How Conservative is Your Missouri Congressman?

Sep 1, 2011 at 8:40 am
Billy Long eeks out Todd Akin for Missouri's conservative crown, according to the conservative think tank.
Billy Long eeks out Todd Akin for Missouri's conservative crown, according to the conservative think tank.
Have you and your friends ever gotten into an argument over whether Todd Akin is more conservative than Billy Long? How about if Russ Carnahan is more liberal than William Lacy Clay Jr.?

Good news: thanks to Heritage Action for America, you now have stats to back up your stance.

Last week, the D.C.-based group-- a sister organization to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank-- released its "Conservative Scorecard," which rates each U.S. Senator and Congressman based on their voting record in 2011. The scores are tabulated by how often a politician's votes align with Heritage Action's "preferred" vote on issues the organization considers particularly important (a total of 30 House votes and 19 Senate votes). Or as they explain it: "a comprehensive and revealing barometer of a lawmaker's willingness to fight for conservative policies in Congress."

Missouri's highest conservative mark went to Congressman Long (R-Springfield), who scored an 83 out of a possible 100 points. A close second, Congressman/Senate candidate Akin (R-Town & Country) scored 81. And at the other end of the spectrum, Senator Claire McCaskill was rated most liberal with a score of five.

Here's how the rest of the state's delegation shook out:

83- Billy Long (R-Springfield)
81- Todd Akin (R- Town & Country)
75- Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville)
72- Roy Blunt (R-Senator)
60- Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-St. Elizabeth)
58- Sam Graves (R-Tarkio)
44- Jo Ann Emerson (R-Cape Girardeau)
14- Emanuel Cleaver III (D-Kansas City)
10- Williams Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis)
7- Russ Carnahan (D-St.Louis)
5- Claire McCaskill (D-Senator)

The scores were graded on a conservative curve, as evidenced by the fact that, even though Congress currently leans further to the right than at any point in (at least) the last 25 years, Republicans score more conservative than Democrats score liberal. For instance, out of the national field, no legislator scored 100 and only Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) scored a 99, while 28 legislators (all democrats) scored 0. This tilt appeared among the Missouri delegation, as the most liberal Republican scored 44, while the most conservative democrat scored 14. Of course, since this is intended to be a measurement of a legislator's dedication to conservative policies, the curve makes sense.

Ostensibly, the scorecard is nothing more than an amusing but irrelevant and inexact statistic. Like a baseball player's fielding percentage. After all, the selection of votes was relatively arbitrary and it would be absurd to conclude that Billy Long is necessarily more conservative than Todd Akin because of a single voting divergence. But the existence of this scorecard, a reminder that conservative voters are Keeping Score, does speak to a greater truth: the fear that many Republicans have of being out-flanked on the right. Just ask Mitt Romney.