Category Archive 'American Conservative Union'

29 Jan 2008

How Conservative is John McCain Really?

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Randall Hoven examines John McCain’s 82.3% ACU rating. His conclusion is “not very.”

Senator John McCain’s lifetime rating of 82.3% from the American Conservative Union is often cited as proof that he is conservative. Here is a closer look at that 82.3 rating.

First, a rating of 82.3 is not really that high. It puts Senator McCain in 39th place among senators serving in 2006, the latest year for which the ACU has its ratings posted online. For that most recent year in particular, McCain scored only 65, putting him in 47th place for that year. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), for example, scored 64 and 75, respectively, in 2006.

Generally, McCain has voted less conservatively in more recent years. His average for 1990-97 was 88, but was only 74 for 1998-2006. …

So where did McCain differ from the ACU? The big areas were taxes, campaign finance reform, the environment and, most recently, immigration. There was also a smattering of support for trial lawyers; federal intervention in health, education, safety or voting issues; internationalism; and some social issues. He was more consistently conservative on spending and defense issues. …

Many of the votes were close. In one third of these votes, a swing of only two senators would have changed the outcome. In over two thirds, a swing of ten senators would have changed the outcome. As someone remarked, McCain is like a baseball player who gets all his hits after two outs and no one on base, and all his outs with men in scoring position. …

McCain’s ACU ratings since 1998 put him on the liberal side among Republicans. The few Republicans consistently more liberal than McCain would be Chafee (formerly R-RI), Collins (R-ME), Snowe (R-ME) and Specter (R-PA). One could expect senators from northeastern states to be more liberal since their constituencies demand it, but McCain represents the fairly conservative state of Arizona. (Arizona’s other senator, Kyl, has a lifetime rating of 96.9, and half the representatives from there have ratings of 94.7 or higher.)

How much more liberal would McCain vote if his constituency put even the slightest pressure on him in that direction?


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