2010′s most conservative US Senator was …

posted at 10:12 am on February 24, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

So says National Journal, which rated 96 key votes in the US Senate in 2010, in its annual listings announced this morning for both the Senate and the House.  NJ once ranked a junior Senator from Illinois as the most liberal member of the upper chamber in 2007, but he still managed to win the Presidency running as a centrist.  There’s reason to be suspicious of this outcome as well:

The politician who once best exemplified the idea of a “maverick” independent has shifted so far to the right that he is now tied for the title of the Senate’s most conservative member, according to National Journal‘s 2010 vote ratings.

According to a comprehensive examination of 96 Senate votes taken in 2010, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., along with seven of his colleagues, voted most often on the conservative side. His 89.7 composite conservative score ties him with stalwarts like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and gives him a more conservative score than Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

McCain’s shift is emblematic of the Republican Party’s shift rightward and of the profound changes that NJ’s latest Vote Ratings reveal in Congress. A detailed analysis, including an interactive chart that will allow readers to examine and manipulate the data, will be available tomorrow.

That analysis of a shift rightward led by McCain might be worthwhile — if we knew what votes NJ used in its scoring, and which it ignored.  The problem here, as it was in the 2007 rankings, is the selection of votes for scoring by NJ.  While vote selection by advocacy groups for scoring usually is rather obvious — right-to-life groups score on bills that impact abortion, for instance — a media outlet, even one as respected as NJ, has to select votes that they believe are representative of ideological bent.  A sample of 96 votes out of 299 might be good enough, but it depends on which votes one counts.

The Poole Reports use a better measure.  Instead of handpicking specific votes, Dr. Keith Poole and his team use all of the votes in a session (not a year) and throw out unanimous and nearly-unanimous votes, such as on resolutions and office-naming legislation.  The report calculates all votes with significant dissent and then derives averages of how often each member voted with their own party.  That gives a much better representation of “maverickiness” and polarity within each chamber and caucus.  In the 110th Congress, the Poole report showed Russ Feingold occupying his regular spot as the most liberal Senator, with Obama coming in at 16th.

Poole has the report up for the 111th Congress.  In descending order, the most conservative Senators were:

  • Tom Coburn
  • Jim DeMint
  • John Kyl
  • John Barrasso
  • Jim Inhofe

Is anyone surprised by this?  John McCain, by the way, ranked 26th on this list, far back from Lindsey Graham, who came in at #14.  Jeff Sessions finished at #8.  McCain’s middle-of-the-pack performance still showed more conservative bent than fifteen other Republicans, including Lamar Alexander, Thad Cochran, Chuck Grassley, and Lisa Murkowski.  Finishing last were Scott Brown, Susan Collins, and in last place Olympia Snowe, which will come up in her primary fight next year.

Who were the 111th’s most liberal Senators?  In descending order, ignoring the brief assignment of temporary Robert Byrd replacement Carte Goodwin:

  • Al Franken
  • Russ Feingold
  • Paul Kirk (Massachusetts replacement for Ted Kennedy until Brown’s election)
  • Roland Burris
  • Bernie Sanders

None of these should surprise anyone, either, except perhaps Feingold’s dethroning by Franken.


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Um.

artist on February 24, 2011 at 10:15 AM

You kidding me, dear john conservative? Sorry not buying this.
L

letget on February 24, 2011 at 10:16 AM

According to a comprehensive examination of 96 Senate votes taken in 2010, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., along with seven of his colleagues, voted most often on the conservative side. His 89.7 composite conservative score ties him with stalwarts like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and gives him a more conservative score than Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

The price he had to pay for Sarah Palin’s endorsement and campaigning efforts in the Arizona Senate primary?

steebo77 on February 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Isn’t there a broader statement to be made about the Democrat Party when the one avowed socialist in your ranks is not the most liberal member of Congress?
Bernie Sanders has been is a self identified socialist who has never been the most liberal member of his party… so how are Feingold and Franken not considered socialist?

therambler on February 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Now that’s his Arizona election is over, he’ll be tracking back to the center-right. Will be interesting to see where he stands NEXT year.

bifidis on February 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Joke of the day

Thanks Ed
:)

cmsinaz on February 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Franken’s voting record is more liberal than avowed socialist Bernie Sanders.

That’s going to be some prime material for the opposition in 2014 if he’s dumb enough to run again.

teke184 on February 24, 2011 at 10:19 AM

I’m not buying it either. He’s not the most conservative Senator.

Conservative Samizdat on February 24, 2011 at 10:19 AM

Now that’s THAT his Arizona election is over, he’ll be tracking back to the center-right. Will be interesting to see where he stands NEXT year.

bifidis on February 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM

bifidis on February 24, 2011 at 10:19 AM

No worries, Ed. We got Paul, you got Saturday Night Live(if you’re on drugs).

