ratings are based on voting records & interesting – Obama at 7% and McCain at 80%. For McCain to be as extreme to the right as Obama he would have to rate about a 92-93. There's no question that McCain has a record of angering both sides as a maverick. Obama is more left than McCain is right.

    September 26, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  2. Cal

    Liberal means socialist and/or communist. I'll let you decide if that's bad or good.

    September 26, 2008 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  3. Michael

    If obama was so conncerned about the people who really needed help because of the economy why not make the tax cuts only for those making less then $100,000.

    September 26, 2008 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  4. Joel

    I don't care if Obama is liberal is not. What scares me is that he only votes with his party, and does not have the courage to stand up against them. I like the fact that McCain will go against his party at times for things he believes are right.

    September 26, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  5. Ann

    Liberal + power = socialism

    September 26, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  6. DJ Johnson

    Well is it any surprise that they're saying this about Obama? First they turn "liberal" into a dirty word, then they slap John Kerry with that label when it became obvious he would be Bush's opponent (and didn't we hear about it over and over again) and now they're doing the same with Obama. Sadly, it works. My father says, in a loud voice, that Obama is the most liberal and that is a bad thing. I ask him why and he can't answer. He just knows "it's bad". GOP talking points. Say 'em enough and people will believe it.

    PS – John McCain is a transvestite and an escaped Nazi war criminal. Those are big, fat, hairy lies, but repeat them anyway, won't you? You're too kind.

    September 26, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  7. Jennifer

    Who cares if he is liberal. He aced that debate and was very presidential. And he is on the right side of the issues.

    September 26, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  8. Leonard

    But it does make a statement. I want someone flexible enough to do what is right, not to just someone who does what is political. You cannot tell me that straight conservative or straight liberal is the way to go. To me it is in the middle ground some times more sometimes less.

    September 26, 2008 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  9. sue

    I have been debating with myself over the best new leader for my country. I definitely have decided on John McCain. Mr. Obama is a gifted 'blabber' – he goes on and on and on BUT he says NOTHING. He is always attacking others but has NOTHING of his own to give to us as a Leader. Tho he has practiced rambling – forever by the way, he is NOT mature and he cannot help this devastated country. While I DETEST George Bush – John McCain is NOT Mr. Bush. He is intelligent, experienced and trustworthy of doing the RIGHT thing for us, even though we may not like the continuation of our world vengeance on other nations, he can lead us out of our mishaps. After all – we are in a war and we MUST end it, BUT correctly. And furthermore, this should NOT be a campaign to run on a race issue, it should be about the Right Man for the Right Job.

    September 26, 2008 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  10. Zach

    Liberal is good when we're talking about things that DON'T lead us down the path towards Socialism, as Senator Obama's beliefs do. Show me a successfull Socialist nation and I'll sell you some oceanfront property in Arizona.

    September 26, 2008 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  11. Hal Summers

    I don't care who's the most liberal, the most conservative or the most anything. I care about who can work to get this country out of the mess that eight years of the Bush Administration has left us in.

    I don't see how John McCain can do that and I REALLY don't see how Sarah Palin can help in the event anything happens to McCain.

    Obama sounds very much like Bill Clinton did in 1992 with a vision of where this country needs to go to restore it's standing in the world and bring a government that is designed to first and foremost serve its people.

    I work with five guys who have been Republicans for their whole lives and not one thinks McCain has what it takes to lead this country out of the crisis we are facing. I don't know if they will vote for Obama but I know they won't vote for McCain.

    September 26, 2008 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  12. DB

    Why doesn't anybody look at an overall analysis? Best way to do this is with things like presidential support scores, and Obama is almost exactly at the halfway point of the Democratic caucus on this. I'd prefer he were closer to the Kerry territory on the left, but there you are.

    The striking thing about McCain is he is way to the right EXCEPT for the 106th and 107th Congresses (1998-2002) when he turned in a centrist performance. Those four years completely skew his lifetime average. He's actually toward the right of the Republican Party.

