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. Nick, Los Angeles

    I am a Hillary supporter, but have a great deal of respect for Obama. Recently, I have been disheartened by Obama and his campaign. He has continued to use the airwaves for his message of "hope" that consistently gives no evidence in how this new message will work in Washington. The "New Yorker" mentioned that Obama has just been using this rhetoric with no real concrete examples of how this can happen. On another note, the idea that the Obama campaign is flying over divisive politics is not quite true. We saw this in the past debate as he discribed Hillary as working on the board of "Walmart." Which is a true statement, but is stemming away from important issues.

    Thirdly, Obama states that he is new, but utilizes the "old guard" for support such as Ted Kennedy. This seems strange to me. Lastly, his voting record of being "present" in the Illinois senate is a cause for concern–something that even Edwards pointed out in the last debate. Not voting on issues, but be listed as present makes it more believable that he makes decisions based on political gain, rather than on hope. What do you think?

    January 31, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Geri Sacramento

    Finally! An article that is not praising Obama. Named the most liberal Senator in 2007, missed twice as many votes as Hillary, and voted yes on a measure that sought to allow certain immigrants to stay in the United States while renewing their visas (Hillary voted no.) Hope lots of voters take notice.

    January 31, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. MH

    looks like, republicans are very afraid of this guy.. go for Obama...

    January 31, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. Al in Wpg

    LIZ, don't take everything at face value, research for yourself. California Independent, while you choice is obvious, I commend you for reading more than just the headlines and respect your decision on who to support.


    January 31, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. will, NYC

    What a hit job. Just so happens to be an election year so suddenly, rather than Pat Leahy he's the most liberal? And Kerry was in 2003, an election year? Something stinks and it's the National Journal because it's only good for wrapping fish.

    January 31, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. E. Jasmin

    This is garbage, and as a supposedly credible news organization I can't believe CNN would run this story without proper context. For example, what criteria were used to determine whether a vote is "liberal" or not? Hmmm. Not explained. And were Clinton and Obama's voting records even that different on key issues? Perhaps the people behind this laughable study (and based on the story's slant, corporate media outlets such as CNN) aim to paint Obama as one o' them left-leanin' liberal pinko that hate Uh-mericuh. Please.

    January 31, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. Cryston J

    From being just like Ronald Reagan, to being the most liberal. From my research of the National Journal, it will do whatever it has to do to falsely accuse Obama or Hillary of being unfit for the White House. CNN please report news from here on out.

    January 31, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  8. No to Clinton

    It figures that Clinton would not want a government office of Integrity. Oh, and how about her support for immigrants. Great work Senator Clinton.
    Obama 08

    January 31, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. AJ, IL

    I find it entertaining and hypocritical that Hillary raised the Rezko deal when Hillary has about 3 or 4 contributers ( i.e. Norman Hsu, Peter Paul and others) to her campaigns over the last 7 years that have been indicted. Have we all forgotten about the picture of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton with Tony Rezko which Hillary got busted on about a week ago! Not to mention, the scandals from the 1990s involved many shady contributors to Bill Clinton's campaign in which Hillary was a participant.

    January 31, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. JT

    When did liberal become a curse word?

    Republicans brag about how conservative they are.

    January 31, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  11. Beth

    Good, that's why I'll vote for him. What the heck have the far right-wing conservatives done for this country in the last 8 years?

    January 31, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. California Independent

    The latest Bushism:

    “There have been times when factual statements were made that were inaccurate.” Senator Obama

    Pearls from Obama's mouth:

    "They're trying to bamboozle you. It's the same old okie-doke. Y'all know about okie doke, right? ... They try to bamboozle you. Hoodwink ya. Try to hoodwink ya. Alright, I'm having too much fun here. ... " – Barack Obama

    Yes, it does sound familiar.....

    "You've been hoodwinked. You've been had. You've been took. You've been led astray, led amok. You’ve been bamboozled." – Malcolm X

    January 31, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  13. chuck

    Yup, the right wing talking heads all love Obama now, while they are trying to get the Democrat's to believe that they believe he is a moderate.

