Today is Groundhog Day, and as I understand it, the right ratio of sun-rays and rodent spares us six more weeks of fantasy. But if Punxsutawney's prognostication falters, the non-partisan National Journal just published a more rigorous reality check: its 27th annual rankings of the most liberal, and most conservative, House and Senate members. And by NJ's tally, the most accurate appellation for Dems is "lefty":
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was the most liberal senator in 2007. . . The insurgent presidential candidate shifted further to the left last year in the run-up to the primaries, after ranking as the 16th- and 10th-most-liberal during his first two years in the Senate.McCain's 2006 conservative rating was a low 56.7 (out of 100). The NJ only rates Congressmen and Senators, and thus did not rank Mitt Romney.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., the other front-runner in the Democratic presidential race, also shifted to the left last year. She ranked as the 16th-most-liberal senator in the 2007 ratings, a computer-assisted analysis that used 99 key Senate votes, selected by NJ reporters and editors, to place every senator on a liberal-to-conservative scale in each of three issue categories. In 2006, Clinton was the 32nd-most-liberal senator.
In their yearlong race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama and Clinton have had strikingly similar voting records. Of the 267 measures on which both senators cast votes in 2007, the two differed on only 10. "The policy differences between Clinton and Obama are so slight they are almost nonexistent to the average voter," said Richard Lau, a Rutgers University political scientist. . .
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the only other senator whose presidential candidacy survived the initial round of primaries and caucuses this year, did not vote frequently enough in 2007 to draw a composite score. He missed more than half of the votes in both the economic and foreign-policy categories. On social issues, which include immigration, McCain received a conservative score of 59. (McCain's composite scores from his prior years in the Senate, published in our March 2007 vote ratings issue, are available as a PDF.)
Project Vote Smart provides a more detailed, but consistent, analysis for Obama, Clinton and McCain.