Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Re: Gabrielle Giffords and Political Courage

If I may put one-plus-one together here: Seth Masket pays tribute to the political courage of Gabrielle Giffords:

She represents a district that McCain won in 2008 and surely was aware that Republicans would be devoting considerable funds to defeating her. Nonetheless, she voted for TARP, cap and trade, the stimulus, and health care reform, and she still managed to retain her seat last year. That certainly merits some sort of mention.

Whoa. It sure does. More than those of us who don't study political science for a living (as Masket does) might recognize.  In the aftermath of the last election, political scientists Brendan Nyhan, Eric McGhee and John Sides took a dive into the data and found that what hurt individual House Democrats most was votes on precisely those four bills:

We counted the number of these measures supported by each Democratic incumbent and then estimated the effect of this support on their election conditional on the partisanship of the member’s district (controlling for other factors). The simple answer: these roll call votes mattered. A lot. A Democratic incumbent in the average district represented by Democratic incumbents actually lost about two-thirds of a percentage point for every yes vote. Democrats in the least Democratic districts, such as Chet Edwards of Texas or Gene Taylor of Mississippi, lost about 4 percent for every yes vote.

McCain carried Giffords' district 52-46%, so it was hardly an "average" Democratic district. Figure those four votes may have cost her 4 percentage points in 2010, about 10,000 votes in a district that cast approximately 273,000. Giffords beat Tea Partyer (and gun fetishist) Jesse Kelly by about 3500 votes, 49-47%.

Under the circumstances, we'll have to cut her a little slack for boasting about her prowess with a Glock 9.

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