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. Corey, Maryland

    Hey Ray, go research how the Illinois legislature works, and then you can find the meaning of present votes!! and Obama you can be just as liberal as you want to, cause you have my vote!!

    Obama 08!!

    January 31, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  2. felicej

    My question to Barack and his supporters is, "Where is the Beef?" He has alot of "fluff" but where is his substance? I'm a African-American female, registered independent and age range mid-forties and educated. I don't undrstand all of the hype? It is certainly a defining and historic moment in our nation to have either a female or african-american serve as President of US, but c'mon people, he has nothing to show for in his record in Illinois and in the US Senate. Is this a popularity contest or an election based on real issues that matter to most of us the citizens in this country.

    January 31, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  3. Chuck

    Who publishes the National Journal? Only the Republican spin machine uses the term "liberal" to attack Dems. Why does CNN call it a study when its only more Republican propaganda?

    January 31, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. blinky

    only in washington do people act like reagan one week, and the most liberal the next. anything to get elected, right?

    January 31, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  5. Rosie

    yeah, and bill clinton is a big mouth egotist who can't keep his ugly mug out of the spotlight. you go obama!

    January 31, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  6. John

    United States ought to be capitalized in the last sentence of the eighth paragraph.

    January 31, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  7. Scott

    Love it. Is he Reagan or a liberal?

    One thing he's not is a Clinton and that's more than enough for this Independent voter who has typically leaned Republican. Only thing worse than a liberal to a conservative Independent? A Clinton. Only thing worse than 1 Clinton as President? Two of them.

    January 31, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  8. Andy

    Romney said it best...

    why are we sending the same people back to Washington to sit in different seats?

    January 31, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. Anna

    Well, yes, he really sounds like someone who can reach across the aisle, that is if he doesn't turn his back first!

    January 31, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  10. Damian

    Bill Burton Obviously hasn't been paying attention! NO ONE said that Obama was 'being like Reagan'. Obama was only ever quoted as saying (in his own words),

    "I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."

    By this quote Obama clearly views Reagan's term in office in some sort of possitive light. And unfortunatly for Obama there is no way he can twist, and spin out of it now. His words are as bright as day!

    January 31, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  11. Sabella

    Clinton voted "No" on ethics reform. How surprising...

    January 31, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  12. randy

    To be a libral is not a sin.as long as he have a good ideas on how to help the country it will make the independent and the republican to come together and vote for him in general election.

    January 31, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. bob, IOWA

    I would actually vote for Hillary if she would divorce Bill. I terrfied of the thought of Slick Willy in the White House, but this time with absolutely nothing to do. I'm sure there are some concerned White Interns that feel the same way.

    January 31, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Jim ( Independent )


    I am on disability living on a fixed income and pretty much live from pay check to pay check. Barack Obama has gave me reason to believe in a better tomorrow. I see a movement in this country and i am convinced that Barack Obama is the right person at the right time , and i was moved to do what i can to do my part. I could only donate $20 , and in my world that's a lot of money.

    YES WE CAN !

    January 31, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. E. C., Houston, Texas

    Only True Conservative is Mitt Romney. McCain and Obama are one in the same....both Democrats.

    January 31, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. In the Loop, Chicago

    So of the 65 questions the two presidential candidates have in common.....they only disagree on two?

    This sounds like a back-handed Clinton attempt to once again distort the truth but the sad thing is that some people who don't comprehend well will actually believe it.

    January 31, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. Fa'iz

    Obama '08!!!!!

    January 31, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. lou

    There you go

    January 31, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  19. Ron, TX

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

    That's a great line! All I know is that while I'm a democrat, my father is a diehard Republican. My jaw dropped a few weeks ago when he told me he wanted to vote for Obama. Obama has the power to overcome these incorrect labels of conservative and liberal, the same exact way Regan did. Regan was a strict conservative, but had many democrats and independents voting for him. It's no coincidence that, while Obama is labeled "more liberal" by this conservative journal, he also pulls FAR more independents and Republicans than Clinton.

    January 31, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  20. Sabrina

    Gosh, I wonder if he pushed any wrong buttons, like he did in the Il. senate, how can you push the wrong button, yes or no seems pretty simple to me. He did this 5 times. I know 2 yr. old that could do better than that. He needs a lot more experience, we do not need another Bush learning on the job. Pretty words are nice but being able to get the job done is more important. Hillary 08

    January 31, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  21. john in ny

    In the last debate, Hillary said, referring to herself perhaps: "politicians don't always say what they mean, or mean what they say,"

    She also said, shortly thereafter in the same debate, referring to her vote in 2001 on a bankruptcy bill: "I voted for the bill, but I really hoped it failed"....

    These kinds of disingenuous statements and double-talk remind me of GW and make me question Hillary's integrity and character.....

    January 31, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. Michael, Torrance, CA

    This really shouldn't surprise anyone. If you listen to Obama speak, he lets it be known that he is one of the most liberal politicians in the country. If he wins the election, it will only be a very short walk to socialism. What can the government do for you not what can you do for government. Of course I do hope everyone who votes for him is ready to turn over all or most of their salary to him so he can take care of all of the people who want a free ride. Go McCain!

    January 31, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  23. pat

    interesting story. mccain talks about being the most experienced and the best to lead america yet he did not even vote enough times in 2007 to be counted in the national journal survey. i watched the debate and i must say he has a nasty attitude and is rude

    January 31, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  24. truthmatters

    Hillary is not as liberal as Obama, just because she supported teh Iraq war.... This stupidty is very funny....

    January 31, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. Michelle

    He is a democrat...not a centrist...if you are looking for a centrist, you have two choices, McCain and Romney...feel free to vote for either of them.

    January 31, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
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