How progressive is Patrick Murphy?

Partisanship and ideology are two different things. Some Democratic operatives have made an effort to identify Congressman Patrick Murphy who is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 US Senate race as a progressive. Others including the Democratic Progressive Caucus feel Murphy is too far to the right on the ideological spectrum.

The evidence that is offered below can be judged by our readers. It should be stated that many in the Democratic Party are more concerned about winning elections than ideology though as I have repeatedly pointed out most recently last week, the idea of running moderates statewide has been the default Florida Democratic playbook for fifteen years and has yielded disastrous results.

The problem with “moderate” candidates having been stated time and again on TFS, it is the prerogative of the party via the party’s primary voters to choose a nominee based on whatever considerations they find fit. A case could be made that if the FDP wanted more control of the process they could lobby to statutorily remove the requirements for primary elections and hold a nominating convention instead. Considering the party has not done that, the process remains relatively open even if leaders in the party have preferences as to who should be nominated in statewide primaries.

When judging Patrick Murphy’s ideology, we will defer to the interest groups and entities that score congressional votes and have reliably ascertained through the years a formula to determine where a member of Congress actually resides in terms of ideology. These groups scorecards are invaluable partly because the media driven “partisan unity” scores include procedural votes such as rules and motions to recommit which are almost universally partisan votes. The inclusion of these procedural votes have served to make moderate Republicans and Democrats appear more ideologically driven than they might otherwise appear to be.

Americans for Democratic Action (ADA):

This liberal group has been keeping Congressional voting scores since the early 1970’s and has been used by many on the left to determine ideology. Patrick Murphy last year was one of the least liberal Democrats in the House per ADA. Murphy earned a 50% rating, meaning he votes with the left-wing standard about half the time in the House. For comparison purposes that is slightly lower than the average ADA rating Allen Boyd earned through his  14-year service in the US House where he termed himself a “Blue Dog.” But it is also important to note that Murphy has NOT joined the Blue Dog Coalition whose numbers have been decimated by the 2010 and 2014 elections. Congresswoman Gwen Graham however has joined the Coalition.

League of Conservation Voters (LCV):

Murphy’s 71% rating in 2014 was the lowest among Florida Democrats. These were the votes scored.

Progressive Punch:

On “crucial votes” according to Progressive Punch, Patrick Murphy votes with the Republicans more than Democrats. However, on overall votes he votes with the Democrats more than the Republicans.

Washington Post

Murphy has thus far in 2015 voted with the majority of Republicans on key issues (excluding the Speaker’s vote which is a partisan exercise) on five of seven key votes.   He voted against the majority of Democrats on three of these votes.

Why we don’t look at Congressional Quarterly’s Party Unity Scores

In the mid-late 1990’s, when I was obsessed with Congressional voting trends I used to go to the library and photo copy all of the roll call votes from Congressional Quarterly (CQ). I have whole binders sitting somewhere in my house (or my parents house) with Congressional votes from 1995 through 2000. What I found when I tried to create a “unity” rating for members was that CQ’s ratings were always different and gave members higher partisan scores because they included procedural votes like rules and motions to recommit that were essentially partisan exercises. Once I looked at actual “key” votes, party unity scores were almost universally lower across the board in both parties.

What does all this mean? 

These ratings reflect that Patrick Murphy’s voting record is not progressive by the standard applied by three left-leaning groups who maintain a database of congressional votes and score them accordingly. Based on the Washington Post analysis he is as likely to side with the GOP on key issues in the current congress as with Democrats. Whether Florida’s Democrats see this as a negative or positive must ultimately be determined in a primary.



  1. Excellent information. Thanks for posting.


  2. The future · ·

    Murphy’s record on environmental issues per this scorecard is still not as good as even Kartik has claimed!!!


  3. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    Thanks for posting. Proves Murphy is right down the middle which is how our party should be.


  4. Right down the middle doesn’t inspire people.


  5. old guy on the bench · ·

    The reason who have a primary to have an open examination of ideas. I would suggest that character assassination will garner a candidate very few votes. Tell what your ideas are and what are solutions. Do not run your opponent down. Do not impinge their character. Give me a real reason to vote for a certain candidate so I am casting a positive vote. Don’t go trolling in the mines of Mordor for negative votes.


  6. Again, I ask, why are we not exposing the Republican aspirants and their votes and platforms? Any Democrat would be more on our side. As for our candidates, let’s talk about character issues of honesty, intelligence, respect for others, charisma, ability to connect with voters, campaign organization and support-things that help candidates win, but let’s try not
    to bash our own.


  7. Ezra Klein says it best when he writes: “”Moderate” is simultaneously one of the most powerful and least meaningful descriptions in politics — and it’s become little more than a tool the establishment uses to set limits on the range of acceptable debate. It’s time to get rid of it.”

    In this piece Klein is reporting on findings of a study by David Broockman, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley who shows that the idea of “moderates” in our a political system is a statistical mistake. Ergo, moderates are as imaginary as unicorns.

    But what really interesting is this: “When we say moderate what we really mean is what corporations want,” Broockman says. “Within both parties there is this tension between what the politicians who get more corporate money and tend to be part of the establishment want — that’s what we tend to call moderate — versus what the Tea Party and more liberal members want.”

    So, what you have is a myth that benefits the corporate class. No wonder it’s so “popular.”


  8. Fla Dem · ·

    Now that Atwater is out we must all unite behind Murphy. He can win the seat and is perfectly positioned as these ratings show to win democrats AND independent votes.


  9. So you decided which vote records were important? You say the Congressional Quarterly are not, and the party unity are not. Could that be because the paint Murphy has more liberal? The “votes that matter” are also the votes the GOP allowed to be voted on. What has the house not voted on? Minimum wage, immigration reform, a public option, and countless other liberal ideals, all of which Murphy supports. Using only votes cast is flawed for this very reason, Murphy has not been able to vote on many bills that would see him cast a left-leaning vote. And you know this too.


    1. Actually, it should be an easier vote to stick with your Democratic colleagues when it’s Republican legislation at issue. Instead he aspires to be the Dem who puts them over the top and pass bad bills? Does Florida really need to be the state that sends another Joe Lieberman to the Senate?


      1. Matt’s point still stands. You don’t honestly think that the GOP would allow for votes on things that liberal’s support, do you? There’s no way Boehner would ever let that happen. If you’re going to resort to flawed methodologies and neglect Murphy’s out-of-office work, then you’ve officially sunken to the level of the Tea Party.


  10. Terrie Rizzo · ·

    Brooke, when did Patrick Muphy’s vote put a Republican bill over the top?Can you please be specific?


  11. Terrie Rizzo · ·

    Apology for the misspell on your name:)


  12. […] Murphy’s prospects for election much brighter. Yesterday, we ran a piece about Murphy’s interest group voting scores from liberal groups including the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). In the interest of fairness […]


  13. The Observer · ·

    Murphy will only be as Progressive as his handlers (Eric Johnson) allow him be. It’s all about getting elected and hanging on to the seat. We already know how he voted, nothing will change in the Senate. I find it interesting that since he announced he suddenly does not mind being seen with the President.


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