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. Environmentally Blue

    Now that's FUNNY. Obama, who missed most of his votes, and definitely most of the Contentious and most serious, doesn't get the negative impact. WHAT A SURPRISE. ROFLMAO.

    What was it...my on womeans issues, maybe 9 votes, 6 non votes, 3 yes and he's considerered 100 percent positive votes.

    Love these non meaning stats.



    January 31, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. Captain America

    Obama will be cannon fodder for Republicans. They're are going to paint him as a slum-lord liberal when all is said and done. Looks like another 4 years with a Republican President.

    January 31, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  3. Domenick A

    Liberal? Haha. Real Funny.

    January 31, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. Matt Joachim

    Are you serious !! ? these numbers dont matter since he was not present for 33 of the 99 votes.BARACK OBAMA believe it or not is the kind of president that we need now he's the only candidate that can unify the country.

    January 31, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. Al, Los Angeles, CA

    Haters keep hating.

    If some of his detractors were being fair, they might be worth listening to.

    If he had voted too conservative, they would say he's a republican.

    They say he didn't vote enough, in order to stay safe.

    But the truth of this article is saying he voted for what he believes in and knowingly risked appearing liberal.

    When GW is trying to take away our rights, it's a good time to have a liberal on your side who's not afraid.

    And yet both Obama & Hillary are known for their bipartisan efforts.

    Obama/Sebelius 08

    January 31, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  6. J,tx

    Please stop comparing him to Reagan. Obama is terrible and the worst potential leader I have seen in years.

    Just go away Obama

    January 31, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  7. christian

    California independent, lets see who was NUMBER ONE most corrupt politician in Washington, none other than Hillary R Clinton

    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.

    January 31, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  8. Lillian at Dartmouth

    When did being liberal become a bad thing?

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

    ADJECTIVE: 1a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

    ADJECTIVE: 1. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change. 2. Traditional or restrained in style

    So, free from bigotry, open to change, tolerant.... I'm proud to be a liberal.

    January 31, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  9. Charlottesville, VA

    Perhaps the Clinton camp will start calling him a flip-flopper now? I mean, pro-Reagan one week, super-liberal the next. Pick a side, Senator Obama.

    In all seriousness, what no one will bother to notice is that Hillary is practically at the bottom on the liberalism scale among Democrats. In 2006, she was 34th! That leaves a paultry 10 Democrats lower than her, and one of those was surely "Democrat" Joe Lieberman. Yes, clearly she is a beacon for Democratic ideals.

    With her kind of record, McCain probably would've scored higher were he not so adept at being absent for all the votes.

    January 31, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  10. Paul, NJ

    This is the man that people think will draw republicans in the general election?!? Once people look at him closely and news like this is broadly spread he'll be toast in a general election. I personally have nothing against him being a liberal, but he's not going to be electable in a general election.

    Hillary is our best bet at the White House in November!

    January 31, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  11. Rich In Seattle

    Looks like the Republicans are more afraid of Obama by doing this study. Having them against you just means he's on the right track. They'd much rather go against Hillary and use all her baggage to beat her. They need to make more stuff up on Obama to beat him.

    Just another reason to vote Obama.

    January 31, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  12. megan knight

    Despite the incomprehensible fact that CNN's lead story today is about Britney Spears, THIS stood out to me as the most outrageous headline. Shame on CNN for perpetuating this completely misleading label and supporting the sabotage efforts of the National Journal. Anybody who believes this statement to be true, please google the senate voting records and look for Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold.

    I do not believe that there is some inherent evil in liberalism, but it is common knowledge that a large swath of the American population has a knee-jerk repulsion to the term "liberal" itself and anybody who is labeled as such. The National Journal is clearly using the word to dissuade middle of the road voters from choosing Obama. CNN is complicit in their efforts but putting the headline on the homepage.

    Too many people count on CNN for quick news to be running stories like this.

    January 31, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  13. Bob

    We've being told who Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy support for President. Who does Eleanor Roosevelt support?

    January 31, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  14. Ronald of CA

    If Obama is truly a UNITER as he claimed, why in 2005 he didnt join the �Gang of 14,� a bipartisan group of centrist senators.

    Gotcha! Far Left! Ted kennedy and kerry endorsements make sense now! The ship is drowning!

    January 31, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  15. Anton

    Here are a few observations. Just think about it.

    Obama is a smart and very intelligent man. He will make a good president. But I think Hillary can get more work done then Obama.

