Politico uncritically described NRCC ad's reference to National Journal's flawed ranking of Obama

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER

Reporting on advertising buys by the National Republican Congressional Committee "and GOP allies," the Politico's Josh Kraushaar cited an ad that refers to Sen. Barack Obama's "ranking by National Journal as having 'the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate.' " But Kraushaar did not mention that a respected, comprehensive vote study contradicts the National Journal's ratings, which were based on "99 key Senate votes" selected by Journal staff members.

In an April 28 article about advertising buys by the National Republican Congressional Committee "and GOP allies," Politico staff writer Josh Kraushaar reported: "The NRCC is up with a new spot in Mississippi's 1st District in which [Democrat Travis] Childers is flanked by [Sen. John] Kerry and [Sen. Barack] Obama. The ad refers to Obama's ranking by National Journal as having 'the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate.' " However, Kraushaar failed to note the results of a respected vote study by political science professors Keith Poole and Jeff Lewis that, in contrast with the National Journal's subjective selection of votes, considers every non-unanimous vote cast by every legislator to determine his or her relative ideology. Poole and Lewis' study placed Obama in a tie for the ranking of 10th most liberal senator in 2007. The Journal used "99 key Senate votes, selected by NJ reporters and editors, to place every senator on a liberal-to-conservative scale."

As Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented (here, here, here, here, and here), among the votes Obama cast that purportedly earned him the 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. Obama himself, when asked by Politico editor-in-chief John F. Harris about the Journal's 2007 vote ratings during a February 11 Politico/WJLA interview, criticized the Journal's methodology by noting that it considered "liberal" his vote for "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." Media Matters has previously noted that Harris and Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei subsequently misrepresented Obama's statement from the interview. In a March 18 article, Harris and VandeHei reported that "[w]hen pressed on a voting record that the National Journal called the most liberal in the Senate, Obama dismissed ideological labels as 'old politics,' " but they did not report Obama's initial response in which he criticized the methodology the Journal used. Obama referred to "old politics" moments later, when Harris asked Obama whether he is "comfortable with the liberal label."

American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman J. Ornstein has also criticized the Journal's rating of Obama as "most liberal senator," calling it "pretty ridiculous."

Furthermore, Kraushaar did not note that in the report releasing Obama's ranking, the Journal stated that Sen. John McCain "did not vote frequently enough in 2007 to draw a composite score." Media Matters has also noted that the Journal admitted to having used flawed methodology in the publication's previous rating of then-Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. John Kerry (MA) as the "most liberal senator" in 2003.

From the April 28 Politico article:

But those concerns aren't deterring a collection of groups from testing the waters with anti-Obama ads in Mississippi and Louisiana. The NRCC, the conservative advocacy group Freedom's Watch and the campaign of Mississippi candidate Greg Davis combined have put up about $500,000 in advertising explicitly connecting [Don] Cazayoux and Childers to Obama.

The NRCC is up with a new spot in Mississippi's 1st District in which Childers is flanked by Kerry and Obama. The ad refers to Obama's ranking by National Journal as having "the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate."

Davis' newly released ad invokes Obama's controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, arguing that Childers should have spoken out against Wright's divisive rhetoric but instead "said nothing."

"Travis Childers. He took Obama's endorsement over our conservative values," a narrator in the ad goes on to say.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
The Politico
Person
Josh Kraushaar
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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