Confusing National Journal and CQ, NRO's Geraghty falsely claimed Obama campaign ad cited "the same study" Obama has criticized

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

National Review Online blogger Jim Geraghty wrote that a new ad for Sen. Barack Obama cites as a source the " 'Congressional Quarterly 2007 Voting Study.' This is the same study that called Obama the most liberal lawmaker in the Senate. By citing this study, the Obama campaign seems to be dropping their objections to that characterization, or of CQ's calculation methods." In fact, Obama was "the most liberal lawmaker" according to the National Journal's 2007 Vote Ratings, not according to CQ, which measured how often senators voted with their party rather than assessing "liberal" or "conservative" votes and found that "[t]en Democrats had higher scores" on the "party unity" measure in 2007 than Obama, as PolitiFact.com has noted.

In a July 8 post, National Review Online blogger Jim Geraghty wrote of a new ad by Sen. Barack Obama: "[T]he narrator continues, '[Sen. John] McCain will give more tax breaks to big oil. He's voted with [President] Bush 95 percent of the time,' and at the bottom of the screen, we see the source, 'Congressional Quarterly 2007 Voting Study.' This is the same study that called Obama the most liberal lawmaker in the Senate. By citing this study, the Obama campaign seems to be dropping their objections to that characterization, or of CQ's calculation methods." But Geraghty's assertion that the Obama campaign cited "the same study" that it previously criticized is false, and his claim that "the Obama campaign seems to be dropping their objections" to the ratings that said Obama is "the most liberal lawmaker in the Senate" is baseless. Indeed, Obama was "the most liberal lawmaker" according to the National Journal's 2007 Vote Ratings, not according to CQ, which measured how often senators voted with their party rather than assessing "liberal" or "conservative" votes and found that "[t]en Democrats had higher scores" on the "party unity" measure in 2007 than Obama, as PolitiFact.com has noted. Moreover, PolitiFact reported that "National Journal relies largely on the judgment of its editors and reporters," whereas "CQ takes a more empirical approach." PolitiFact quoted CQ national editor John Cranford saying of his group's study, "We don't try to establish a litmus test or ideological label. ... What we're looking for is something that more closely represents how members might characterize their vote, such as how often they vote with the president."

From PolitiFact.com:

In CQ's calculation of party unity, which measures how often members vote with their party on bills where the parties split, Obama got a 97 percent rating last year. Ten Democrats had higher scores. On votes where Bush indicated his position, CQ found Obama supported the Republican president 40 percent of the time in 2007. That 40 percent rating put Obama in the middle of the pack for Democrats. In 2006, Obama voted with Bush 49 percent of the time.

[...]

National Journal relies largely on the judgment of its editors and reporters. They choose votes that they believe show ideological distinctions (they chose to include 99 of the 442 Senate votes last year) and they decide which side in the vote is liberal and which is conservative. Then they compute how often senators and House members vote each way.

"We're trying to pick votes where some ideological differences are displayed and show how members of Congress line up relative to one another," said Charles Green, editor of the magazine.

CQ takes a more empirical approach and calculates how often members vote with their party or the president.

"We don't try to establish a litmus test or ideological label," said John Cranford, CQ's national editor. "What we're looking for is something that more closely represents how members might characterize their vote, such as how often they vote with the president."

During a February 11 Politico/WJLA-TV interview, Obama responded to a question by Politico editor-in-chief John F. Harris about the National Journal's 2007 vote ratings, saying, "[A]n example of why I was rated the most liberal was because I wanted an office of public integrity that stood outside of the Senate, and outside of Congress, to make sure that you've got an impartial eye on ethics problems inside of Congress. Now, I didn't know that it was a liberal or Democratic issue. I thought that was a good government issue that a lot of Republicans would like to see."

Indeed, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, the National Journal based its rankings not on all votes cast by senators in 2007, but on "99 key Senate votes, selected by NJ reporters and editors, to place every senator on a liberal-to-conservative scale." In addition to the vote Obama cited in the Politico interview, among the votes he cast that contributed to National Journal's "most liberal senator" label were those to implement the 9-11 Commission's homeland security recommendations, provide more children with health insurance, expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and maintain a federal minimum wage. By contrast, a study by political science professors Keith Poole and Jeff Lewis that used every non-unanimous vote cast in the Senate in 2007 to determine relative ideology placed Obama in a tie for the ranking of 10th most liberal senator.

Geraghty is presumably aware of the National Journal study, having written on February 19: "John McCain can point out that Barack Obama has been rated the most liberal lawmaker in the U.S. Senate by National Journal."

From Geraghty's July 8 National Review Online post:

The Obama campaign deploys the "he supports new development on existing leases" dodge. As the Wall Street Journal noted, this proposal would work swell if every acre of every lease held the same amount of oil and gas. Unfortunately, oil isn't found in every acre; only one of three wells results in a discovery of oil that can be recovered economically. In deeper water, it's one of five. As the Journal noted, "All this involves huge risks, capital investment -- and time."

Anyway -- in Obama's ad, the narrator continues, "McCain will give more tax breaks to big oil. He's voted with Bush 95 percent of the time," and at the bottom of the screen, we see the source, "Congressional Quarterly 2007 Voting Study."

This is the same study that called Obama the most liberal lawmaker in the Senate. By citing this study, the Obama campaign seems to be dropping their objections to that characterization, or of CQ's calculation methods.

The rest of the ad is generic pledges: "Barack Obama will make energy independence an urgent priority. Raise mileage standards. Fast track technology for alternative fuels. A $1000 tax cut to help families as we break the grip of foreign oil. A real plan and new energy."

Network/Outlet
National Review
Person
Jim Geraghty
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Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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