Limerick on February 24, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Actually, this makes total sense. He HAD to move way right to get re-elected. Now he’s free to give conservatives the finger and hang out with the beltway liberal crowd again. That’s what pisses me off…it’s so transparent that these guys pander for elections and then screw their constituents the remaining years until the next election. If only we had a smarter electorate and/or ran better opposition candidates to unseat these guys.

search4truth on February 24, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Four are listed more liberal than admitted Marxist, Bernie Sanders? Speaks volumes.

pugwriter on February 24, 2011 at 10:21 AM

Well,….. they got the loonies right.

98ZJUSMC on February 24, 2011 at 10:22 AM

That’s going to be some prime material for the opposition in 2014 if he’s dumb enough to run again.
teke184 on February 24, 2011 at 10:19 AM

You’re talking about Minnesota, the fine liberals here just elected an insane governor, don’t expect anything rational out of this state.

Bishop on February 24, 2011 at 10:22 AM

We all know why Miss Lindsey is shooting for a more conservative score.

Cindy Munford on February 24, 2011 at 10:23 AM

According to a comprehensive examination of 96 Senate votes taken in 2010, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., along with seven of his colleagues, voted most often on the conservative side.

Translation: “You dumb teabaggers need to nominate him again. See? He’s a right-winger now, and can beat Obama. Really! We really mean it!!”

crazy_legs on February 24, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Four are listed more liberal than admitted Marxist, Bernie Sanders? Speaks volumes.

pugwriter on February 24, 2011 at 10:21 AM

Notice that three of them are no longer in office.

Neither Kirk nor Burris ran to serve out the rest of the term for various reasons and Feingold got sent home by the good people of Wisconsin.

That leaves laughing boy up in Minnesota and the avowed socialist from Vermont.

teke184 on February 24, 2011 at 10:24 AM

The only reason his voting record was conservative in 2010 is because it was an election year. He’ll be back in Hopey’s lap soon enough.

Tim Zank on February 24, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Four are listed more liberal than admitted Marxist, Bernie Sanders? Speaks volumes.

pugwriter on February 24, 2011 at 10:21 AM

They just haven’t admitted it yet.

…..Like it would make a difference.

98ZJUSMC on February 24, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Rachel Maddox on Leno the other night made the ridiculous claim that the entire political spectrum in our country has been shifting far to the right for the last twenty or thirty years.

The dimwit Leno of course didn’t have much to say in response.

slickwillie2001 on February 24, 2011 at 10:29 AM

My arm turned to stone just now when sunlight hit it. How odd.

CantCureStupid on February 24, 2011 at 10:31 AM

McCain will always have the most conservative record on non-factor votes. That is supposed to give him cover to be the most liberal senator on the meaningful votes.

Buddahpundit on February 24, 2011 at 10:31 AM

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., along with seven of his colleagues, voted most often on the conservative side. His 89.7 composite conservative score ties him with stalwarts like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and gives him a more conservative score than Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

The Palin effect. :-)

P. Monk on February 24, 2011 at 10:32 AM

meanwhile………Sarah Palin has huge speaking engagement
in India!

Amjean on February 24, 2011 at 10:34 AM

With all due respect, John McCain is as much a conservative as his loudmouth daughter, Meghan Thunderthighs!

pilamaye on February 24, 2011 at 10:35 AM

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., along with seven of his colleagues, voted most often on the conservative side. His 89.7 composite conservative score ties him with stalwarts like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and gives him a more conservative score than Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.


The Palin effect.
Palinized :-)

P. Monk on February 24, 2011 at 10:32 AM

FIFMS

P. Monk on February 24, 2011 at 10:36 AM

ITS A TRAP!

Good Lt on February 24, 2011 at 10:36 AM

Two words for National Journal:

ENGINEERED VOTES

Anyone who really thinks that their congressman or senator doesn’t engage in them is painfully stupid.

gryphon202 on February 24, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Must’ve been a bad year for conservatism in the Senate, then.

hawksruleva on February 24, 2011 at 10:39 AM

Isn’t there a broader statement to be made about the Democrat Party when the one avowed socialist in your ranks is not the most liberal member of Congress?

therambler on February 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Socialist Party of America reveals 70 Democrats as belonging to their caucus

It’s been an “open secret” that a vast number of elected democats are, in fact, socialists. If we had an actual press that reported news, more folks would know this.

Rebar on February 24, 2011 at 10:40 AM

With all due respect, John McCain is as much a conservative as his loudmouth daughter, Meghan Thunderthighs!

pilamaye on February 24, 2011 at 10:35 AM

But….but….but she’s just so danged pritty and smart and
and she has really big t. :-/

P. Monk on February 24, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Makes sense. May as well vote for tiddlywinks if you know it ain’t gonna pass a Dem congress.