    If he wins the endorsement, then see how quickly it becomes, Obama got endorsed because he was more liberal than Hillary Clinton. Even Ted Kennedy didn't think she was liberal enough.

    For those of you who think the Right wing bashes the Clintons, and we need to play it safe and endorse Obama, you haven't seen nothing yet. His numbers will drop like a rock once they get Hillary out of the way.

    January 31, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. Rob

    Uhhh, isn't the whole point of being Democrat is to be Liberal???? That term "liberal" has been turned into a slur. Why are we trying to make Dems feel bad about being what they are?

    The difference is that although Obama may be the most liberal senator, he can work with diverging viewpoints vs. the Bush/Clinton style of "my way or die!"

    Before SC, Obama was not black enough.....
    Now he's toooo black because other blacks want to vote for him.
    Obama is blamed for praising Reagan and conservative policies,
    But NOW he is the most 'liberal' senator ever.
    Americans praise tolerance on every level, and lecture other countries on democracy and human rights,
    But we balk at having a leader that actually resembles 78% of the world's population, and routinely disenfranchise voters that may vote against the majority (white) favored candidate (Florida 2000 & 2004, Ohio 2004).
    We still have voter machines that don't work and 'chad' issues.

    This has to be the most dysfunctional, idiotic "developed nation" ever. A true reflection of the avg. 8th grade education of its citizens.

    January 31, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  15. Ryan

    Wow! CNN is doing everything in their power to get Clinton elected. Talk about bias!

    January 31, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. Matt

    Good Post Rob.

    What's wrong with being liberal? Repubs fall all over themselves trying to be the 'most Conservative.'

    Embrace the liberalism. . I like HRC, but i'm done with her triangulating minions – husband included. Obama '08.

    January 31, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  17. Matt

    also, consider the source.

    January 31, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  18. Donna in Michigan

    In tonight's one-on-one Clinton vs. Obama debate, I'd like to hear, for the first time, Obama talk on his experience on the issues. For example, no way could he win against McCain on foreign policy. No track record. He would get eaten up in the Fall. He's good at speeches using "change" rhetoric, but nothing of real substance. We need a proven "doer," not someone who merely talks a big game. One more thing, what is up with the media being biased for Obama and all of this fake hatred for the Clintons ever since this guy decided to run (they are taking Bill's statements way, way out context into an entirely made up context all of their own). Under ordinary circumstances Obama may have made a decent President, but after eight years of the Bush / Cheney nightmare, Hillary is definitely more prepared to hit the ground running on day one.

    January 31, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  19. Alison, FL

    Rob...I agree with your sentiments!!!!

    January 31, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  20. Paul, Tampa, FL

    You wouldn't know it from his campaign, unless you are referring to his use of the word "hope" and how many times he mentions that he was against the war from the beginning. He does throw those things around quite liberally. But how can a person who never even mentions an issue be tagged with the label of "most liberal?"

    January 31, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  21. Ben L.A

    Obama has no experience. Before making a decision he will ask kerry, kennedy, and a whole bunch of washington wolves.


    We'll see another bad 4-8 years and his excuse will be "I did'nt mean to"

    This is not a time to experiment people. We ARE loosing our super power status.

    Hillary 08

    January 31, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  22. Trey

    I miss Wellstone.

    January 31, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  23. Adam

    I wonder if Obama will be able to make a concrete point in tonight's debate or just give us another 2 hours of empty fluff like he has in the past.

    I don't think people want to listen to another sermon. He better come loaded with something more than the same "a change for tomorrow" garbage he's thrown out the whole campaign.

    This man is hopeless without being fed what to say and what actions to take. Scary to think so many people out there actually don't realize this. Are people really that naive?

    January 31, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  24. dave ma

    Hmmm... Obama missed votes because he was campaigning, and Clinton has been campaigning for longer, and she missed more votes...

    However, Obama is the only one being attacked for missing votes...Hillary, where do you keep that Kool-Aid!

    January 31, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  25. Sue

    Bias or mind games–which is it? It is easy to sway the minds of many voters to
    get them to lean toward one candidate or another. The important question is
    why? What is to be gained?

    January 31, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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