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. Barbara

    I just watched a CNN sound bite/clip from one of Obama's stump speeches. The bite contatined the following words (not completely verbatim hence single quotes used':

    'We're not only going to win the election, we're going to win the general. And we're going to transform this country and transform the world.'

    The last 4 words left me awestruck. They denote not only a desire to return 'moral authority' to the United States, but also imply a desire to give 'moral superiority' to the United States.

    If anyone in the United States thinks that an American president with this kind of attitued would help to 'restore' America's position in the world, they should seriously reconsider their conclusions.

    Unless of course he/she wore a cape and nice crispy leotards outside of his/her bedroom closet.

    January 31, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  2. Church Lady

    I agree with Rob – what is wrong with being liberal? Clean air, clean water, the weekend, the Bill of Rights, fair housing and employment – the list of things we take for granted came because of liberal points of view. What is the problem? His message is crafted wisely – stop pandering to focus groups and stand up for moral values, the things that UNITE us. The past eight years have eroded so many of our basic rights, and we choose not to notice. Is any candidate perfect? Probably not. But Obama is looking toward a future in which we can find points of reconciliation that bring us together in common cause. The age of division is past, and so is the age of speaking with different tongues depending upon whom we address. His policies ARE clear if you bother to read, but is message is of unifying hope, and that's glorious.

    January 31, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  3. Jane

    I think that the coverage balances out. MSNBC has been bashing Hillary for weeks. They actually laughed about the Florida race saying that Obama was right about the 0-0 delegates. Like Florida democrats don't count. Hillary got more support there than anyone....including the republicans! That is an accomplishment!

    I think that we need to look at Obama's record. He keeps saying that he didn't vote for the Iran issue with the Iranian guards....but criticezes Hillary. At least she voted, he was too busy campainging. It he really thought it was a vote for war authorization, why didn't he make teh vote. Oh that's right....too busy campaiging in New Hampshire. He culd have made it.

    What is wrong with looking at his record? He missed a lot of votes in Illinois, and now we find out that he missed a lot in the Senate. What has he really done. His speeches are uplifting....but what is his record? Yes we can....what does that mean??? Other than voting for him....which I won't....what do I have to do? My question really is....what can he do for me? Bush was the uniter....how has that worked out ?

    Hillary was interviewed and explained exactly what she would do the first day in office if electes. Without missing a beat, she rattled off several very good answers. Ted Kennedy (Me. Washington ) claims that he is ready too. How? What will he do? People fall for this?

    By the way, Clinton has worked with Republicans on many issues. She has been doing it longer. She has concrete answers.....we need that!

    January 31, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. Fed up in NJ

    I didn't realize the country was so divided it needed a unifying president.... This is the most diverse and most tolerant country in the WORLD and guess what : We are not at war with each other... Obama's message of hope and unification is absurd... I am surprised CNN released this article after all their support for Obama and debasing of Clinton... If people actually listened to the issues, he would not even stand a chance for runner-up. Give me a break.
    Hillary 08

    January 31, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. OZ in Kansas

    Hey Mickey ~ Things have changed quite a bit since the last election, or haven't you noticed? The economy is faultering, inflation is brewing, unemployment is rising and people are concerned about their future. I've stood to the right for so long and I'm sick and tired of the right. Here, shove this down your throat, no, here, shove this down your throat. It's been all about greed with the right. I want it now!! What do you mean I can't have it? Don't you know who I am? I have a checkbook (just no money in the account ~ look at the nearly 3 TRILLION DOLLAR BUDGET DEFICIT). The World hates America. Why? Because we have White House representatives who are smug, arrogant and it's either their way or the highway! I'm not throwing my towel in on Obama. I believe he can well represent our country, experience or no experience! He will learn quickly, and if he doesn't, the people of this Great Nation will let him know.

    January 31, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  6. Skeptical

    Is this an attempt to scare away the independents ?????

    January 31, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. A Texas Grandmother

    Matt (above) wrote: "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.

    In my wildest dreams, I cannot imagine why someone would say that Barack Obama is the kind of president that we need now - when he missed 1/3 of the Senate votes. As far as unity is concerned - His liberal philosophies are not something I can UNITE behind - Does he plan to CHANGE some of his views to a more moderate stance for the sake of this UNITY he advocates?
    From my own PERSONAL research, it appears to me that Senator Obama wants others to CHANGE our views and adopt his way of thinking. So much for Unity . . . . .

