Below we plot the ideological positions of the 2016 presidential contenders who have served in Congress at some point in their political careers. We use weekly Common Space DW-NOMINATE scores, which are compiled based on the entirety of legislators’ roll call voting records and comparable between House and Senate, as our measures of ideological position. The distribution of scores for House and Senate Democrats and Republicans in the current (114th) Congress are also shown with smoothed histograms.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is certainly in the left-wing of the Democratic Party and to the left of former Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), but is not the most liberal member of the 114th Senate. That distinction belongs to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (though the most liberal member of the entire 114th Congress is Rep. Barbara Lee [D-CA]). Former Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) is well to the right of Sanders and Clinton, and would be among the most moderate Democrats in the current Congress were he still serving.
Among the Republican contenders, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have nearly identical ideological scores that place them on the most rightward edge of their party. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is among the more conservative members of his party, but noticeably to the left of Cruz and Paul. Former Reps. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and John Kasich (R-OH) have ideological scores that place them on the moderate side of their party (at least in the 114th Congress).