Who is the True Steadfast Conservative in the GOP Presidential Race?
In every Republican primary election, voters are treated to a steady stream of messages from the candidates’ propaganda machines. One campaign will declare “X is the one and only steadfast conservative in the race,” spurring a rival campaign to reply that “X is not a conservative at all. Y is the consistent conservative.” The endless back-and-forth can make it very difficult for voters to sort the conservative “wheat” from the RINO “chaff.”
By The Numbers: ACU Ratings
It’s difficult to come by a consistent, objective yardstick by which to measure rival candidates, but one set of metrics often used by conservatives is the set of annual American Conservative Union (ACU) ratings for each federal legislator. For over 40 years, the ACU has been issuing annual ratings of every member of the U.S. House and every member of the U.S. Senate. The ratings are objective, based on each candidate’s voting record in the House or Senate, as appropriate. Legislators who consistently vote the conservative position receive high marks from ACU, while those who do not receive low marks. Notable consistent conservatives include Rep. Steve King (R-IA) (97% lifetime ACU Rating), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) (98.67% lifetime ACU Rating) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (100% lifetime ACU Rating). On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find folks like Sen. Arlen Specter (PA) (42.17% lifetime), Mark Kirk (IL) (58% lifetime) and Mike Castle (DE) (51.69% lifetime), all of whom are generally considered “RINOs”.
Each of the three conservative challengers to Mitt Romney served in the Congress as a legislator. The following three graphs represent the ACU ratings for the three legislators in the GOP Presidential race:
If we can agree that ACU ratings serve as a reasonable yardstick by which to measure Republican legislators against one another, which of the graphs above best represents the voting record of a “True Conservative”?
Frankly, it wouldn’t be out of the question to eject them all from the conservative purity club. After all, each of the candidates’ voting records includes at least a few years in which they voted no more than three times out of four on the “conservative” side as defined by ACU. Further, the voting history of each includes many years in which the legislator’s voting record diverged substantially from the ACU position.
The graph below shows the three voting records on a common time line:
Even a cursory review of this graph makes clear that Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have voting records that have diverged substantially from the types of conservative policies generally advocated and supported by consistent conservatives such as Jim DeMint, Steve King and Michele Bachmann. The graphs above paint a picture of three legislators who voted the conservative position on many occasions, but certainly voted otherwise when it suited them. This is not to say, of course, that any one of these three aren’t conservatives. Viewed through an objective lens, each of the three can legitimately lay claim to the “conservative” banner, but none of the three can legitimately lay claim to being steadfastly consistent in their conservatism, as defined by the American Conservative Union.
Based on voting records as analyzed by ACU, none of the three “not Romney” candidates can lay claim to the title of “consistent conservative” without opening himself up to a laundry list of criticisms. Thus, any “conservative purity test” one may apply to all of these men would eliminate all of them, leaving voters with the choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. One doubts that either of those two would be stronger champions of conservative policy.
Instead of applying a purity test, a conservative voter is well-advised to accept that none of the “not Romneys” is perfect, but all of the three are, generally speaking, conservatives, and any one of them would be preferable, from a conservative perspective, to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.
(All ratings retrieved from http://www.Conservative.org/legislative-ratings/)