It appears to be common knowledge that Senator Rick Santorum is a strong social conservative. Many seem to think he is too far right on those issues and not strong enough on the other issues. Are they correct?
Quote from Was Santorum a Senate Spendthrift? (Emphasis mine)
For each session of Congress, NTU scores each member on an A-to-F scale. NTU weights members’ votes based on those votes’ perceived effect on both the immediate and future size of the federal budget. Those who get A’s are among “the strongest supporters of responsible tax and spending policies”; they receive NTU’s “Taxpayers’ Friend Award.” B’s are “good” scores, C’s are “minimally acceptable” scores, D’s are “poor” scores, and F’s earn their recipients membership in the “Big Spender” category. There is no grade inflation whatsoever, as we shall see.
NTU’s scoring paints a radically different picture of Santorum’s 12-year tenure in the Senate (1995 through 2006) than one would glean from the rhetoric of the Romney campaign. Fifty senators served throughout Santorum’s two terms: 25 Republicans, 24 Democrats, and 1 Republican/Independent. On a 4-point scale (awarding 4 for an A, 3.3 for a B+, 3 for a B, 2.7 for a B-, etc.), those 50 senators’ collective grade point average (GPA) across the 12 years was 1.69 — which amounts to a C-. Meanwhile, Santorum’s GPA was 3.66 — or an A-. Santorum’s GPA placed him in the top 10 percent of senators, as he ranked 5th out of 50.
Across the 12 years in question, only 6 of the 50 senators got A’s in more than half the years. Santorum was one of them. He was also one of only 7 senators who never got less than a B. (Jim Talent served only during Santorum’s final four years, but he always got less than a B, earning a B- every year and a GPA of 2.7.) Moreover, while much of the Republican party lost its fiscal footing after George W. Bush took office — although it would be erroneous to say that the Republicans were nearly as profligate as the Democrats — Santorum was the only senator who got A’s in every year of Bush’s first term. None of the other 49 senators could match Santorum’s 4.0 GPA over that span.
This much alone would paint an impressive portrait of fiscal conservatism on Santorum’s part. Yet it doesn’t even take into account a crucial point: Santorum was representing Pennsylvania.
Let’s use the Club for Growth’s information available by clicking on the individual presidential candidates’ pictures at the CFG website.
Rick Santorum spent sixteen years in Congress – four years in the House followed by 12 years in the Senate – before losing to Democrat Bob Casey in 2006. In the last two years of his Senate career, he had an average Club for Growth rating of 77%, compared to an average of 73% for all Senate Republicans over that same time period. In the previous thirteen years before the Club had a scorecard, Santorum accumulated an average score of 76% on the National Taxpayers Union scorecard. This compares to a 71% average among all Republicans. NTU is a non-partisan group that advocates for limited government.
The Club for Growth wrote a white paper on Governor Mitt Romney back in 2007. Most of the information below is from that report, but since Romney has been outspoken on several issues since then, we’ve updated his record to reflect those positions. The Cato Institute, a free market think tank rates the country’s governors on a biennial basis. In both their 2004 and 2006 reports, they gave then-Governor Romney a “C” on tax and spending issues.
The Club for Growth did not have its own scorecard for members of Congress during Gingrich’s tenure from 1979-98, but the non-partisan and pro-free market National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has been issuing a congressional scorecard for decades and Gingrich’s record on economic issues, as provided by NTU, is worth analyzing. From 1979-98, Gingrich had an average score of 61% (with 100% being a perfect score on supporting lower taxes and limited government). The average Republican score over this time period was slightly lower at 56%.
Summary from the information in the presidential candidates’ introductions at CFG:
Sen. Santorum received a rating of 4 points above the Republicans’ average during his “last two years” in the Senate and 5 points above average during his previous 13 years in the House and Senate.
Gov. Romney earned a “C” during his years as Governor. I don’t know if that “C” is among only Republican governors or if it is among governors from both parties.
Rep. Gingrich received a rating of 5 points above the Republican’s average.
It is really hard to compare their records using this. IMO Santorum’s fiscal conservative record doesn’t look all that bad.