Not Conservative Enough

Some pundits were amazed that Sen. Robert Bennett was denied re-nomination by a GOP convention in Utah. After all, they said, Bennett earned an American Conservative Union rating of 84 in 2009. How much more should Utah Republicans expect? A lot more in a State that is staunchly Republican and cast more than 62 percent of its votes for McCain in 2008 (trailing only Oklahoma at 66 percent and Wyoming at 65 percent).

It turns out that Bennett’s lifetime ACU rating (83.63) earned him 27th place among the 40 Republicans who sat in the Senate at the end of 2009:

ACU Lifetime Ratings through 2009: GOP Senators
Rank Rating Member State
1 98.67 BARRASSO WYOMING
2 98.55 DeMINT S. CAROLINA
3 98 COBURN OKLAHOMA
4 97.66 INHOFE OKLAHOMA
5 96.75 KYL ARIZONA
6 96 RISCH IDAHO
7 95.08 SESSIONS ALABAMA
8 95 JOHANNS NEBRASKA
9 94.54 BUNNING KENTUCKY
10 94.37 ENSIGN NEVADA
11 93.82 VITTER LOUISIANA
12 93.14 CORNYN TEXAS
13 92.83 CHAMBLISS GEORGIA
14 92.82 ENZI WYOMING
15 92.76 BROWNBACK KANSAS
16 92.27 CRAPO IDAHO
17 91 BURR N. CAROLINA
18 90.8 WICKER MISSISSIPPI
19 89.77 HUTCHISON TEXAS
20 89.68 GRAHAM S. CAROLINA
21 89.66 McCONNELL KENTUCKY
22 89.15 HATCH UTAH
23 89.09 ISAKSON GEORGIA
24 87.97 THUNE S. DAKOTA
25 86.86 ROBERTS KANSAS
26 86 LeMIEUX FLORIDA
27 83.63 BENNETT UTAH
28 83.5 GRASSLEY IOWA
29 83.33 CORKER TENNESSEE
30 81.97 McCAIN ARIZONA
31 81.9 BOND MISSOURI
32 80.13 COCHRAN MISSISSIPPI
33 79 ALEXANDER TENNESSEE
34 78.68 GREGG NEW HAMPSHIRE
35 77.26 LUGAR INDIANA
36 75.43 SHELBY ALABAMA
37 70.19 MURKOWSKI ALASKA
38 69.83 VOINOVICH OHIO
39 49.43 COLLINS MAINE
40 47.88 SNOWE MAINE

Derived from American Conservative Union, Congressional Ratings 2009, 2009 Senate Ratings.

Obviously, it would be more difficult — and even foolhardy — for Maine Republicans to eject Senators Collins and Snowe, but there are plenty of firmly-Red States whose GOP constituencies aren’t getting their votes’ worth out of their senators. For example, the following States gave their electoral votes to the not-very-stellar Republican candidates in the last three presidential elections, and yet those States have GOP senators with ACU lifetime ratings below 90:

Alabama — Richard Shelby (75.43 ACU rating)

Alaska — Lisa Murkowski (70.19)

Arizona — John McCain (81.97)

Georgia — Sonny Isakson (89.09)

Kansas — Pat Roberts (86.86)

Kentucky — Mitch McConnell (89.66)

Mississippi — Thad Cochran (80.13)

South Carolina — Lindsey Graham (89.68)

South Dakota — John Thune (87.97)

Tennessee — Lamar Alexander (79.00), Bob Corker (83.33)

Texas — Kay Bailey Hutchison (89.77)

Utah — Orrin Hatch (89.15)

I’ve used bold type to highlight the weakest of the lot, though I’m certainly not enamored of the rest — several of whom (e.g., Thad Cochran, Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, and Kay Bailey Hutchison) hold safe seats and could earn much higher ACU scores, if they chose to do so.

By the way, I have reviewed the ACU’s positions on the votes considered in rating senators for 2009. As a pro-life libertarian hawk, I find myself in agreement with the ACU’s positions on those votes and in agreement with the ACU’s principles.