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Clinton, Obama, McCain - Tied for Power

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the most powerful presidential candidate of them all?

According to the fourth annual "Power Rankings" report by the data and software firm Knowlegis, the answer is: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). And as is often the case with Clinton, the distinction isn't without controversy.

Clinton came out on top of the other remaining 2008 presidential candidates in the Senate -- her Democratic rival, Barack Obama of Illinois, and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain of Arizona -- in large part because of her prowess at pork: she tucked millions of dollars worth of earmarks into last year's spending bills.

To put it in perspective, Clinton secured a total of 284 different projects worth about $342 million while Obama put his name to just 55 earmarks worth less than $99 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, which provided the earmark data for Knowlegis. And McCain? He had zero earmarks, rejecting them as an unnecessary evil of pork barrel spending.

Earmarks were just one of four criteria that went into the overall power rankings of members of Congress, which are slated to be released Monday morning (but were obtained in advance by the Sleuth). McCain, who has 18 more years of experience in Congress than the former first lady, is ranked No. 10, while Obama comes in at No. 11.

Ironically, earmarks, which have become a symbol of spending gone wild in Congress and prime fodder for campaign attacks, were an essential element in this year's power rankings.

Clinton defends her earmarked projects as a way to bring home bacon to her constituents.

Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines recently told our colleague Paul Kane, "Senator Clinton is very proud to have helped New York-based projects that train nurses, improve our hospitals, help those suffering from 9/11-related health ailments, bolster our national and homeland security, and provide our brave men and women in uniform with the resources they need to achieve their mission, while keeping them safe."

Brad Fitch, CEO of Knowlegis, says he decided to include the "bacon barometer" in this year's power rankings because "most of the time, these earmarks are a bridge to somewhere. The reality is these members are doing what their constituents want them to do -- that is, bring home the bacon."

Another factor in Clinton's high score were her "media points" -- national television and radio appearances and print media coverage. (And this was before her late-night comedy blitzkrieg -- a trifecta that included this past weekend's Saturday Night Live cameo, last Thursday's segment on CBS's "Late Show With David Letterman" and Monday's scheduled appearance on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.")

But McCain and Obama, both highly visible politicians on TV, blogs and the front pages of daily newspapers, also scored big points in the power rankings' "indirect influence" category.

Fitch calls them "sizzle points." In the case of Obama, he says, "He got sizzle points because he's Barack Obama."

Overall, Fitch says, with Clinton ranked the ninth most powerful U.S. senator, McCain the 10th and Obama the 11th, "We would view this is as a three-way tie in power." It's not an exact science, after all.

Besides just being Obama, Obama got serious power points for the quality of endorsements he has received from fellow senators, and the number of amendments for which he won Senate approval on the floor last year. Fitch counted 17 amendments -- twice as many as Clinton.

Predictably, the very most powerful member of the Senate is the man who holds the loftiest title: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). He's followed by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the majority whip, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

And almost as predictably, at the bottom of the power rankings list, is Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who was recently admonished by the Senate ethics committee for his conviction in an airport men's room sex sting last summer. Just as McCain, Clinton and Obama benefited from "sizzle" points, Craig suffered from "fizzle" points in the power rankings methodology.

At least Craig wasn't dead last on the list. That honor went, understandably, to the newest member of the Senate: John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who was appointed last summer to replace the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.).

You can view the full list of power rankings, for both the House and the Senate, by 8 a.m. EST Monday, at the Web site congress.org. The earmark data may be viewed at the web site of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  March 3, 2008; 12:01 AM ET
 
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Comments

After Hillary lost all 11 states, and is behind in delegates, it amazing how her camp can demand that Obama quits if he loses Ohio. The Clintonites do have the arrogance of their bosses. They are at this point the LOSERS and yet they think like they are the winners. I hope that Hillary gets trounced in Texas at least to teach her some humility. I am also glad that she is trailing. Hillary supporters should ask themselves why Hillary has not closed the deal if she was the inevitable nominee of the Democratic party. Hillary apparently does not as much savvy as a campaigner. How can she defeat McCain? Did she think Bush's bad years will get it for her? Obama is a better candidate and will surely win over McCain.

