Voting record analysis finds Paul Ryan most extreme VP nominee in a century

By Jonathan Terbush
Sunday, August 12, 2012 14:27 EDT
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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaking at CPAC in 2011. Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore, creative commons licensed.
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Rep. Paul Ryan is the most ideologically far-from-center vice presidential nominee since at least 1900, according to one statistical analysis of historical Congressional voting records.

Based on the DW-NOMINATE model, Ryan’s record makes him the most extreme nominee from either party during that stretch, meaning he is not only ranked as more conservative than any past GOP vice presidential nominee, but also as further from center than any Democratic number two over that same stretch.

That ranking system analyzes all the roll call votes cast by members of Congress and computes a weighted average of how conservatives or liberal elected representatives are based on those votes. For example, the system pegs Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva (D-NM) as the ninth-most liberal member of the House, while Ron Paul (R-TX) ranks as the second-most conservative member (Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) barely beat out Paul for the title of most conservative.)

Ryan, meanwhile, falls well into the conservative end of the spectrum. In fact, the ranking system puts him just four slots closer to center than Tea Party crusader Michele Bachmann (R-MN.)

The system presents its averages on a numerical scale, from -1.0 to 1.0, liberal to conservative, with zero being completely centrist. Ryan earned a 0.562 Ideology Score according to the system, higher than Dick Cheney’s previous record high score for a VP nominee of 0.531. The most extreme Democratic nominee, by contrast, was President Franklin Roosevelt’s VP, John Nance Gardner (-0.482.)

That finding affirms anecdotal evidence about Ryan’s perceived image as a very conservative politician. His budget proposal last year, for example, was so extreme that even Newt Gingrich dismissed it as, “right-wing social engineering,” — though he has since come around now that Ryan is on the party ticket.

Jonathan Terbush
Jonathan Terbush
Jon Terbush is a Boston-based writer whose work has appeared in Talking Points Memo, Business Insider, the New Haven Register, and elsewhere. He tweets about politics, cats, and baseball via @jonterbush.
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