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. Really

    Ray, first he votes "present", then he mistakenly votes and now he doesn't show up to vote! Good Lord what are people thinking? This is the man who wants to be President? No substance, no record, no depth and no experience!

    Sen. Clinton, we are sooo with you! New Jersey is with you all the way!

    January 31, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  2. dee

    His legislation offered a bridge to moderate republicans from the Senate.


    Obama 08

    January 31, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. Iggy Pop

    I'm a conservative.

    January 31, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  4. Ben

    Wake up Latinos, it looks like the person in you corner is Obama not Hillary. Time to look at the issues not the past.

    January 31, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  5. Wayne, Greenville TX

    They act as if being a liberal is a bad thing....

    January 31, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  6. Michael

    He never really has run as a centrist, he's run as someone who could bring people together. As opposed to a triangulator....

    The voting present nonsense again, don't you Hillary supporters have a single real criticism to bring up, or are you going to keep coming back to that nonsense?

    January 31, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  7. John

    Being tagged the most liberal senator will hurt Obama if he is his party's candidate. Some say that Obama appeals to some Republicans and Independents, but I think that Republicans and Idependents are more likely to vote for a candidate with a more moderate voting record.

    January 31, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  8. Porter

    Interesting given the recent attacks on Obama that McCain did not even vote enough times to qualify for the list.

    January 31, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  9. Jose'

    Not surprising. The shift to the left in this country will be the end of America as we know it.

    The Republicans are moderates at best, and the Democrats are far-left liberals.

    Bring on Socialism!!

    January 31, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  10. Hank

    Good. It's about time we had a true liberal president. Screw the conservatives. They've mucked up our country long enough.

    January 31, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  11. usedtobe democrat

    Ryan, this is based on his voting record. How can you not think it's true? Trust me, he could never be compared to Reagan, he was accused for supporting Reagan economics.

    January 31, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  12. Commentator

    So, how many of the 99 votes do you have to miss to be left out of the study like McCain?

    January 31, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  13. Damian

    Obama said 'clarity. optimism, dynamism and entrepreneurship' with regard to Reagan. Thats a pretty glowing review! Bill Burton should really pay attention to what his man actually says, instead of trying to spin!

    January 31, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  14. Tyler in Raleigh

    I thought Obama was the next Reagan and thats why we needed to oppose him? Now he is too liberal so we need to oppose him?

    Hmmmm.... at least I know why I should oppose Clinton, becuase she has 8 years of "experience" in how NOT to be President.

    January 31, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  15. Chris, Orlando, FL

    Not good news for the Obaminator... the part about being named "most liberal", or the part about missing 1/3 of the votes the study was based on. Trouble lies ahead, as NOBODY this liberal has or ever will be elected President in these United States. This is fodder for everyone... the GOP and Hillary both.

    You hear that Obama supporters??? Abandon ship. Move to the center. Vote for Hillary.

    January 31, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  16. issac

    i want to know whats his visionfor the country

    January 31, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  17. Stephen

    there is not a liberal America or a conservative America there is the United States of America.

    January 31, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  18. Chanda, AL

    If he's FALSELY attacked for being like Reagan, doesn't that mean he's NOTHING like Reagan.. so wouldn't that be equal to being extremely liberal?

    January 31, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  19. Mike C, New Jersey

    If you're looking for facts, Patrick from Colorado, then don't read this article. CNN isn't biased against Obama, but the National Journal seems to be. It's either that or (like CNN), the National Journal needs to appease the political junkies like us who go online and are disappointed when there is not another political article online. If you need evidence of this, check out the fact that the CNN advertises its "Best Political Team, with campaign coverage 24/7" in the top right corner of the article. When there's a new article every three or four minutes, a laughable amount of them will invariably be useless hype. Take this with a wagon-full of salt.

    They didn't even capitalize United States in the eighth paragraph. They're more concerned with getting "news" out than publishing something with substance.

    -I love CNN, by the way.

    January 31, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  20. LIZ

    I am shocked and pleasantly surprised that CNN would print California Independents comment's/facts. Maybe, they aren't as biased as I first thought toward Obama.

    There is a very good Red Skelton Pledge of Allegiance from a 1969 TV show...

    January 31, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  21. Mike C, New Jersey

    Judicial Watch openly considers itself to be a conservative source. I don't know much about it. It seems from the first few minutes of looking at it to be a legitimate source, because they criticize both sides (or at least Huckabee, Giuliani, and the Bush knuckleheads). However, your arrogance (But I digress… I was using a fact and I sincerely apologize.) makes me think they probably have an extremely partisan readership. Putting Clinton and Obama on that list could have had something to do with it, but I honestly don't know.

    Thanks for the info. Please limit the pompousness.

    January 31, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  22. mike kaplan

    If this story is true (which I doubt- "most liberal" is kind of in the eye of the beholder, not the kind of precise metric which you can call a "fact"), I say more power to him.

    We've seen what the NON-liberals presently running the country can do, and it isn't pretty. Saying that Obama is the opposite of Bush and the disastrous, backwards Republican party is one of the highest possible compliments. He has my vote for sure.

    And good luck, sputtering soon-to-be-frustrated Republicans- you're going down this year. Big time.

    January 31, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  23. Al in Wpg

    1. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY): In addition to her long and sordid ethics record, Senator Hillary Clinton took a lot of heat in 2007 – and rightly so – for blocking the release her official White House records. Many suspect these records contain a treasure trove of information related to her role in a number of serious Clinton-era scandals. Moreover, in March 2007, Judicial Watch filed an ethics complaint against Senator Clinton for filing false financial disclosure forms with the U.S. Senate (again). And Hillary’s top campaign contributor, Norman Hsu, was exposed as a felon and a fugitive from justice in 2007. Hsu pleaded guilt to one count of grand theft for defrauding investors as part of a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

    # 1 most corrupt, according to Judicial Watch 10 Most Corrupt Politicians 2007.. but I guess California Independant picks and chooses his FACTS

    January 31, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  24. Emily

    I'm amazed at how biased the media, including CNN, is currently acting. All of the coverage has been about Obama. I think you're trying to persuade the people's minds. It's like a sick mind game. If you're going to report information to the people of the United States, at least report it fairly. It's your duty.

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

    No matter how much you try to keep obama down, you'll not succeed. He has my confidence as well as that of most others!!

    January 31, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
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