The good people at the National Journal -- who America turns to for information on how our lawmakers rank in terms of their ideological rigidity -- is out today with rankings of the conservative members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The big story is that John McCain is your new King of Being Conservative.
Actually, McCain is in an eight-way tie for first, along with John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and John Thune (R-S.D.). But how exciting would it have been to hear, "Saxby Chambliss is really conservative"? The answer: not very exciting. So McCain grabs the attention. Here's NJ's Reid Wilson:
According to a comprehensive examination of 96 Senate votes taken in 2010, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., along with seven of his colleagues, voted most often on the conservative side. His 89.7 composite conservative score ties him with stalwarts like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and gives him a more conservative score than Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
"In the early part of this decade, McCain was far closer to the ideological middle of the chamber. From 2002 to 2006, he bounced between the 44th- and 49th-most conservative member, giving him the maverick title. His 89.7 composite conservative score is the farthest to the right of any year he has served in the Senate.
McCain could have really used this sort of ranking in 2008, when the traditional GOP voter base was cool to his maverick ways. Instead, he started tacking right in order to fend off a primary challenge from J.D. Hayworth, who ran as "the Consistent Conservative." (It all may not have been necessary, given that Hayworth was also widely known to be one of the dumber people walking the face of the earth at the time, which is something that Hayworth consistently confirmed, to McCain's delight.)
Just missing out on being a part of this eight-man peleton of conservatism is Senator Tom Coburn, who probably got points off for liking Nancy Pelosi. Taking home the title of "Most Conservative" in the House of Representatives are five members: Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), and Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas).
National Journal ranks members based upon "selected roll-call votes," which are compared to one another and sorted in terms of which votes reveal "ideological distinctions." In this case, "[j]ust under 100 votes in each chamber were selected, weighted, and categorized as economic, foreign, or social," and then they were indexed. For what it's worth, the people at Vote View have a more sophisticated statistical model, and they have determined Coburn to be the most conservative member of the previous Congress.
McCain's Shift Makes Him Senate's Most Conservative [National Journal]