On Hannity & Colmes, Mike Allen uncritically quoted an assertion by Sen. John McCain's campaign manager that Sen. Barack Obama "is the most liberal senator in the United States Senate" -- presumably a reference to National Journal's 2007 vote ratings. By repeating the McCain campaign's invocation of the National Journal vote ratings, Allen joined Karl Rove, Pat Buchanan, and other conservative media figures in promoting the ratings, as National Journal anticipated the media would.
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On the February 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Politico chief political writer Mike Allen uncritically quoted an assertion by Rick Davis, campaign manager for Sen. John McCain, that Sen. Barack Obama "is the most liberal senator in the United States Senate." Allen did not cite a source for Davis' claim -- presumably National Journal's 2007 vote ratings. By repeating the McCain campaign's invocation of the National Journal vote ratings, Allen joined Karl Rove, Pat Buchanan, and other conservative media figures in promoting the ratings. National Journal "anticipate[d]" the media would promote these ratings "across the 2008 election cycle," despite the publication's acknowledgment that the methodology it used in 2003 to rate then-presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA) the "most liberal senator" was flawed.
Moreover, Allen did not note during his appearance on Hannity & Colmes that McCain "did not vote frequently enough in 2007 to draw a composite score" from National Journal. Nor did Allen mention Obama's response when asked about the rating, even though it occurred at an interview sponsored by the Politico itself. When asked about the National Journal's 2007 vote ratings by Politico editor-in-chief John F. Harris during the February 11 interview, Obama said:
OBAMA: Well, first of all, not to grouse against the National Journal, but let me give you an 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. So that's the problem with some of these ratings -- how they score things. It uses categories that I think don't make sense to a lot of Americans.
Indeed, as Media Matters for America has documented, among the votes that earned Obama 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.
From the February 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
ALAN COLMES (co-host): Are we going to see a case of conservatives sitting on their hands on Election Day and not turning out in the numbers that they turned out for the Wisconsin primary, for example?
KAREN HANRETTY (Republican strategist): No, they'll turn out. You know, it reminds me a lot of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. When he ran for re-election, you asked a lot of conservative voters if they think Arnold is conservative enough, and most of them would say, "No, he's not as conservative as I wish he was." And yet, you know, it was something like 85 percent, 86 percent of Republican voters turned out, voted for him for re-election; he won overwhelmingly. And I think that for all of the turmoil that you are seeing in the Republican Party right now, in a general election, Republicans will, in fact, turn out and vote for John McCain because --
COLMES: California may not be a --
HANRETTY: -- they have eight months -- they have eight months to be reminded, Alan, that --
COLMES: California may not be a great analogy. You had a very unpopular governor in Gray Davis. You had a party switch. We having a very unpopular president, Mike Allen, in George W. Bush --
HANRETTY: No, actually I think it's a very good analogy, because here you have, you have two Republicans who are actually more moderate Republicans -- actually, John McCain is more conservative than Arnold Schwarzenegger -- but, you know, you have Republicans who really do appeal to independent voters, who can appeal to moderate Democrats, and that's what we are going to see from John McCain in a general election.
COLMES: You are saying hard-core -- if I may get Mike Allen here -- you're saying hard-core conservatives, Mike, not happy with John McCain, voting for Mike Huckabee. Are they going to vote in the general? And that California analogy again: you've got dissatisfaction with the party in power, just like you had in California; they switched parties, which is what I think we're likely to see here in November.
ALLEN: Right. Republicans face a two-pronged, huge problem. One is the lack of enthusiasm. You look at the numbers right at the bottom of the screen at this very moment, look at the difference between the number of Democrats and the number of Republicans that voted tonight. It's astounding, as you guys know; we see it on your coverage. It's happened on primary after primary after primary.
The other problem is what Senator Obama calls the "Obamacans," the Republicans who might vote for him. And it is amazing the people in my personal life -- even people who have worked for the president, people who are evangelicals, home-schoolers -- who say either "Senator Obama doesn't offend me," or they say, "Let's give him a chance."
Now, a lot of those people won't vote for him, but will they turnout? Now, the McCain campaign manager, Rick Davis, says, "We haven't had the chance" -- and this was Karen's point -- "we haven't had the chance to remind people this is the most liberal senator in the United States Senate." By the time they vote in November, everyone will know that.
SEAN HANNITY (co-host): Hey, Karen, let me break this down in a little more detail for our audience here tonight as we look at the exit polls tonight. The question was, on political matters, do you consider yourself liberal, moderate, conservative. When you break it down in those three categories, actually, Senator McCain won tonight. It was by a small margin, but he did win that against Mike Huckabee, 45-43.