National Journal: Obama's The Most Liberal Senator

Contacted on January 30 to respond to Obama's scores in NJ's vote ratings, his campaign said that the liberal ranking belies the public support he has been receiving. "As Senator Obama travels across the country, and as we've seen in the early contests, he's the one candidate who's shown the ability to appeal to Republicans and the ability to appeal to independents," said campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

But she also said that it's important to note the differences between Obama and Clinton on key issues. "The Democratic Party needs to nominate someone who shows a clear contrast with where Republicans are, on issues like the war in Iraq and the economy and the influence of lobbyists on Washington," Psaki said. "One of the reasons he's received such strong support is because he's drawn the starkest contrast on those issues."

Asked whether the liberal ranking could be used against Obama in the campaign, Psaki said that voters appreciate that he is up front about his positions on issues, even if those positions don't line up with their own. "Part of the reason he's appealing to some Republicans and independents is, he has that authenticity," she said. "He's very clear from the beginning that we can't do this alone and we need to work across party lines and focus more on uniting than on dividing."

Asked about Clinton's relatively moderate placement in NJ's rankings, one of her campaign advisers responded, "Her voting record as a whole shows she takes a comprehensive, balanced approach toward policy. Senator Clinton looks at the broader picture. She tries to see the challenges from not only the blue-collar worker's face, but also the white-collar worker's, not only Wall Street but also Main Street, and from that tries to put together a policy that's best for America as a whole."

Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director, said he doesn't put too much significance in the rankings and has several complaints about methodology. One is that Obama was scored negatively -- i.e, his non-liberal ratings did not rise -- for votes he did not participate in. Another, Gibbs said, is that the magazine ascribes any vote on Iraq that somehow opposed the war as "liberal." And he wonders why Obama's proposal to create an independent ethics oversight office was scored as liberal even though cosponsors included Mary Landreiu, a moderate Dem from Louisiana, and Lindsey Graham, that raging..conservative...from South Carolina.