Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Senate Mutt and Jeffs

Iowa Sens. Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley are a perfect example of a Mutt and Jeff in the Senate. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Update, 1 p.m.: The nominations for Senate Mutt and Jeffs are rolling in. Keep them coming!

Current: Missouri Sens. Claire McCaskill (D) and Kit Bond (R), South Dakota Sens. Tim Johnson (D) and John Thune (R).

Historical: New York Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) and Al D'Amato (R), Minnesota Sens. Rod Grams (R) and Paul Wellstone (D) -- a classic! -- as well as Minnesota Sens. Norm Coleman (R) and Amy Klobuchar (D).

Original Post

In last week's first official Fix chat -- every Friday at 11 a.m. -- we got a question that intrigued us.

"Which state's senate delegation is the most politically schizophrenic, i.e., has the two senators who are the most diametrically opposed politically?" asked a Fixista from Jackson, Mississippi.

These are the very sort of political debates we L-O-V-E. So, we spent the weekend thinking about the Mutt and Jeffs in the Senate. (Yes, we are aware how dorky that sounds.) Add your own in the comments section below and we'll update the post to create a full list!

The most obvious Mutt and Jeff tandem is in Iowa where Tom Harkin (D) and Chuck Grassley (R) are on opposite end of the partisan spectrum. In National Journal's 2008 vote ratings, Grassley ranked as more conservative than 82.3 percent of the Senate while Harkin scored as more liberal than 76.5 percent of his colleagues.

Interestingly, despite their disparate ideological views, both Harkin and Grassley have proven to be unbeatable in the Hawkeye State. Grassley, first elected in 1980, has won his re-election races with 66 percent, 70 percent, 69 percent and 70 percent; Harkin, who claimed his Senate seat six years after Grassley, has had a tougher time of it but has repeatedly beaten back quality foes and was re-elected in 2008 with 63 percent of the vote.

A few other Mutt and Jeffs:

* Nevada: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) leads the Democratic party while John Ensign (R) was, until recently, the fourth ranking member of the Republican leadership team. (Ensign resigned his post after admitting to an extramarital affair with his former chief of staff's wife.) Interestingly, the ideological divide between Reid and Ensign draws little attention thanks to the unstated-but-clearly-in-place non-aggression pact the two men have worked out.

* Louisiana: David Vitter (R) is among the most conservative members of the Senate -- voting more conservatively than all but 10 percent of the Senate, according to the NJ vote ratings. Landrieu is a moderate -- she has to be due to the Bayou State's clear Republican lean -- but still is far away from Vitter on most issues.

* North Carolina: One of the newly minted Mutt and Jeff pairings is in the Tarheel State -- represented by Sens. Richard Burr (R) and Kay Hagan (D). Burr put together the 12th most conservative record in the Senate in the 2008 National Journal vote ratings; Hagan is only in her sixth month in office but her voting record is likely to reflect the underlying demographic changes in North Carolina. North Carolina is also home to one of the great Mutt and Jeff pairings in recent political history: Sen. John Edwards (D) and Jesse Helms (R) who served together from 1998 until 2002.

Got other nominees either currently in the Senate or historic picks? The comments section awaits!

By Chris Cillizza  |  August 3, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Morning Fix: The Mac Attack is Back
Next: The Most Important Number in Politics Today


Heightwise, on the distaff side: the current California Senate delegation of Dianne Feinstein & Barbara Boxer.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | August 4, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Historical Mutt and Jeff:

Oklahoma from 1982 to 1994, David Boren (D) and Don Nickles (R).

And as an Oklahoman, I definitely agree that the Coburn and Inhofe team (a disastrous one, indeed) is definitely the most conservative duo in the current US Senate.

Posted by: maths887 | August 4, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | August 3, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

Nuts. FormerWyomingite beat me to it.



Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | August 3, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe I didn't think of this before as I think it might be a historical topper.

IDAHO, 1972 - 1980

James A. McClure
Frank Church



Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | August 3, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

"And since the conservative caucus has not moved from their small-government, low-taxes planks"

(pssst...lowering taxes doesn't make you "small government, low taxes" There's a first half to that.)

Posted by: DDAWD | August 3, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse


"Has the Senator [Voinovich] changed his positions, or has the caucus moved without him?"

Most of the issues where his votes have 'morphed' to the left over the past 5 years have been in the area of taxes, budget discipline, and other fiscal-related votes.

And since the conservative caucus has not moved from their small-government, low-taxes planks (although some of the GOP members have), I say it's safe to judge Voinovich as having abandoned conservative ideology, and not the other way around.

But hey, it probably got him invited to a few more cocktail parties with the inside-the-beltway elites, so I'm sure it was worth it for him.

Posted by: dbw1 | August 3, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Just came to think of Dennis DeConcini and Barry Goldwater of Arizona

Posted by: sai1 | August 3, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Ralph Yarborough and John Tower!

