Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s Goldilocks ad – I’m not too liberal, not too conservative, but just right – sent the Republicans scrambling to their laptops.
No way is she the most moderate member of the Senate, the GOP cried. Not after having supported President Barack Obama’s budget 96 percent of the time.
But here is the truth. She is and she did. Hagan is right, and so are the Republicans.
Hagan touted her moderation in her debate with Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis and in a TV ad.
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“I was so proud when the nonpartisan National Journal ranked me the most moderate senator,” Hagan says in the ad. “Not too far left, not too far right, just like North Carolina.”
That brought protests from Tillis’ campaign and the state GOP.
Nearly the first words spoken by Tillis during last week’s Senate debate, was reminding voters that Hagan “has voted with President Obama 95 percent of the time.”
(The 95 percent is an average of Hagan’s votes since taking office; the 96 percent refers to just her 2013 votes.)
As for the moderate claim, the nonpartisan, well-respected National Journal looked at 291 Senate votes involving economic, social and foreign policy issues that involved some measure of ideological distinction. Hagan was ranked the 51st most conservative member of the Senate in 2013, leading the National Journal to declare her “the most moderate” member.
Only three Democratic senators had a voting record to her right – Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
At the same time, Hagan has been voting with most of her fellow Democratic senators with her party’s president 96 percent of the time.
Democratic senators voted, as a whole, 96 percent of the time when the president had a clearly stated position in 2013 and 95.4 percent of the time since 2009, according to Congressional Quarterly.
Republicans are using the same tactic against Democratic senators across the country. In Virginia, for example, the state Republican Party has been attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Warner for voting with Obama 97 percent of the time.
While the National Journal has been examining congressional voting records since 1981, there is a new group, called Crowdpac, that is rating senators in a new way.
Steve Hilton, a visiting professor at Stanford University and a former senior adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron, is a co-founder of Crowdpac.
Crowdpac’s rating system is based on three factors: voting record, stands the person has taken on issues, and who is financing the candidate’s campaign. The formula puts a strong emphasis on campaign contributions because of studies that show contributions are a strong predictor of how people will vote once in office, Hilton said.
Hilton said he started Crowdpac to provide voters with information concerning which candidate is closest to their own views.
“What we are building is a way for the regular member of the public to quickly find out about the candidates on their ballot and the candidate’s position on issues,” Hilton said in an interview.
Crowdpac scores Hagan a 5.2 on the liberal scale with 10 being the most liberal and 0 being the most moderate. By that measure, 31 senators were more moderate than Hagan based on campaign contributions, and 10 were more moderate based on her voting record, according to Crowdpac.
Although Tillis doesn’t have a Senate voting record, Crowdpac rates him on his positions and donations. It assigned him a 4.8 on the conservative scale with 10 being the most conservative and 0 being the most moderate.
All of this talk of moderation may help Hagan or Tillis win some independent voters in the suburbs but could also hurt them in rallying either fervent liberals or conservative true believers to the polls in a low-turnout midterm election.