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. Wiselectorate

    Did you guys really read the article before jumping to make comments?
    This the beef of the matter. According to the article

    "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)."

    Since Hilary voted no for an office of public integrity and OBAMA VOTES YES then my vote GOES TO OBAMA.

    OBAMA 08

    January 31, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  2. Mitchel

    Thanks, Clinton News Network. This actually just makes me like him even more. Obama '08!

    January 31, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  3. C

    America is ready for a woman president, just not Hillary.

    January 31, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  4. Jim

    to Matt Joachim,

    What Unity?? We ARE united. Just go to other countries and youll see people of different religion , dont live in the same neighbourhood, dont go to same schools. Your comments are so naive!

    People are never going to think alike. NEVER . Thats never gonna happen.

    The people preaching UNITY are fooling you.

    Hillary 08

    January 31, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  5. Patrick of Albany NY

    Firstly, I see no chance of Obama winning super Tuesday because most of the big blue states seem to be wildly supportive of Clinton. Second, it is things like this that would allow the republicans to eat Obama alive in a general election. The Obama campaign has shown its self to be frustrated within mudslinging within its own party, I hate to see all of the crying done should he win the primary. Obviously I am a Clinton supporter, but I will vote Democratic no matter who our front runner is. I just hope our front runner is able to win.

    January 31, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  6. nursevic

    The media, as well as the good old boys from the Democratic party cannot stop the tide of angry women. VIVA HILLARY!

    January 31, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  7. Jether J.

    Rob I completely agree with you. Now a days if you say someone is liberal it's just as if you called them a bad word. Hillary says she likes to think of her self as progressive and not liberal and I understand within each party there are "teirs" but to imply being liberal in negative is unfair and downright against what the Democratic Party stands for.

    I think Obama apeals to everyone, Deomcrat, Independent, and Republican. How can someone be President leading the White House and the country and not appeal to those he or she has to lead? I myself am I moderate and I am disgusted everytime I hear someone drawing a negative distinction of any political ideaology. This is America we are allowed to be liberal, conservative or independent if we choose to!

    BTW, Go Obama/Edwards '08!

    January 31, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  8. RGV for Hillary

    People need to stop falling for Obama's nonsense. I am so tired of hearing the word change and hope. Can Obama ever talk about the issues? I don't even know what he stands for, because he NEVER talk about the issues. All he says is that we need to come together and have hope. Why are people falling for this? Are Americans that dumb? Come on America; you are smarter that that!

    January 31, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  9. Anne-Los Angeles

    Interesting postings today – but for the ultimate skeptics.........

    1. I think Clinton brought up Resko to Obama during the last debate to show to everyone that he does in fact play the good old boys games of politics and that they started a long time ago.

    2. Voting 33% less times than Clinton in the Senate just says to me that he was out getting 'other' experience and not that which would best suit him for the Presidency

    3. I would like to hear from anyone just what Obama's plans are...how many jobs is he intending to create and keep here at home and HOW is he going to do that

    4. How is he going to facilitate this 'change' that he is talking about?

    5. And for all the supporters that he has coming onboard...has it struck anyone yet that these are political figures...perhaps that is what he was gaining experience in vs. voting on important issues to us. It is what he was getting paid for!

    6. I will take a hard working Senators experience anyday over that of a person who has less than 2 years of the first term in the Senate.

    January 31, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  10. Bo

    wow..i think we seriously need an Office of Public Integrity. maybe someone should ask hillary in the debate why she voted "no." people need a place where they can anonymously report problems.

    January 31, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  11. Nik T, Houston, TX

    CNN is doing the Republcans' homework. By bringing this up, and if Obama wind the nod, the Repubes will have fresh meat to exploit. Oh well.
    Obama has not been, though, honest with his record. His "present" votes are very questionable and beg to be answered. However, Obama seems to not even want to talk about why a "no" vote would have been better than just a "I dunno". Already it seems Obama has skeletons and for a man who claims to be of a different league... doesn't quite fit well.

