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Bill Adair
By Bill Adair August 23, 2008

Cherry-picking McCain's record

At a rally celebrating his selection as Sen. Barack Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden invoked a line from the Obama playbook that seeks to link Sen. John McCain to President Bush.

"You can't change America when you supported George Bush's policies 95 percent of the time," Biden said of McCain.

Biden is guilty of some cherry-picking here.

He is right that McCain voted with the Bush administration 95 percent of the time in 2007, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly. But he fails to mention the year, as Obama did when we gave him a True in June, and Biden conveniently leaves out other years when McCain's support for Bush was lower.

The number comes from CQ's "presidential support" score, which rates how often lawmakers back or oppose the president.

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One caveat: McCain missed more than half the votes on which Bush had a position, as he campaigned for the White House. But repeated votes on immigration and the Iraq war — two issues on which he was closely allied with Bush — as well as the filibuster votes helped elevate McCain from one of the president's chief adversaries three years ago to one of his biggest supporters.

McCain's 95 percent score was the high-water mark of his presidential support during President Bush's tenure, and was partly a reflection of the new political calculus in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

But other years, McCain's rating was lower. He supported Bush as infrequently as 77 percent of the time in 2005, and backed the president's position an average of 89 percent of the time since 2001. By congressional standards, that's solidly partisan, but hardly marching in lockstep.

Biden would have been right if, like Obama, he mentioned the year. But he didn't and gave a misleading picture of McCain's support for Bush. That sounds Half True to us.

Our Sources

New York Times, Transcript of Biden remarks in Springfield, Ill., Aug. 23, 2008

CQ Weekly, "The Power of No: His Agenda Stymied, President Bush Used a Veto Pen and GOP Support to Frustrate Democrats," by Clea Benson, Jan. 14, 2008

CQ Weekly, "The Space Between Them," David Nather, Jan. 14, 2008

2006 CQ Almanac, 2006 Vote Studies

CQ Weekly, "2007 Vote Studies," Jan. 14, 2008

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