Monday, September 20, 2010

MSNBC's Senate Moderates: Should Bob Casey, Dick Lugar, Bob Corker Be Included?

So Chuck Todd is usually pretty brilliant, but I find his and the other NBC "First Read" people's views on "The Gang of Moderates" to be a little bit off.

Here’s one other point we want to make about the middle striking back: Note these senators who are all up in 2012: Snowe, Dick Lugar, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill, Bob Corker, Bob Casey, and Jim Webb. What do they all have in common? They’re all moderates, and all of them could face -- potentially -- tough primaries or general elections two years from now. Don’t be surprised if these folks try to work with each other to stay elected. It will be an interesting caucus to follow. This gang (of something or other) is going to make a comeback, and if they actually stick together they COULD, become a governing force. The Balkanization of the Senate appears to be inevitable.

This is not just because of the major unlikelihood of people from opposing parties trying to work with each other to stay elected.

It's also because, for instance, Bob Casey is not so much a "moderate", per se, as he is just a moderate or so on social policy and foreign policy. On economic policy, he's been scored by National Journal either among the most liberal Senators, or in the middle of the Democratic caucus.

Then, of course, there's the bewildering question of where in the world they got the idea that Bob Corker is a moderate. True, the National Journal ranked him as the 7th most moderate Republican in 2009 (he was ranked 21st most moderate Republican in 2007 and 22nd most moderate in 2008), but that just means that at most, he's more moderate than a majority if not most of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate today.

But that does not make him a moderate. It just makes today's Republican party unbelievably right-wing and uncompromising.

I mean, take a look at the 8 longest-serving Republicans (in other words, all of the Republicans who have been in the Senate since January 1987). There are three special cases, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and Richard Shelby, who was a Southern Democrat in January 1993.

The other five guys (yes, they are all male) are Richard Lugar, Orrin Hatch, Thad Cochran, Chuck Grassley and Kit Bond.

Consider how the American Conservative Union and the Americans for Democratic Action rated their voting records during the 100th Congress (1987-1988). By averaging the ACU score and 100 minus the ADA score, we get a composite conservative score.

Of the 46 Republicans in the Senate at the time, Grassley, Cochran and Lugar ranked right in the middle, at 22nd most liberal, 23rd most liberal and 24th most liberal. Bond was slightly to the right, at 31st most liberal, and Hatch was solidly in the conservative wing, only 36th most liberal.

Incidentally, McCain was the 26th most liberal and McConnell was the 30th most liberal, while Ted Stevens ranked 13th most liberal, Pete Domenici 17th most liberal, and John Warner the 20th most liberal.

Now, looking at the 109th Congress, averaging the National Journal rankings, we have, out of the 49 Republicans, Lugar as 7th most liberal, Hatch as 13th most liberal, Cochran was 18th most liberal, Grassley 27th most liberal, Bond was 33rd most liberal,

Incidentally, Warner was 8th most liberal, Stevens was 11th most liberal, and Domenici was 14th most liberal.

Finally, in 2009 we have Richard Lugar as 2nd most liberal, Bond as 10th most, Hatch as 11th most, Cochran as 12th most, Grassley as 14th most liberal, out of the 40.

My point is that the reasonable conclusion is not that every one of these guys got more liberal, but that the rest of the party got more conservative. Hence, not really moderates.

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