If the 2016 GOP presidential field includes both Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, there won’t be much room to their political right. The latest congressional scorecard from Club for Growth, the influential conservative pressure group, shows those two senators ranked among the most conservative lawmakers in the Senate last year.
Paul was one of three U.S. senators to score a perfect 100 percent rating from the Club in 2012, along with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who resigned his seat to take charge of the Heritage Foundation. Trailing close behind was Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who scored a 97 percent.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., who used to lead the Club, scored a 93 percent. Rubio scored a 91 percent, ranking as the seventh most conservative senator in 2012 – in a surprising tie with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (who has a lower lifetime rating).
In the House, three Republicans scored a perfect 100 percent in the Club’s 2012 rankings: Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Paul Broun of Georgia. Huelskamp, in particular, has been an irritant for the House GOP leadership, repeatedly bucking the wishes of party leaders.
The rankings could be worth a lot more than a press release for some Republicans. The Club for Growth has taken an active role in GOP primaries, with its independent expenditure arm spending nearly $18 million in the last election cycle. The group helped propel Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas past a heated Republican primary; it also helped Richard Mourdock unseat former Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana, which ultimately cost Republicans the seat. (Lugar ranked as the 40th most conservative senator in the Club’s 2012 scorecard.)
How conservative – or moderate – a Republican ranks in the Club’s ratings is a good indication of whether the group could wade into a future primary. Broun, for instance, is running for an open Senate seat in Georgia in 2014.
The other potential GOP congressional candidates for that seat include Rep. Jack Kingston (who scored a 85 percent), Rep. Phil Gingrey (89 percent) and Rep. Tom Price (86 percent).