Since Mitt Romney and Ron Paul continue to make the curious claim that former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum isn’t a fiscal conservative, here’s a quick, pocket-sized overview of spending grade point averages (GPAs) during Santorum’s tenure in the Senate — based on grades awarded by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU). The grades from NTU — a group that stands for lower federal spending and has Steve Forbes on its board of directors — are based on the perceived effects of members’ votes (weighted based on importance) on the size of the federal budget.
Fifty senators served throughout Santorum’s tenure, including 25 Republicans. Based on how the various states voted in presidential elections throughout this period, only one of those 25 Republicans (Maine’s Olympia Snowe) represented a state to the left of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was 3 points to the left of the national average in presidential elections during this period, backing Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry. Meanwhile, the majority of Republican senators represented states that were at least 16 points to the right of the national average. Paul, of course, has never served in the Senate, but his congressional district (Texas-14) was 34 points to the right of the national average — and 38 points to the right of Pennsylvania — over the past three presidential elections.
Except for Paul (whose GPA is listed for his 14 years in the House — 1997 through 2010 (NTU hasn’t yet scored 2011)) and Barack Obama (whose GPA is listed for his 3 years in the Senate — 2005 through 2007 — before he essentially left to campaign in his fourth year), the GPAs listed below are for the period during which Santorum served in the Senate — 1995 through 2006 — and they include all senators who served throughout that period.
Spending GPAs Based on Grades from the National Taxpayers Union
(4.00 equals most fiscally conservative, 0.00 equals least):
Ron Paul: 4.00
Rick Santorum: 3.66
Average Republican senator from a state at least 10 points to the right of Pa.: 3.34
Average Republican senator from a state at all to the right of Pa.: 3.30
Average Republican senator: 3.21
Average Republican senator from a state at least as far left as Pa.: 2.57
Average senator (both parties included) from a state to the right of Pa.: 2.35
Average senator (both parties included): 1.69
Average senator (both parties included) from a state at least as far left as Pa.: 0.52
Average Democratic senator: 0.13
Barack Obama: 0.00
In all, Santorum had the 5th-highest GPA out of 50 senators, and he beat 85 percent of senators (17 of 20) — and 82 percent of Republican senators (14 of 17) — who represented states that were at least 10 points to the right of Pennsylvania.
NTU doesn’t grade governors, but the Cato Institute gave Romney a C (a 2.00) on spending during his term as governor of Massachusetts.