Obama VP Candidate Evan Bayh's Dubious "Conservatism"

Carl Hulse pushes the Indiana senator's "moderate-to-conservative record," a description utterly nullified by Bayh's actual left-of-center voting history.

Reporter Carl Hulse looked at the vice presidential prospects of Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh in Tuesday's "A Senator From Indiana Offers Risks and Rewards for Obama." Hulse, the Times' congressional reporter, apparently thinks the "risks" Bayh pose come from his Senate vote in favor of the Iraq War in 2002, the "rewards" his alleged moderate and even conservative appeal.

But if Bayh is supposed to balance out Obama's "progressive" appeal (Hulse's word), the seesaw may still be tilted to the left. Bayh's actual Senate voting record belies Hulse's image of "a telegenic moderate Democrat."

Bayh earned a lifetime score of 20 on the American Conservative Union rating scale, with 100 being most conservative (his 2007 rating was an even more liberal 12). That lifetime figure putsBayh somewhat to the right of center of the Democratic caucus, but it's certainly not a "conservative" or even "moderate" record, as Hulse implied:

Mr. Bayh, whose father, Birch, was a liberal Democratic senator and presidential candidate in 1976, has compiled a moderate-to-conservative record both as governor of Indiana from 1988 to 1996 and as senator since 1999. He was first elected to state office in 1986 at age 30, as Indiana secretary of state.

In the past few years, Mr. Bayh has been a more reliably Democratic vote on social policy, and he opposed President Bush's nominees to the Supreme Court. But this spring, he frustrated Democratic leaders by holding out against new spending in the federal budget. But that reflects his fiscal conservatism; in Indiana, his record on cutting taxes as governor and leaving office with a $1.6 billion surplus is a hallmark.

And Michael Bates at NewsBusters points to VoteSmart's compilation of various interest group ratings that put Bayh comfortably left-of-center:

Evan Bayh's record shows that in 2007, NARAL Pro-Choice America gave him a grade of 100, as did the AFL-CIO and the Children's Defense Fund. The Americans for Democratic Action assigned him a 95 percent rating and the ACLU awarded him an 86. For 2005-2006, he earned a 100 percent rating from the National Education Association.

In 2007, the National Taxpayers Union gave him a grade of D, the American Conservative Union rated him at 12 percent, and both the Gun Owners of America and U.S. English assigned him an F.

This is not the only instance of Hulse shifting the political spectrum to the left- he recently called Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma an "archconservative" while Sen. Ted Kennedy was simply a "Democrat of Massachusetts."