    September 26, 2008 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  13. unruly8i

    Is it me, or is it every election the Democratic nominee is declared "the most liberal"?

    September 26, 2008 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  14. Caleb

    Obama will raise taxes on businesses. This will kill jobs. It will also make businesses raise prices on their products forcing citizens to spend more of their money on products they use to buy for a lot less. Sorry Obama fans this is raising taxes.

    Keep taxes low.
    Vote McCain:Palin

    September 26, 2008 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  15. mamie

    I want a president who has experience. I am not so much impressed by charisma and pure talk. Is Mcain the needed president at this crucial time .

    September 26, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  16. NIck

    Many tax accountants from the top accounting firms have said Obama's fiscal and monetary plans don't add up and will require 50 billion in new taxes on all incomes not just the rich, and that increase will only cover his programs until 2013. Anyone who doesn't believe that Obama won't raise their taxes should move to New Jersey where everyone's taxes are raised rich or poor for a bankrupt state, our wonderful governor said taxes would only increase for those who earned half a million or more, what he didn't say was our property taxes would increase almost 25%.

    Vote for McCain your taxes will go up or down a little depending on your income.

    Vote for Obama and your taxes will go up and if youra small business owner your taxes will go up keeping you from drawing more income from your small business.

    $250K = Rich (LOL).

    September 26, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  17. box101

    McCain was grasping at straws – he is WRONG and RUDE, CONDESCENDING and THE SAME. He cares only about war. Whether Obama is the most liberal or not, he is NOT BUSH / McSAME. THAT is what matters to me.

    September 26, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  18. John Q. Public

    Yes, his record of the votes he actually cast rather than voted present for does in fact rate him as extreme to one side.

    *2 things bothers me about Obama.

    1st are his misstatements. He actually voted against regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while McCain supported the regulations in 2005. The vote is on the record and then Obama claims he warned about the current problems in the last 2 years???

    2nd is that he has never once admitted to being incorrect about anything including the things we all know he was wrong about. The surge is obvious. His statement are on the record and McCain had him there in pointing it out.

    There is one other misnomer. That Obama is for working families and McCain is not and that Obama will cut the average families taxes. Not true. What Obama is proposing will drive more people to the unemployment line. I guess you don't pay taxes if you are unemployed.

    September 26, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  19. Rob

    A lot of Senators opposed Bush. But it so happens that Obama's record was to the left of all, or almost all, of them. His answer was dumb and self serving, as are most of his answers.

    Then Obama said Kissinger agreed with him about meeting Iran's leaders. That's just a complete bunch of baloney, as even Kissinger will tell you.

    September 26, 2008 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  20. Pippen

    The word 'liberal' used to relate to small government and broad individual freedom. Somehow it devolved into a synonym for 'socialist'... if that doesn't describe Obama I don't know what does.

    September 26, 2008 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  21. Kris from Florida

    Adrienne -

    You should be ashamed of your naive comments. Why don't you pick up a book and read about Senator McCain's past.

    September 26, 2008 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  22. Kyle

    900 million in earmarks, not billion

    September 26, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  23. scooby

    I wish Obama would have listed some of his earmarks, I'm sure none of the were for a bridge to nowhere...

    September 26, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  24. Rob

    A lot of Senators opposed Bush. But it so happens that Obama's record was to the left of all, or almost all, of them. His answer was dumb and self serving, as are most of his answers.

    Then Obama said Kissinger agreed with him about meeting Iran's leaders. That's just a complete bunch of baloney, as even Kissinger will tell you.

    And when Obama tells us of the life experience he's had in "running an economy" wake me up. I didn't know you could go from being a community organizer to being the "manager" of the world's largest economy.

    September 26, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  25. john

    just like bush and liberal most democrats love REWARD criminal , BAILOUT AND AMNESTY

    September 26, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
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