September 26th, 2008
09:35 PM ET
14 years ago

Fact Check: Is Obama the most liberal U.S. senator, as McCain claims?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=]
Sen. John McCain, speaking at the University of Mississippi debate on September 26, said Sen. Barack Obama "has the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate."

Get the facts!

The National Journal magazine, in its annual vote rating, said Obama moved left last year to the "most liberal senator" rating "after ranking as the 16th and 10th most-liberal during his first two years in the Senate."

Americans for Democratic Action, the liberal activist group, and the American Conservative Union, the conservative activist group, also rate Congress members on their votes. Their findings describe Obama as one of, but not the most liberal U.S. senator.

The ADA gave Obama a 75 percent liberal score in 2007, 95 percent in 2006 and 100 percent in 2005. Other Democratic senators received 100 percent during those years. David Card, ADA communications director, said Obama's score was lower last year because he missed certain votes.

Obama has a lifetime ADA average of 90 percent. Other senators - such as Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and others - have higher lifetime ADA ratings. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, was ranked as the most liberal senator by the National Journal in 2003.

"He is one of the most liberal senators," Card said, referring to Obama.

The ACU, which customarily places conservative Republicans on the top of its list and liberal Democrats at the bottom, has given Obama a lifetime ranking of just 7.67, according to the figures on the group's Web site.

It says Obama scored 8 percent in 2005, 8 percent in 2006 and 7 percent in 2007. Other Democratic senators in the ACU rankings have had lower yearly and lifetime scores, the site shows.

"He's one of the most liberal," said Larry Hart, the ACU director of government relations.

Verdict: True, according to National Journal, but liberal and conservative rating groups reached a slightly different conclusion.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • John McCain
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Without preconditions and Obama gets busted.

    September 26, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  2. JJ

    McCain is coming across as arrogant and barely able to control his anger. Very unattractive. Obama is not on his game tonight and still seems more in tough with the issues than McCain

    September 26, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  3. Pascal

    Both liberal views and conservative ones can be good depending on conditions and circumstances. I have seen myself being both without loosing my head. Those qualifications are completely irrelevant to human development; and area of focus necessary to curtail all ills in society. The more informed and free people are, the more they would elect to proceed peacefully in enhancing their way of life.

    McCain is a gunner, and I am not. McCain is a tax cutter; I like him for that.

    September 26, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  4. ToBeAmerican

    You know I was in Pakistan for 8months and no one wants to deal with John McCain. They do not believe him, they thing he just wants to fight a war and will not talk. People in Pakistan are scared of the Taliban and and in on honestly do not know what to do. They do know that going to war will not solve the problem. Out of the 160million people living there 99 percent of them pay bills, have kids and suffer more than us with putting food on the table because of the Taliban and corrupt government because of those idealistic individuals. If he fights with Pakistan i believe we will all be in trouble, going to war and even losing one of the friend i have lost cause of this war has been truly sad. I want our troops to live and protect our country but if we have individuals like bush and McCain to through us into the fires that is just wrong. Iraq had nothing to do with Bin Laden, when is everyone going to realize that.......

    September 26, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  5. J.C.

    I doubt it.

    September 26, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  6. Jill

    I don't particularly care about who has the most "liberal" or "conservative" ratings. I care about the specific issues. I think most of those are far separated from mere labels. Most of these issues are far more complex. This name calling is unproductive for Americans.

    September 26, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  7. Pascal

    When McCain says things such as “Obama does not understand that he does not understand...”, I am beginning to ask in what context is he talking? Seriously, do we Understand where he is coming from?

    September 26, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  8. awin

    I'll take Obama...liberal or not. I'd rather not vote than vote for McCain

    September 26, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  9. Kat

    This is completely irrelevant. Like Obama said in response: he was considered the most liberal in response to the current administration's most conservative policies.

    September 26, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  10. brenda

    I think McCain showed he could he is the leader.

    September 26, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  11. Greg from Big Island

    Actally Ed Kennedy is the most liberal I believe. Saying someone is the most liberal doesn't scare people anymore. Saying that can shy away independents and unafiliated voters.

    September 26, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  12. Mc-won that Debate

    The news tried to make McCain seem like an idiot. He kicked Obama's inexperienced booty.

    September 26, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  13. Steve Wimer

    McCain showed his rear end, again and again. He's a rude, condescending, and devious old man. I will support Obama, and urge others to do so.

    September 26, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  14. Ray M.

    So he's bad simply because he's liberal?

    Which means...what? Progress? New ideas? The future?

    If that is his only attack, coming from somebody that overwhelmingly supports Bush's policy, then I'm all for Obama.

    September 26, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  15. Brian

    Obama is for working families and will cut my taxes. Thats who I want as my next President.

    September 26, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  16. harlan

    Obama was to me a reg republican better informed on the issues... I found McCain was to me ducking the questions... I am switching to Obama... McCain i think has ADD... he seams frantic...

    September 26, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  17. mabe

    in my opinion is the best choice for our country he is the one for president very clear in all the points of the first debate .

    September 26, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |


    September 26, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  19. Anne-Marie Reynolds

    The point is this election is a clear choice between Left and Right. I will support the person who best reflects my values, and that is Obama.

    September 26, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  20. JCM

    Senator Obama will raise taxes. His plans cost to much and he admitted tonight that he can not pay for all his programs.

    September 26, 2008 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  21. Phoenix

    Go Join him John, so are you. You're just a liberal in conservative clothes.

    Republicans who know better

    September 26, 2008 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  22. John

    The National Journal ranked Kerry the "most liberal" in 2004, but never in any other year. Now they do the same with Obama.

    Verdict: Not true.

    September 26, 2008 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  23. susy

    Mccain is the best candidate to the presidential. He did an awesome job in the dabate and my vote is for him.

    September 26, 2008 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  24. Adrienne

    McCain look crazy. What was wrong with his face? He kept making really creepy faces and licking like Mad Mooney from Harry Potter and the joker in the jail cell from Batman. Creepy!

    September 26, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    For some reason, the Republicans love to say that someone is the "most liberal person in the Senate", and oddly enough, it's never the same person twice.

    September 26, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
1 2 3