Sure, they can make Oprah laugh. But can they grow the middle class?
It's starting. First come the exploratory committees and the ambiguous statements of intent. Next come the well-publicized "investigative" forays into drug histories and comments they wish they hadn't made.
The line-up of '08 presidential hopefuls is beginning to take shape. Lists of educational pursuits and offices held might help to qualify this new crop of politicians seeking the Oval Office. Lengthy magazine cover stories and appearances on Oprah might give testament to their charisma.
But the Joes and Janes expected to vote these candidates into office need a much more substantive yard-stick. Where do the candidates actually fall on the issues - not when it comes to talking points and press-ready rhetoric, but in terms of actual votes? Where do their priorities lie when it comes to raising the minimum wage? How about on protecting access to the courts? On immigration?
Below are the grades each presidential-hopeful earned for their 2005 congressional voting record on the issues that matter most to the squeezed middle class and those struggling to work their way into it.
There's more to campaigns than fundraising and witticisms. It's time to showcase just how accountable the candidates are to the people they would like to be elected to serve.
U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE): B
U.S. Sen. Hillary R. Clinton (D-NY):A
(UPDATE: 1/11/07 10:08am) U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT): B
'04 nominee / U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA):A
' 04 candidate / U.S. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH): A
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL): C
U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS): F
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA): F
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):F
U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE): F
U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO):F
Candidates Not Included in Our Scorecard (But That Doesn't Mean We're Not Watching Them):
General Wesley Clark
Vice President Al Gore
U.S. Sen. Maurice "Mike" Gravel (D-AK), retired
'VP 04 nominee / U.S. Sen. John R. Edwards (D-NC), retired
Gov. William B. "Bill" Richardson (D-NM)
Gov. Thomas J. "Tom" Vilsack (D-IA)
House Speaker Newton L. "Newt" Gingrich (R-GA), retired
New York City Mayor Rudolph W. "Rudy" Giuliani (R-NY), retired
Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR)
Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), retired
Gov. W. Mitt Romney (R-MA)
Former Health and Human Services Sec. / ex-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson (R-WI)
For more information on our grading criteria, and full analyses of the bills included in our report card, please check out our full report - Congress at the Midterm: Their 2005 Middle Class Voting Record.