    January 31, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  12. Devin MA

    Ah and the reality sets in. Should be an interesting debate tonight.

    @Charlottesville, VA Considering Obama has already employed Bush's tactics against Hillary, I don't see any unfairness in her lodging them back. I'm sure she has more intelligent ideas than that however.

    January 31, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  13. DB

    I believe this will just be fodder for republicans if Obama makes it in the General election. I think they fear him more than Clinton. Look at the polls at RealClearPolitics.com shows a closer race between Mccain and Obama then Clinton vs Mccain.

    January 31, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  14. harrischandra

    CNN should be independent and neutral on the issues facing the nation and in the candidates running for Presidency. Big names and faces also should not endorse any candidate in the election cycle. Let people decide and come to decision on their own – as that should be basis of democracy as always.

    January 31, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  15. Me2You

    If Obama gets elected we will have an "Obama-nation"

    January 31, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  16. Mo S

    Goooo Obama!

    January 31, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  17. SLO Bear

    It would be nice if readers would stop trying to badger CNN and MSNBC into sprucing coverage for the Clintons and making Obama's coverage more negative. I hope all the squeaky wheels don't get the grease at the expense of accuracy. For those of us with kids, the hope of an improved nation that Obama represents and can deliver is valuable–far more so than four to eight more years of a bitterly divided country.

    January 31, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  18. Christian, Tampa FL

    May I remind everyone that "liberal" indicates a wish for CHANGE and "conservative" indicates acceptance of the STATUS QUO according to their respective definitions. I would argue that there is a time for both, and now is definitely the time for change.

    Also, in response to all the people criticizing Obama for his "present" votes, I would argue that it's pretty ridiculous to chastise him for a procedural move that is part of the Illinois Senate. Out of 4,000 votes, a couple of hundred "present" votes seems okay to me, especially when Obama has gained the praise and endorsements of Republican Illinois State Senators as well as Democrats.

    As for Obama missing 33 votes while campaigning, if he becomes President, he'll obviously be able to represent his constituency, plus the rest of the country, with far more arrows in his quiver. If he loses and goes back to being a Senator, I'm sure he'll continue to make great progress on issues. Remember that he was responsible for the biggest ethics reform bill in Senate history, and that he made major progress working with Senators of both parties on a wide range of other issues.

    January 31, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  19. keith Pike

    You go Donna in Michigan. You sumed up what ive been felling. I refer to you.

    January 31, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  20. David S., Chicago, IL

    Dear Watching Carefully

    You have no substance and aren't qualified...try something and do some research. Based on your knowledge, chances are you voted for Bush twice, so enjoy supporting Hillary...for the rest of the educated...

    OBAMA '08

    January 31, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  21. California voter

    So perhaps now you know why Kerry and the old liberal Kennedy endorsed Obama.

    January 31, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  22. David Solomon

    I have never seen any one who can represent everyone. I have never liked politics till I see a man name Obama. He represent poor nations and wealthy nations, christians and musiliems, white and black. This is the best president america wish to have for the sake of world peace and prospeity not just in United States. He is the face of Hope and beauty for the new mellenium. I hope america see in him despite all this false accusiation. If Obama elected america will be seen differently around the world. America will change how the world should treat each other.

    January 31, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  23. Jim

    Both Hillary and Obama are centrists. The only real liberal, Dennis Kucinich, has left the race. America hasn't had a real left since the New Deal.

    January 31, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  24. Kelly

    Could it be that the Hillary camp is resorting to campaign tactics reminiscent of Rove's Whisper Campaign? Being the most liberal-voting Senator is the worst they can get?

    January 31, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  25. jim

    I am becoming very dissapointed to this election because it is all coming down to race and sex and that is what it will be for the democrats just because some one is african american white or a women or man doesnt mean you have to vote for what ever your race or sex is. i am a regular kid who has studied every candidate and could have just as much knowledge of the average.

    January 31, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
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