John the Libertarian on February 24, 2011 at 10:46 AM

National Journal got jokes!

catmman on February 24, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Election year convert. Won’t last.

powerpro on February 24, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Jeff Sessions is the most conservative Senator. He’s my Senator.

Anyone says different can step outside with me. ‘Kay?

Squiggy on February 24, 2011 at 10:51 AM

No way

Beaglemom on February 24, 2011 at 10:59 AM

meanwhile………Sarah Palin has huge speaking engagement
in India!

Amjean on February 24, 2011 at 10:34 AM

http://conservatives4palin.com/2011/02/governor-palin-traveling-to-india-for-march-19-keynote-address.html

steebo77 on February 24, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Complete the danged fence!

Fallon on February 24, 2011 at 11:09 AM

According to a comprehensive examination of 96 Senate votes taken in 2010, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., along with seven of his colleagues, voted most often on the conservative side. His 89.7 composite conservative score ties him with stalwarts like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and gives him a more conservative score than Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

In 2010, BEFORE McCain had to get re-elected from the same state that elected Jan Brewer Governor. This year, AFTER he was re-elected, what are the chances he will drift maverickward (i.e. leftward)?

With all due respect, John McCain is as much a conservative as his loudmouth daughter, Meghan Thunderthighs!

pilamaye on February 24, 2011 at 10:35 AM
But….but….but she’s just so danged pritty and smart and
and she has really big t. :-/

P. Monk on February 24, 2011 at 10:41 AM

With all due respect, her father IS more conservative than Meghan MacDuff, who has a really big…duff.

Steve Z on February 24, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Ed, would you say that McCain has at least moved to the right of where he was considered to be before 2008?

Caiwyn on February 24, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Yeah. In an election year. Go figure.

He knew he’d get whalloped otherwise. Next year: Return of the Maverick.

simon on February 24, 2011 at 11:14 AM

What John McCain says and does in an election year and what John McCain says and does in NON-election years have no connection to each other.

If the GOP says word-one about offering McCain as a candidate for 2012, me and my pitchfork are taking a little road trip.

NTXLass on February 24, 2011 at 11:15 AM

I know nothing about the NJ survey, but I am skeptical that the second poll really measures conservatism. It measures party allegiance, which is not always the same thing.

As a party bloc, it’s easy for R’s to unite around some things but not others. If a tough fiscal-conservatism vote came up to cut entitlement spending, it’s by no means a given that the party would unanimously rally around it. Sometimes it’s actually the true fiscal conservatives who defect from a party position, not just the RINOs.

I therefore interpret the Poole report as measuring party loyalty only. I’d have to myself see the individual votes to make a determination as to what was the “conservative” position on each.

Chuckles3 on February 24, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Johnnie Mac has a sore loser streak, he’ll be doing all he can to irritate Obama

clnurnberg on February 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM

Orwellian.

Could this be because he was kicked around for the election?

antisocial on February 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM

You kidding me, dear john conservative? Sorry not buying this.
L

letget on February 24, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Redemption!

I’ve been trying to tell yas all McCain is a conservative. No one wants to listen. :P

JetBoy on February 24, 2011 at 11:19 AM

McCain sounds like the kind of guy who could defeat Obama next year, or something.

McCain ’12!!!

Conservatism is back!

Kensington on February 24, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Ed, would you say that McCain has at least moved to the right of where he was considered to be before 2008?

Caiwyn on February 24, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Considering how badly he screwed us over on immigration and campaign finance reform, it beggars belief that anyone ever considered him “presidential.”

gryphon202 on February 24, 2011 at 11:23 AM

This is no surprise. We all knew at the time his conservative votes were in response to his primary challenge. Now that he is safely re-elected he will go back to his old ways especially if a Republican takes the White House.

Hopeless Future on February 24, 2011 at 11:24 AM

I’ve been trying to tell yas all McCain is a conservative. No one wants to listen. :P

JetBoy on February 24, 2011 at 11:19 AM

What was your first clue? The McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Act?

gryphon202 on February 24, 2011 at 11:25 AM

That was’10, this is now and since this is probably his last term, I expect he will probably go full lib-tard.

Done That on February 24, 2011 at 11:29 AM

National Journal has other picks:

Pundit of the Year – Meghan McSame
Nutritionist of the Year – Moochelle Obumbler
Human Rights Activist of the Year – Malomar Qadaffy
Profile in Courage Award – Wisconsin Unions Democrats

Western_Civ on February 24, 2011 at 11:30 AM

If Obama can be a centerist than Maverick can surely claim to be conservative.

Herb on February 24, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Orwellian. Could this be because he was kicked around for the election?
antisocial on February 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM

Yes. And no.

Look at WHEN McCain’s various “conversions” took place. While the Republicans nominally controlled Congress and the White House, McCain and his “gang of seven” took every opportunity to throw a monkey wrench into the works whenever anything important came up.