    Here is a quote to consider: "The ignorance of one voter in a democracy
    impairs the security of us all."
    John F. Kennedy

    January 31, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. Eric - Chicago, IL

    "Dem of NJ January 31, 2008 3:52 pm ET

    Obama is a fake. He pretends he could unite republicans and democrats.
    Actually he is ultra liberal. You will have to pay a lot more taxes if he gets elected."

    Taken from Obama's website:
    "Provide a “Making Work Pay” Tax Cut for America's Working Families"
    "Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit"
    "Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less Than $50,000"
    "Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit"

    These are some examples of Obama's goals for the economy. Visit his site and read for elaboration.

    You just got shut down. Nice try.

    January 31, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  9. Streetjustiz

    Thanks for this "information". I just donated another $20 bucks to the Obama campaign!! More!! The more you put out crap like this, the more we donate! Peace and joy!! One America!!

    January 31, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  10. Wondering

    How has it become that the party of big business is also the party of the religious in this country?

    I don't understand how so many draw their lines around stem cells, gay marriage and guns and quickly hop in bed with the some of the most corrupt people and organizations in the history of the world.

    There is willful ignorance going on. If you think Jesus was a conservative, you don't understand the bible.

    Love the sinner, not the sin.

    January 31, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  11. Mike

    Concerning the missed votes, can we all just step back a second and actually think?

    If we tune back to the summer of 2007, Clinton was by far the favorite to be the nominee, and as a consequence, she had no problem a) raising money for her campaign or b) getting identity recognition with voters. Obama, on the other hand, because of his relative anonymity (except for those who saw his speech in 2004) had to spend considerably more time on the campaign trail stumping for both cash and votes. It is not at all surprising then that Clinton would have more time to cast votes in Washington – also some information about exactly which votes Obama missed would be useful.

    Also, I can't believe the article doesn't mention John Macain who missed many more votes than both Obama and Clinton (I believe more than half of his votes). He, of course, also had to spend loads of time reviving his left-for-dead campaign over the summer.

    January 31, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  12. Chris-Seattle

    I could care less what the media says, I definitely don't want Hill & Bill in the White House again and I can't stand Republicans lack of social obligation, heck Louisiana is still in shambles to this day so I'd vote for Winnie the Pooh if he was running against Hillary or McCain!

    January 31, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  13. kim portland, oregon

    liberal sounds GREAT to me, the "cons" have certainly showed what a mess they can make of things.

    get the criminal war profiteers out, and let's get back to having human beings in the white house!

    January 31, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  14. Dorian

    This seems kinda pathetic. He and Hillary voted the same way out of 65 votes except for 2. Why does the media make such a big deal out of this. Do better CNN!!!

    AND WHY DID HILLARY VOTE AGAINST HAVING AN OFFICE OF PUBLIC INTEGRITY??? I thought that's what we needed in Congress!

    January 31, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Mr. Mooney shame on you and CNN:

    I am very disappointed in the treatment Hillary Clinton has received from Media and some notable personalities in this historical election. This is especially ture of Oprah and The Chicago Tribuneand CNN. Tribune’s position is unforgivable. I e-mailed both Oprah and the Chicago Tribune and expressed my opinion about today's editorial in Chicago Tribune telling people that in order to support Senator Clinton, people should forgive them! I reminded them that we should forgive Chicago Tribune for supporting President Bush twice for the past elections – a person who waged an illegal war – and Not Clintons. When it comes to Oprah, I reminded her that we as women supported her for all these years and she should have been at least neutral in public for this election. As a woman, she should let people decide for themselves between a first woman and a first African American. I feel that she has betrayed us. She could have her opinion and vote to whoever she wanted too. But when it comes to this election (choosing between two minorities) she played and is playing a huge role for against Hillary Clinton, as the first serious woman candidate. As an educator, human rights activist and a woman, I urge Now Organization to take an action toward Oprah and unfair media treatment of Senator Clinton and express our frustrations to organizations such as Chicago Tribune, CNN and . . . After all this is about sexism.

    With respect

    Azar Khounani

    Executive Director of Kids Academy

    January 31, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  16. HC

    Obama – The only one that can make the word "Liberal" something to be proud of.

    "...if by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people – their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties..if that is what they mean by a "liberal" then I am proud to be a liberal."

    January 31, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  17. Terry, Texas

    I am really surprised NOBAMA has made it this far.
    This country has alot of problems and some people are trying to make it worse by NOBAMA. Please Hillary WIN for this country.
    I am sorry to say but if Hillary doesn't make it I will be FORCED to vote Republican to keep NOBAMA out.
    Does experience and knowledge mean anything to the Obama people?? THINK??