    1. When Bill clinton became president, the right wing smear machine went in to full gear. He couldn't form any alliances in washington and dems lost both house and senate to republicans. Same will happen with Obama, unless he works with the republicans, which means making concessions and compromises. When that happens the very same peoplel who are for Obama will start singing a different tunes.

    2. Hillary has been there and has seen the attack machine in action, she will be able to take them on, the very first day. She has formed more aliances in senate to get her legislations through.

    3. Lastly, Obama is make a lot of promises and he is raising the expectaions to impractical levels. Is he saying that since JFK all the presidents were wrong and did not do any good for the americam people And believe in a 2 year of experince senator to get in the white house and he will get everything done and there will be sunshine 360 days of a year (CHANGE), roads will be lined up with sun flowers (HOPE), people will suddenly work in peace and harmony (UNITY), islamic nations will kiss our hands and be our allies.........

    January 31, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  16. Watching Carefully

    So Obama gives us nothing of substance to judge him on and now the R's have this to sling at him. Can we stop talking about his fake now? He's not qualified – there's no indiciation that he's anything but a fancy speaker with some issues with spinelessness ("present" . . . great).

    Clinton '08

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

    Why do you believe that Ted Kennedy and J Kerry endorsed Obama?

    Because Obama is the most liberal.

    What about bringing all together?

    The republicans are so happy now.

    January 31, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  18. Jamie

    "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 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  19. just the facts

    to Matt Joachim, you think it doesn't matter that he wasn't there for 33% of the votes? With so many problems, do we need another vacationing president?

    From the record

    Senator Clinton has missed 105 votes (23.5%) during the current Congress.

    Senator Obama has missed 168 votes (37.7%) during the current Congress.

    Senator McCain has missed 251 votes (56.3%) during the current Congress.

    January 31, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |

    So what Obama is Liberal? We need more Liberal Democrats.

    Obama is the man of the year and will win regardless....


    January 31, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  21. no to stupidity

    Hillary voted to designate the Revilutionay Guard of Iran as a terrorist group. Obama did not. That's what made her less liberal than Obama.

    Sound like if you can screw up the country as well as the economy, you are less liberal than others....

    These interest groups are acting like a chinese agent in USA. They want to screw up USA so that China or others can become the economic super power...

    STOP THIS MADNESS!!!! Go for Obama...

    January 31, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. Jack

    Glad to hear that someone realizes that Obama's liberal nature could hurt us all.

    January 31, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. Sean

    Wow, Barack Obama is a liberal?? But I thought he was a Democrat??


    What a blatant way to stir up a reactionary fuss from conservatives.

    January 31, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  24. Geoff, NH

    It seems to me that people are missing a lot of important points here. Obama's praise for Reagan was not so much for what Reagan accomplished, but that he was able to accomplish it. Obama is running a campaign based on the concept of change, and regardless of the Reagan's politics, Reagan was also an agent of change. In fact, Reagan was one of very few presidents in a long time to bring about change, meaning that while Obama clearly does not want to follow Reagans actions politically, he certainly wants his goals for change to achieve similar levels of success. Now with regards to the accusations made in this article, what does it matter if he is the most liberal senator? He is a Democrat, which is inherently a liberal party, and if someone wishes to undo the great harm W has done to this country, that person will need to be liberal. Furthermore, liberal should never have been established as a dirty word. Perhaps its become this way because its a political 'extreme' yet no one accuses politicians on the far right on being Conservatives with any malice. This is a severe double standard that must be rectified if democracy will survive in this country. Liberal is not a dirty word in other countries, in fact, one of Canada's main political parties is simply called the Liberal Party.
    In regards to the number of votes Obama missed in 2007, i have no defense, as a senator it was his duty to represent the people of Illinois and vote, but I can point out that Obama spent much of 2007 fighting an uphill political battle to gain the support of a great deal of the Democratic voters of the Nation. Unfortunately, such a battle would draw him away from his duties as a senator. Clinton, on the other hand, was able to take more time off of her campaign to attend these votes, as she was already established as the 'front runner'. Now, by no means am I trying to excuse Obama's absence, but to put it in context, and to point out the reason Clinton's attendance record is better.

    Vote for the underdog if you want to beat the establishment, as the leader is the establishment

    January 31, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  25. Independent

    I guess this is supposed to be dirt. But as the facts stand, he is the only candidate getting votes - and lots of it - from the republican side.

    January 31, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
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