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

Study: Obama most liberal senator last year

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/31/art.obamanj.gi.jpg caption=" 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. Info

    LMAO! are you kidding me CNN?? you guys are trying to keep the man down

    January 31, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  2. Patrick Kunc, Denver Colorado

    How can he continue to run as a centrist if the facts don't support it? I'm dissapointed by this.

    January 31, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. California Independent

    I don't know whether he is one of the most liberal, but he did make the top 10 of the Judicial Watch.

    Judicial Watch 10 Most Corrupt Politicians 2007.. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL): A "Dishonorable Mention" last year, Senator Obama moves onto the "ten most wanted" list in 2007. In 2006, it was discovered that Obama was involved in a suspicious real estate deal with an indicted political fundraiser, Antoin "Tony" Rezko. In 2007, more reports surfaced of deeper and suspicious business and political connections It was reported that just two months after he joined the Senate, Obama purchased $50,000 worth of stock in speculative companies whose major investors were his biggest campaign contributors. One of the companies was a biotech concern that benefited from legislation Obama pushed just two weeks after the senator purchased $5,000 of the company's shares. Obama was also nabbed conducting campaign business in his Senate office, a violation of federal law.

    But I digress... I was using a fact and I sincerely apologize.

    January 31, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  4. Ray

    More votes Obama was not around for, are we Suprised? Hey, at least he did not miss vote 5 times like he has in the past or vote present!!

    January 31, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. Ryan, New Jersey

    "Only in Washington can you get falsely attacked for being like Reagan one week and labeled the most liberal the next. "

    I actually laughed out loud, this is so true.

    January 31, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  6. Justin, MA

    Just like I said in a previous comment. Obama is more liberal than Clinton and that is a scary fact! He is no JFK like other posts have commented on.

    January 31, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  7. Al in Wpg

    further left, further from bush

    January 31, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  8. Eric

    What about the fact that Obama missed 33 of these votes when Hillary missed only 16? He was not even PRESENT for a THIRD of these votes. Perhaps this is what he should be asked about.

    January 31, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  9. go dems

    I really really really want a Democrat to win this year.

    As John Kerry and Al Gore can tell you, experience means nothing to swing voters...likability and honesty do matter.

    So Obama is called too liberal and he is also called too conservative and Reagan-loving?

    Just like Goldilocks said, one's too hot, one's too cold...this one's just right.

    If you don't like Obama, you still have to admit that his favorable/unfavorable numbers are much more impressive than those of our former first lady.

    Please support the winnable candidate. Thank you.

    January 31, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. Braineel

    Obama much more clearly illustrates the manner in which the country itself is shifting. Moves away from the war and toward economy and infrastructure and energy can characterize how he has voted. Forward thinking, forward looking, and no navel-gazing power-mongering.

    January 31, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  11. Ben

    That was a pretty good response by Burton.

    January 31, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  12. Adam, Los Angeles

    Well, that answers the argument that Obama is afraid to take a stance and only plays it safe.

    January 31, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  13. charlotte

    Where was future man, when they vote on Iran?
    He was out preaching, yes we can, yes we can.

    When important issues are at hand,
    Where pray tell is future man?

    While a senator in the Illinois State Senate,
    He voted present and he meant it.

    Leave nothing to come back on him,
    Just don't vote, the future man.

    Now he wants to be our President,
    Or merely just the resident.

    We deserve more then he will do,
    With a let someone else do it attitude.

    Feel good words are really nice,
    But can we afford to pay the price

    January 31, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  14. James L

    And you thought Hillary was bad !

    January 31, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  15. Jason

    So which one is it Hillary supporters- either Obama likes Reagan for his 'good' ideas or he's a left-wing liberal.

    January 31, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  16. js

    So a vote for Hillary would be the same as a vote for McCain....while she is a flip-flopper...

    January 31, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  17. Nicholas

    PRESENT..........OBAMA's favorite vote. Hillary please give us all a present and knock him off his pedestal.

    January 31, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  18. Don

    This is no surprise. Its been long known that Obama is to the left of the democratic party. This bothers me greatly, since his main talking point is that he can work with both parties. Of course, as with everything else the Obama campaign has been questioned about, we will be told this is misleading and we will most likely not get an upfront answer from Barack Obama.

    We need a leader of our party who can really work with both parties. Hillary Clinton has a proven record.

    I realize Senators can not always be there to vote, however, his missed votes double Clinton and if you look at that along with his state senate record, there is a problem. He needs to address these issues. We have had a President who spent much time "away" from his job. We do not need another. I would think a first tern Senator looking to run for President would have had a better performance record.

    Once again, we need real answers to these questions. Obama has avoided many issues and I can not understand why he is not being put to the task like all the other canidates. Or we trying to be PC here??

    January 31, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  19. Democrat

    Is he going to continue to attack Sen. CLinton for showing up to vote?

    January 31, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  20. J, Ca

    Oh no.
    Here we go Kerry 2004 all over again.

    January 31, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  21. Toronto Girl

    It is funny the way CNN keeps popping out these stories about OBAMA,
    when it was SC primary, they did all the core Democratic issue, and now he
    needs independent to help him win and here comes the middle issue,

    January 31, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  22. Nathan

    Obama missing votes?? What a surprise.

    January 31, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  23. Danny G. Boca Raton, FL

    Lazy voting record. why did he run for the Senate again?

    January 31, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  24. Art H

    Having such a tag put on you, is a kiss of death, when it comes to presidential politics. Kerry dodged around but he simply could not brush off the stigma of the liberal tag.

    I am only surprised that the press decided to publish this. Normally in their quest to paint Obama in the best possible light, they would have snuffed out this news item.

    January 31, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  25. Jake

    So it begins...again..."Liberal" is dirty word to Americans, yet "Liberty" is what this country is built on.

    January 31, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
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