    January 31, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  18. Sr. Chavez

    Hola Mi nomber es Martin Chavez:

    Quiro comunicarle a mi pueblo Hispano , como mimbro activo en la comunidad de los Angeles...que Feb 5 no podemos apoyar a la senadora Hillary Clinton por estas razones:

    Ella mentio cuando un grupo de estudiantes le pregunto porque ella voto en favor de establecer un Muro (Border Fencing) entre estados unidos y Mejico..Ella no supo como contestar al fin dijo que quizas no era sierto, pero si era asi ella a. Bueno un grupo independetista si comfirmo que ell voto en favor de poner un muro entre estado unidos y Mejico......Y mentio varias veces cuando dijo que No respaldo dicho voto. El unico democrata que le dijo no al muro fue Borack Obama...El dice que no podemos manterner alas familias separadas y poner un muro seria una injusticia para el pueblo Hispano...Quiro decirle al publo mejica que tenemos que apoyar a un candidato que nos pueda ayudar de corazon y el seria la persona....

    Ademas la senadora voto favor de no permitir a los inmigrates quedarce a aca en los estado unidos mientra dan revicion a su caso de inmigracion indvidual...Esto es otro ejemplo que ella no es la persona adequada para ayudar a nuestro pueblo, Mire aqui lo que se reporto en ingels

    Es un a porccion cuando un estudio anuncio que el Senador Borack Obama es si el mimbre del senado mas liberal....Mire los records como son.

    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).

    Bueno...Quiero decirle al publo que nosotros los hispanos somos inteligente y no vamos a permitir que la senadora Clinton diga lo que quiero simplemente ser elegida...Ella nos mintio y aqui tenemos la prueba..

    Tenemos que respaldar al senador Obama...Una persona que si en realida se preocupa por todos los hispano.....

    January 31, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  19. MCC

    Be careful what you refer to as "facts" California Independent, Judicial Watch is an ultra-right wing organization masquerading as a "a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation" which "promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law." Since it's inception over 90% of funding for Judicial Watch has come from three sources: the Sarah Scaife Foundation, The Carthage Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation, Inc. The Sarah Scaife and Carthage Foundations were funded by notorious Clinton hater Richard Mellon Scaife, and the Carthage Foundation, by it's own records prior to the disbanding of the foundation, disbursed most of it's $370 Million to "conservative think tanks." Don't put much credence in the conclusions drawn by Judicial Watch, they are paid using the same money that funds the Heritage Foundation and Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

    January 31, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  20. Dem08

    Its funny how posters are outraged when CNN, who has favored Obama, for months, runs one negative type story and they get upset and call it Clinton Bias. Please, watching CNN today proves a lot. Wolf is surrounded by Obama signs, there are Clinton signs but they are not mixed in on the main spot. CNN has ran every little bit of misleading information about Clinton and no Obama people cried then from the Obama camp. Also, every time CNN goes to comercial, they show either Obama signs, or Obama himself. So yes, maybe its a coincidence, but I think the producer's could do a better job in showcasing both canidates. After all, today is a historical day as this will be the first time we have had a debate of this kind.

    C'mon CNN, play fair. Obama has not won the nomination yet. With coverage like this, can we expect a fair debate tonight? I hope so.

    January 31, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  21. Robin

    I am reading these comments and thinking, gosh are there really that many morons on the internet? 90% of you have bought this bullcrap story!! Just because you call a duck a horse, doesn't mean you can saddle it up and ride it home.

    JUDICIAL WATCH is a tool of the right wing. Of course they will call any front-runner Dem corrupt. Do any of you truthfully believe that Obama is MORE liberal than Dennis Kucinich?

    January 31, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  22. Dave C - N.J.

    Rather have a liberal anyday than a conservative Big Business goon.

    For example how conservatives will vote against the environmental or emissions laws because GOD FORBID big business has to lose a quarter percent earnings.

    January 31, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  23. rok

    Hillary votes, Obama misses votes.
    CNN, please no Bill questions during the debate!! Noone wants to hear about that. Stay focused on the issues.

    January 31, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  24. alex@uga.edu

    It all makes sense if you think about the 2006 midterm election. All of the democrats that were elected to the senate were considered conservative democrats–some closer to the Conservative idealogue than to progressive.

    It all depends at how you look at a poll; you can say that Clinton won Nevada by 53 percent or you can say 47 of the people voted against her....

    January 31, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  25. Dale Bishop

    After reading the survey its makes me angary for some writers to make this kind of judgement being able to say mccaine did not take enought votes to qualify for the servey .Why wasn't he doing his job like Obama? It doesn't matter how you lable Obama he is the person for the times i sure hope we the people can see this in time.

    January 31, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
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