Government Bytes


Republican Presidential Primary Contenders‘ Ratings on Taxpayer Issues

by Douglas Kellogg / /

The Iowa and New Hampshire primaries are fast approaching, andfrom there the Republican primary race will swiftly move on to South Carolinaand Florida. 

Although the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) does not endorse Presidential candidates, citizensand media inside and outside of these key battleground states have expressedinterest in NTU’s Congressional Rating data for those Republican hopefuls whohave served as federal lawmakers. And now their fiscal records are neatlysummarized here!

Unlike some groups who look at only a handful of “keyvotes,” NTU’s Rating assesses the fiscal record of Members of Congress bylooking at every single roll call vote affecting taxes, spending, andsignificant regulation. We then weight each vote from 1 to 100 based onimportance (with 1 being a program of little significance, and 100 beingsomething like the recent health care bill or the TARP bailout). Each Member’sroll call votes are then compared against our list, resulting in percentagescores on a scale of 1-100. A 100% score (which has never been achieved in thehistory of our Rating) would indicate that a Member supported the pro-taxpayerposition on every vote. NTU did not start issuing letter grades to betterinterpret scores until 1992. 


Career Avg. Score

Grade Avg. (Post-1992)

Chamber Avg. Score

Party Avg. Score

Newt Gingrich





Ron Paul





Rick Santorum





Michele Bachmann





***Chart organized by length of service & seniority***

It is important to note the difference between a given candidate’spro-taxpayer score and the chamber’s and party’s performance - averages of whichare provided for each candidate during the years they were in Congress. This isbecause some Congresses are significantly more pro-taxpayer than others. The104th Congress is a good example, as the influx of conservativemembers from the 1994 “Republican Revolution” led to a much more conservativeCongress, on average. Thus, the difference between the chamber and partyaverages and the Member’s average score is instructive as to how a recordstacks up against their contemporaries.

Also of note, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have votingsessions where their scores were calculated based on very few votes. Gingrich’sscore from 1995 to 1998 was dependent on a small number of issues, since asSpeaker of the House he voted relatively rarely and at his own discretion. RonPaul’s attendance for votes was lower than average in 1984. Finally, RickSantorum’s scores include time in both the House and Senate.

NTU has no data on candidates who have not served inCongress, like Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney. Resources andcommentaries on their fiscal records over the years can be found via the Cato Institute, Citizens for Limited Taxation in Massachusetts,Texans for Fiscal Responsibility,and the Utah Taxpayers Association,among others.

Of course, this snapshot can’t portray the ups and downs ofannual scores and grades. To access NTU’s Rating of Congress database click HERE.