And even an Associated Press article from late 2007 titled “Obama’s Record May Be A Gold Mine For Critics” stated that his legislative career was “focused more on building consensus to improve the justice system and aid the poor” than fighting opponents on hot-button issues.
“Well, I don’t think [Obama’s state Senate career] was covered at all in the 2008 race; it was one of the disappointments I had with the press coverage,” Republican state Sen. Steve Rauchenberger, who left office in 2007, told TheDC. “Just like he got a fairly soft review when he ran for the United States Senate.”
“State Sen. Barack Obama was a relatively disengaged legislator,” Rauchenberger added. “He seemed to focus more on his lecturing at the University of Chicago at the law school and local politics and perhaps congressional ambitions than he did on public policy in the State of Illinois.”
“That strikes me, from what I know of Barack Obama’s time in the state senate, as just being pure mythology and pure public relations invention,” Kohn told TheDC when asked about press accounts of Obama’s tenure in Springfield.
Perhaps Obama’s best-known and most controversial votes during his time in the state Senate were the ones he cast against the Infant Born Alive Protection Act, which would have mandated care for children who were delivered after an unsuccessful late-term abortion.
At the time, Obama argued that the bill was unconstitutional and would serve to undercut the Roe v. Wade decision, and questioned whether hospitals were actually allowing infants to die after failed abortions. He voted “present” on the legislation and changed his vote to “no” the following year.
Obama also voted “present” — and then, later, “no” — on bills that would have outlawed so-called “partial-birth” abortions in Illinois unless the life of the mother was threatened, and “no” on two bills that would have prohibited the use of state funds to pay for abortions. He voted “present” on a parental-notification law for minors seeking abortions.
The “present” votes, he later explained to Illinois Planned Parenthood CEO Pam Sutherland, were a strategy “to protect members [of the state Senate] and women.”
“What it did,” Sutherland told ABC News, “was give cover to moderate Democrats who wanted to vote with us but were afraid to do so. … A ‘present’ vote would protect them. Your senator voted ‘present.’ Most of the electorate is not going to know what that means.”
Obama’s flawless pro-choice voting record earned him a 100 percent approval rating from Planned Parenthood, which remains one of the most powerful organizations in Democratic politics at both the state and local level.
Other Obama votes that would appear to put him outside the mainstream of majority opinion on hot-button issues include his record on criminal enforcement, which received far less attention despite stories on his potentially problematic record, most notably in The Hill newspaper.
Chicago is currently caught in its worst wave of gang-related violence in decades. Despite having some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, at least 240 people were shot dead in the first half of 2012 alone, a number far outpacing the number of Americans killed in combat in Afghanistan over the same period. Fatal stabbings, meanwhile, are up 78 percent since 2011.