Posted by: sai1 | August 3, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Here's a golden oldie from Nevada: Howard Cannon/Paul Laxalt. Or one from the 94 GOP wipe out from my original home state of Michigan Abraham/Levin.

Posted by: leuchtman | August 3, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, The late Wayne Morse of Oregon transitioned from Republican to Independent to Democrat during his Senatorial career. He also had a small role in the musical film "Paint Your Wagon."

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | August 3, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

dbw1 writes
"Maybe that can be the next column, CC, to debate which Senator has moved the most ideologically over his/her career as a Senator. Voinovich moving 30 points to the left is pretty significant, so I think he would be a front-runner from the get-go."

Has the Senator changed his positions, or has the caucus moved without him?


Posted by: bsimon1 | August 3, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Late 90's Illinois with Dick Durbin (D) & Peter Fitzgerald (R)

Posted by: Arroyo2000 | August 3, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

the oldest delegation award

Well, once upon a time it was South Carolina, with Strom Thurmond and that young'un Fritz Hollings (also political opposites).

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | August 3, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Ohio's pair of Senators would have been up there as a Mutt & Jeff pairing (with Voinovich-R, and ultra-leftist Sherrod Brown-D), if this was done during George Voinovich's first term when he averaged a conservative rating of 80 (or liberal rating of 20, depending on how you want to look at it).

But in Voinovich's 2nd term, his conservative rating has dropped from 80 to 56....and he's only achieved a conservative rating of 50 over the past two years. Wonder if that has anything to do with his planned retirement next year?

Maybe that can be the next column, CC, to debate which Senator has moved the most ideologically over his/her career as a Senator. Voinovich moving 30 points to the left is pretty significant, so I think he would be a front-runner from the get-go.

Posted by: dbw1 | August 3, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

The Hawaiian senators were both born in 1924, Akaka serving since 1990, Inoue since 1963(!), Avg age: 84, Avg tenure: 32.

For youngest pair, MN may be in the running again with Klobuchar & Franken; though CO might have two with under a year...

Posted by: bsimon1 | August 3, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

"Anyone else have other ideas?"

I think Hawaii wins the oldest delegation award. Should they be called the Grumpy Old Men?

Posted by: bsimon1 | August 3, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Another Mutt n' Jeff politically and height-wise:

Bill Bradley (D) & Nicholas Brady (R) who served in the Senate for 8 months in 1982 before being appointed Treasury Secretary by President Reagan.

Posted by: bsimon1 | August 3, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I might have to go with Rufus King (who could forget the Navigation Act of 1818?) and Aaron Burr.

Opposites, yes. But boy those two could tear up the town!

Posted by: Bondosan | August 3, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Back in the 80's Alabama Far-Right Jeremiah Denton and Moderate- conservative Dem. Sen. Howell Heflin.

Posted by: MerrillFrank | August 3, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I'd say you can add:
- Martinez/Nelson- Florida.
- Domenici/Bingaman- New Mexico
- Dorgan/Conrad- North Dakota: although both are Dems, Conrad is very moderate & Dorgan is a liberal. Much different than Thune/Johnson, both quite conservative but just R/D. The Dakota's are interesting.

I'd say the most conservative US Senator's would be in Oklahoma: Coburn/Inhofe. Both are loved by conservatives & hated by liberals.

I'd say the most liberal US Senators would be in Vermont: Leahey/Sanders.

Anyone else have other ideas?

Posted by: reason5 | August 3, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

For 12 years, Pennsylvania had Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, polar opposites in the same party.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | August 3, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

That goes back to Wellstone / Grams.


Probably a good one, but I need data here! What are the numbers? Inquiring minds want to know!

Posted by: justmike | August 3, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

For the record, Ensign's affair wasn't with the wife of his former chief of staff. It would be more accurate to describe her as the wife of Ensign's THEN chief of staff.

Posted by: TeddySanFran | August 3, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Along the South Dakota line - Daschle and Pressler

Elsewhere - Bayh (either) and Lugar, Robb and John Warner, Danforth and Eagleton...

and one of the widest gaps in gravitas and image - John Glenn and Mike DeWine.

Posted by: MicahWatson | August 3, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

justmike writes
"Mutt and Jeff were a tall guy and a short guy, respectively."

That goes back to Wellstone / Grams.

Posted by: bsimon1 | August 3, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: onestring | August 3, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

How about McConnell and Bunning, politically aligned but IQ opposites?

Posted by: paulco | August 3, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

The Rocky Mountain West used to be full of Mutt & Jeff pairings - often a populist/labor Democrat with a hard-right GOP rancher or mineral-industry tool. To wit:

Montana: Max Baucus - Conrad Burns

Idaho: Frank Church - Jim McClure

Wyoming: Gale McGee - Cliff Hansen

Colorado: Gary Hart/Tim Wirth - Bill Armstrong

New Mexico: Jeff Bingaman - Pete Domenici

With some states now becoming more Democratic (NM,Colorado, Montana), while others (Idaho, Wyoming) have swung farther right, these kinds of pairing are becoming more rare, unfortunately. As a reporter who covered the region back in those days, I can say this: They were fun while they lasted!

