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Monday, January 4, 2010

Alabama Has Three of the Nation's "Least Valuable Democrats"

Political analyst Nate Silver has a background as a baseball statistician. And December is the month when baseball announces most of its top awards--Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year, etc.

So it makes sense that Silver recently came up with a ranking of the most and least valuable Democrats in Congress. It also makes sense that Alabama would have three representatives on Silver's "least valuable" team, including No. 1 (Artur Davis) and No. 3 (Parker Griffith).

Griffith, of course, no longer is a Democrat, and his defection to the Republican Party helped inspire Silver's ranking.

How does Silver come up with his rankings? He explains:

I have, therefore, compiled roll call votes on ten key pieces of legislation--in my opinion, the ten most important pieces of legislation--that came before the House of Representatives this year. These items are: the stimulus package, the FY 2010 budget, the health care bill, the Stupak Amendment to the health care bill, the jobs bill, the financial regulation package, the cap-and-trade bill, the Fair Pay Act, the Guantanamo detainee transfer vote, and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was attached to a defense appropriations bill. This is a little heavy on economic policy versus social policy or foreign policy, but that's how the House's agenda been this year. The Democrats won each of these votes in the House, except for the Stupak Amendment, although several of the policies have yet to pass the Senate.

Then, as statisticians are prone to do, Silver crunches some numbers:

What I then did was to run a logistic regression for each vote, comparing each representative's vote to his predicted vote based on his district's PVI. For example, a congressman in a district with a PVI of R+6 had a .37 likelihood (37% chance) of voting for the stimulus package. A congressman from such a district who voted for the stimulus package would be rated positively for his vote: specifically he'd receive a score of 1 less .37, or +.63. If the congressman voted against the stimulus package, on the other hand, he'd receive a score of -.37. I then added up each representative's score across all 10 votes.

How bad have Alabama's Democrats been, in terms of their party's values? Silver spotlights them on his "least valuable" list:

Topping the list is Artur Davis of Alabama, who comes from a D+18 district but yet has voted against his party on health care, detainees, cap-and-trade and Stupak. Fortunately, Democrats won't have to primary him--he's quitting the Congress to run for governor--but he's doing a fair amount of damage in the meantime. Following Davis is John Barrow of Georgia, who has been the subject of a primary challenge before. Then there's our good friend Parker Griffith, who voted against the Democrats on all ten bills--fellow Alabaman Bobby Bright (who I'd give 60/40 odds of also joining the Republicans) was the only other Democrat to have done so.

Maybe this should be our new state motto--"Alabama: We Have the Most Worthless Democrats in the Country."

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