On the July 7 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, host and former U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough (R-FL) went beyond other conservative pundits' echoing of the Republican talking point that Senator John Edwards (D-NC) is the "fourth most liberal member of the Senate" -- a misleading label based on selective information and not representative of his more moderate voting record in the Senate -- to state that "John Edwards is ranked second most liberal" in the U.S. Senate.
Scarborough displayed a graphic, citing National Journal as the source, and claimed that the "most liberal senators on key votes" are Senator John Kerry (D-MA) at 97 percent, Edwards at 95 percent, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) at 89 percent, and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) at 88 percent. Scarborough asserted that Clinton and Kennedy both "ranked less liberal than Kerry and Edwards."
While Scarborough accurately cited the correct National Journal composite liberal vote rating percentages for 2003, he inaccurately asserted that this rating made Edwards the "second most liberal" member of the Senate. Edwards's National Journal liberal vote rating of 94.5 percent, which was based on just 40 votes from one session of Congress, ranked him as the fourth most liberal member of the Senate for 2003 only. It is not representative of his more moderate voting record over the past five years in the Senate, during which he has cast more than 1,000 votes. According to National Journal, Edwards's average liberal rating for the five years he has served in the Senate (1999-2003) is 75.7 percent -- almost 20 points lower than the 2003 rating that Republicans are touting.
Scarborough's assertion that Senators Clinton and Kennedy both "ranked less liberal than Kerry and Edwards" was also misleading. While Clinton's and Kennedy's National Journal liberal vote ratings were lower than Edwards's for 2003, National Journal numbers show that his 75.7 percent liberal vote rating for the entirety of his time in the Senate is lower than Clinton's (83.9 percent) and Kennedy's (88.6 percent) overall liberal vote rating. Edwards does not even rank among the liberal top ten when overall averages of current Senators are compared. The tenth spot belongs to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who has an average of 83.8 percent.
Furthermore, in a January 31, 2003, National Journal profile (NationalJournal.com subscription required) of "The Presidential Wanna-bes," "Among the other presidential contenders, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has been in the moderate-to-conservative range of Senate Democrats during his four years in the chamber." And in 2002, Edwards made National Journal's list of "Senate Centrists" (NationalJournal.com subscription required). As Charlotte Observer staff writer Jim Morrill reported in February 2003, "Put another way: He was more conservative than all but 10 of the Senate's 50 Democrats [in 2002]."
From the July 7 edition of Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Now, let me tell our viewers what this means. The nonpartisan National Journal actually looked at the voting records of John Kerry and his running mate, and they determined that John Kerry was the most liberal senator in the U.S. Senate. And John Edwards is ranked second most liberal. Compare that with Hillary Clinton and with Ted Kennedy, both of whom are less -- ranked less liberal than Kerry and Edwards, and all of a sudden, you have got an argument that these two people would be more liberal than Kennedy and Clinton. Do you think we are going to be hearing that between now and the election in November, that this ticket is too liberal for America?