Posted by: M. Stratas | March 3, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm reminded of an old lady on a commercial shouting "Where's the Beef??" Hillary has the beefed-up experience and know-how. Clinton-Obama is the ticket. Anything less is just a lame duck as Bush.

Posted by: DemPride | March 3, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

As her role in the Senate has reflected, and as her campaign has enforced, Hillary thinks the rules no longer apply.

Posted by: Ed | March 3, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I think that Hillary and McCain have earned thier power rankings, Obama has been given them for his "beauty queen" performances.

Posted by: kare | March 3, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Hillary is the most powerful senator in the congress I agree. This is why she is losing this campaign she had every opportunity to stand up for this country. But she hasnt swayed one inch from the Bush Adminstrations policies. She had the opportunity to perform.

Posted by: Patty | March 3, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

PLLEEEEEZE! The hand that 'Rocks" National
Intelligence is the hand that rules the
world! But since she is so powerful, why
doesn't she help PATRIOT(ess)
Sherry Peel Jackson?

Posted by: josephjsalas | March 3, 2008 6:10 PM | Report abuse

A deceptive headline for sure turning a negative on its head. Being rated most spendthrift is hardly an accolade. It should have been - "Hillary: Queen of Pork!"
And, of course, her carousing husband is surely the "King of Pork!".

Posted by: Peter Baldwin | March 3, 2008 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Go Hillary. Our next President!

Posted by: Richard | March 3, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Senator Clinton is not a strong candidate. She doesn't create excitment. On a relative scale she neither has an identity nor believability.
Dede Myers' assertion that the Senator is better than her campaign is absurd. The candidate is in charge of the campaign. In her only competitive campaign in her life she is a loser. The New York campaigns were show up and win. The only chance that the republicans have in November is for the weak candiate, Senator Clinton, to win the primary.

Posted by: alexarmac | March 3, 2008 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Hillary vs Barack - want to see a good fight, check out
youtube.com/watch?v=zNfnROOfbU8

Posted by: lchaas8 | March 3, 2008 8:28 PM | Report abuse

What's the big deal, they're both guilty of porking. So what's your point?

Posted by: wanod | March 3, 2008 9:18 PM | Report abuse

At least Hillary's pork benefitted the people of her state. Better that than the highways to nowhere. Wonder what the gas prices are on those roads?

Posted by: AtiasMom | March 3, 2008 9:30 PM | Report abuse

2008 Presidential Election Weekly Poll
http://www.votenic.com
Results Posted Every Tuesday Evening.
Thanks for Voting!

Posted by: votenic | March 3, 2008 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Hillary does NOT care about the Democratic Party. I've listened to every explanation of "smear". Hillary ALWAYS peference with---"I've been through a lot". It's sad in a way to hear Hillary wanting SOMEONE/ANYONE ELSE to go through what she went through TO FEEL VINDICATED. In the meantime, she will run a campaign to DESTROY the PARTY----if she doesn't get her way.

What's baffling? I refuse to believe that the PARTY will sit back after March 4th and allow her to continue to give the Republicans ammunition. At this rate----that is ALL she is doing.

HILLARY'S MINDSET-------"IF I CAN'T HAVE IT, NO ONE WILL." (Hillary is willing to see a Republican win---before she goes DOWN)

As with Nicholson, Hillary allowed this FILTH (the words) to represent her as a leader?

AMERICA lost it's integrity (with the world) with Bill, and it will diminish completely with Hillary. CHAOS describes her campaign-----CHAOS will describe her leadership.

Posted by: Gregory | March 3, 2008 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Let's see! From the 90's "file-gate"
to the present "fisa-gate"!
And No! The children don't need Monica
answering the phone @ 3-AM!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Can a Muslim vote for Pork?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Just as there is an age limit for voting, so should there be an age limit on column writing. Obviously The Sleuth knows little or nothing about politics. If she did, she would not question Sen. Clinton's actions in taking care of as many needs as she can get away with. She isn't the only one who votes on congressional bills and, if the other office holders in the House and Senate continue to support a bill despite her generosity, then who's to bless and who's to blame.

Posted by: PJay | March 6, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Sen. Clinton needs to stop being generous with MY MONEY.

Posted by: Every American Taxpayer | March 7, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

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