Posted by: formerWyomingite | August 3, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

No doubt Rockefeller is the tallest, but I haven't been able to find out how tall Byrd is. At 91, he's probably shrinking by the day, though.

Posted by: justmike | August 3, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

If the criteria is now TALL/short, WV may have it. Rockefeller and Byrd.

Posted by: jmsbh | August 3, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

What about Spector and Santorum from PA of years past

Posted by: Larsen770 | August 3, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Mutt and Jeff were a tall guy and a short guy, respectively. They never had any political opinions that I know of. Since the gamut of point-counterpoint senators has already been run here, I move that we try to find which state has the biggest height difference between its two current senators. Maryland came to mind because Barbara Mikulski is only 4'11", but unfortunately Ben Cardin is only 5'5" (I called his office). I've been trying to find a list of current senators by height, but no luck so far. Anyone have any ideas?

Posted by: justmike | August 3, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

For a historical nominee, how about Joe Biden and William Roth (author of the Reagan-era tax cuts) in the 1990's? It seems like a long time ago, but Delaware used to be the ultimate swing state.

Posted by: byelin1 | August 3, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse


As a person whose mother still lives in Phil Gramm's old congressional district, the Texas 6th, I love your description of him, although I think moral midgets everywhere will be insulted by the association. (After all, we have become a nation of whiners.)

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | August 3, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Texas struck again from 1984-1993 with:
Lloyd Millard Bentsen, Jr. [D]

and [the moral midget]:
William Philip Gramm [R].

Posted by: mark_in_austin | August 3, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Mutt and Jeff were cartoon characters into the '50s - one was very tall and one was very short. It was a [not] funny comic.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | August 3, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

the mighty Senator Bill Proxmire and the nitwit Bob Kasten from Wisconsin.

Posted by: rufkd | August 3, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

historically, from my native Alabama, John J Sparkman, chair of Foreign Relations in the 70s with white hair out of Central Casting and James Allen, the ugliest Senator ever who wanted an apology from Panama for wanting their canal back.

Posted by: rufkd | August 3, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

who is Mutt and Jeff?... I know I could Google it but I really hate it when 80 year old, so-called journalists reference something from another era and don't elaborate.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | August 3, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

1961-1970 Yarborough and Tower

Ralph Webster Yarborough was a leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic party in Texas. As a U.S. senator, he was a staunch supporter of "Great Society" legislation that encompassed Medicare and Medicaid, the War on Poverty, federal support for higher education and veterans. He co-wrote the Endangered Species Act and was the only southern senator to vote for all civil rights bills from 1957 to 1970 (including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act).

During his first term, John Goodwin Tower was the only Republican Senator from the South until the defection in 1964 of Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. During this time, he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | August 3, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Historical: Late 1970's Early 1980's:
California: Alan Cranston (D) S. I. Hayakawa (R) They didn't come any more liberal than Cranston nor any more conservative than Hayawaka

Posted by: jlgreenspan | August 3, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Although Strom Thurmond had a ten year head start, Fritz Hollings held on for 38 years in South Carolina, one of the most conservative states in the country (winning the record the longest serving junior senator in history).

Posted by: adenotriphosphate | August 3, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde in CA: Boxer the monster and her foil Feinstein.

Posted by: kenpasadena | August 3, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

How about Florida with Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson, or south Dakota with Thune and Johnson?

Posted by: AndyR3 | August 3, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

And yet Grassley nearly voted for Sotomayor(publicly admitting he was scared off by the base) and is a key figure in health care reform. So, McCain, how do you see Obama as wildly partisan?

Posted by: parkerfl1 | August 3, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Missouri: Moderate-Liberal Dem. Claire McCaskill and Conservative-Confused Rep. Kit Bond.

Posted by: scribe7716 | August 3, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Not a current pairing....but Minnesota had both Paul Wellstone and Rod Grams in the Senate at the same time from 1995-01.

Posted by: natewilliams1 | August 3, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

"And of course Edwards had no lasting power, and Helms had too much."

I don't think Edwards ever lost his seat, right? He just decided to give it up. That's how Burr got his seat.

Posted by: DDAWD | August 3, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

My vote is for NY with Moynihan and Senator Al "Pothole" D'Amato. Never has such an policy intellectual Giant and Statesman served with such a constituent oriented, filibustering, "lightweight."

Posted by: jacketpotato | August 3, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The Jesse Helms/John Edwards dichotomy is boggling. And of course Edwards had no lasting power, and Helms had too much.

I think The Fix needs to run a very partisan "who deserved to be tossed in a dumpster?" project. Each side gets to pick who, from the other side, they would most like to see in a dumpster. Helms would be right up there at the top of any Democrat's list.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | August 3, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Seems like SC has two about as far apart as you can get and still be in the same party, that should count for something.

Posted by: jtbarron | August 3, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Most of the Republicans in the Senate are mutts.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | August 3, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company