But for the past two years, McCain has known full well that his votes can’t possibly effect any actual legislation. So all of a sudden he’s straining and pulling his little heart out to advance the conservative agenda, while it’s safely set in concrete.

That’s where all these “unanimous” Republican votes are coming from now. You want to see who the REAL Republicans are? Look at the narrow votes we actually win, and see who suddenly decides he wants to make that “rare” exception to his otherwise Reaganesque record….

Those are the only votes that actually help or hurt us. And the only ones we need to pay attention to.

logis on February 24, 2011 at 11:32 AM

NJ = GIGO

novaculus on February 24, 2011 at 11:35 AM

That explains the problem in a nutshell. Now you know why the Teaparty was born.

TheBigOldDog on February 24, 2011 at 11:37 AM

If McCain is being touted as a conservative, then conservatism is truly dead. Go ahead. Run him again. I dare you. Obama will have a near blowout of 1984 proportions. Guess we haven’t learned our lesson yet if this kind of garbage is being offered as analysis. Glad I stopped caring in 2008.

austinnelly on February 24, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Changeling … Explains all you need know about Congress-critters.

tarpon on February 24, 2011 at 11:41 AM

As the saying goes, “don’t pi$$ on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

silvernana on February 24, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Even an entire session’s worth of votes is not enough. I need to see the average over that senator’s lifetime. And even that may not be enough as 1 significant betrayal may matter more than 10 centrist votes.

AnotherOpinion on February 24, 2011 at 12:25 PM

If Obama can be a centrist than Maverick can surely claim to be conservative.

Herb on February 24, 2011 at 11:31 AM

LOL

Wait. Hey! No labels!

Fallon on February 24, 2011 at 12:32 PM

The politician who once best exemplified the idea of a “maverick” independent has shifted so far to the right that he is now tied for the title of the Senate’s most conservative member, according to National Journal‘s 2010 vote ratings.

That’s because he lost the election to a black man !!eleventy!!1!

mizflame98 on February 24, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Don’t forget that it was an election year…

golfer1 on February 24, 2011 at 12:52 PM

NET RESULT OF THIS REPORT?

Loss of credibility and eventually circulation of the National Journal among conservatives.

Dumbshits

cjk on February 24, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Completely b*llsh*t on its face and unworthy of comment.

moochy on February 24, 2011 at 1:48 PM

McCain’s middle-of-the-pack performance

So 26 of 100 is middle-of-the-pack?
He was #1 in one list, #26 in the other. The truth is probably more like 12 or 15.
McCain is on our side most of the time. I wish my fellow conservatives would stop treating him like an enemy.

itsnotaboutme on February 24, 2011 at 2:16 PM

If McCain’s the most conservative senator, our country’s in even worse shape than I feared.

bgoldman on February 24, 2011 at 2:31 PM

McCain would have been a good president. Certainly about a 1,000 times better than the clown we have now.

Most conservative? Nah. But he’s generally on the right side of most issues. Fiscally, socially, and foreign policy. Yeah, he takes some off base stances sometimes (immigration, campaign finance), but that shouldn’t take away from the many times he’s right.

therightwinger on February 24, 2011 at 4:34 PM

therightwinger on February 24, 2011 at 4:34 PM

We’ll never know, but ‘maverick’ means unreliable. It means ‘whatever position you think I have on an issue, could change tomorrow.’ It means disloyal; ‘I’ll vote with the Republicans except when I don’t.’

The label ‘maverick’ was sold to us by the liberal media as a positive quality when it is not. They did that because they wanted him to be the Republican nominee so Bammie could beat him like a drum.

slickwillie2001 on February 24, 2011 at 5:52 PM

The Knee-jerk McCain derangement never had anything to do with reality, this is just more conformation. Thanks for Obama, traitors.

Boxy_Brown on February 24, 2011 at 6:01 PM

The Knee-jerk McCain derangement never had anything to do with reality, this is just more conformation. Thanks for Obama, traitors.

Boxy_Brown on February 24, 2011 at 6:01 PM

Are you calling me a traitor even though I held my nose and voted for this stinking Arizonan crapweasel? Campaign finance reform was something McCain put his name on! “Comprehensive immigration reform” was something he tried to put his name on! Anyone who honestly thinks John McCain is a conservative based on engineered voting isn’t living in reality.

gryphon202 on February 24, 2011 at 7:11 PM

The Cranky-Old-Rino is alot of things – but reliably Conservative?

Puh-lease.

Tim_CA on February 24, 2011 at 10:42 PM

“Are you calling me a traitor even though I held my nose and voted for this stinking Arizonan crapweasel? ”
gryphon202

Did you have to be dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way? Making sure that everyone within earshot knew just how lousy he was and how hard you were going to have to hold your nose?

If so, big damn deal.

Boxy_Brown on February 25, 2011 at 5:47 AM