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Was Santorum a Senate Spendthrift?

11:00 AM, Feb 15, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON AND ANDY WICKERSHAM
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Among the roughly one-third of senators (18 out of 50) who represented states that — based on this measure — were at least as far to the left as Pennsylvania, Santorum was the most fiscally conservative.  Even more telling was the canyon between him and the rest.  After Santorum’s overall 3.66 GPA, the runner-up GPA among this group was 2.07, registered by Olympia Snowe (R., Maine).  Arlen Specter, Santorum’s fellow Pennsylvania Republican, was next, with a GPA of 1.98.  The average GPA among senators who represented states at least as far left as Pennsylvania was 0.52 — or barely a D-.

But Santorum also crushed the senators in the other states.  Those 32 senators, representing states that on average were 16 points to the right of Pennsylvania in the presidential elections, had an average GPA of 2.35 — a C+.

In fact, considering the state he was representing, one could certainly make the case that Santorum was the most fiscally conservative senator during his tenure.  The only four senators whose GPAs beat Santorum’s represented states that were 2 points (Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire), 10 points (Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona), 25 points (Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma), and 36 points (Republican Craig Thomas of Wyoming) to the right of Pennsylvania in the presidential elections.  Moreover, of these four, only Kyl (with a GPA of 3.94) beat Santorum by as much as a tenth of a point.  It’s an open question whether a 3.94 from Arizona is more impressive than a 3.66 from Pennsylvania.

So, if Santorum was among — and perhaps even topped the list of — the most fiscally conservative senators during this period, who were the least fiscally conservative?  That prize would have to go to the two North Dakota senators, who despite representing a state that voted 23 points to the right of the national average in the presidential elections, managed to achieve GPAs of 0.08 (Democrat Kent Conrad) and 0.00 (Democrat Byron Dorgan).  Honorable mentions would have to go to Max Baucus (D., Mont.), who got a 0.84 GPA in a state that was 18 points to the right of the national average; Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who got a 0.08 GPA in a state that was 4 points to the right of average; and Utah Republicans Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch, who each barely cleared a 3.0 (3.11 for Bennett, 3.08 for Hatch) despite representing the state that, in the presidential elections, was the nation’s most right-leaning (38 points to the right of average).

As for Santorum’s potential opponent in the fall, Barack Obama’s three years in the Senate (2005 through 2007) overlapped only with Santorum’s final two years.  (In 2008, Obama effectively left the Senate to campaign for President and therefore didn’t cast enough votes for NTU to score him that year.)  In both of the years that the two men overlapped (2005 and 2006), as well as throughout Obama’s three years’ worth of preparation for the presidency, Obama’s GPA was 0.00 — a rock-solid F. 

Now that’s acting like a Democrat — something Santorum has never done.

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