Moderates


Over at American Legislatures, I have a new post about Governor Chris Cristie’s choices for a replacement nomination for US Senate in New Jersey. Three of the top choices from the state legislature–Tom Keane, Joe Kyrillos, and Jon Bramnick–are current state legislators who are near the center of their party in the state (with Bramnick slightly more to the left).

The punchline, though, is that New Jersey Republicans are amongst the most moderate in the country:

npat_boxplot_states_parties_nj

I estimate that they would probably vote like Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins once in Congress.

 

I recently posted the graph of my estimates of the two parties’ congressional candidates. In that post, I wanted to emphasize that moderation still exists, even in this polarized age. To highlight that point and make the plots prettier, I smoothed out the distributions.

However, that smoothing hid another very interesting take-home point from the 2012 candidate scores. There appears to be evidence of bimodality (two peaks) not only across the parties—that’s good old polarization—but also within the parties. Here are the unsmoothed plots that make that clear:

cands_house2012

cands_senate2012

No, those aren’t Halloween ghosts. It looks like both parties have two distinct wings, a moderate one and an extreme one. This visual inspection is backed up by test statistics from the Hartigan dip test for unimodality.

Feel free to download the estimates for all the 2012 congressional candidates here. The explanation of how I generated them is here.

We haven’t seen this before in roll call-based ideal point estimates, and I don’t think I’ve seen it before in previous years’ survey estimates (this is something I need to go back and check). So this could be something new under the political sun.

What could be causing this? Perhaps new electoral forces like the Tea Party on the right and Occupy Wall Street on the left are forcing candidates to pay lip service to dogma in some new way. And what happens after the election? Will this internal schism go away? Or does this presage a new battle between liberal liberals and liberal moderates, and between conservative conservatives and conservative moderates?

Your guess is as good as mine, though. Any ideas?

 

Earlier, I wrote about the likely Republican moderates that stood a good chance of winning office, swept along by what became the tidal wave election of 2010. I identified them in two different ways. First, their previous voting record either in state legislative or congressional office, which my research concludes is a powerful predictor of their likely voting record in Congress. Second, the liberal tendencies of their district, which is a powerful pull on members, irrespective of their personal philosophy. I have considerably more confidence in the first, however.

A bunch of moderates on my original list lost. Jeff Perry (MA-10), Dan Debicella (CT-4), Sam Caligiuri (CT-5), Scott Bruun (OR-5) were the former state legislators who all lost. Of candidates in liberal districts, Ruth McClung (AZ-7) likely has lost.

The following list contains those who won. I added two more representatives, Bob Dold in IL-10, and Chip Cravaack in MN-8. Dold is new because he won Mark Kirk’s old district, and I was only counting pickups last time. Cravaack is new, as I didn’t expect that he’d actually defeat Democratic institution Oberstar. But both are in quite Democratic districts, and will keep that in mind when they start thinking about re-election (likely on their first day in Washington).

Former legislators (High Confidence of Moderation):

  1. NH-2 (D+3): Former (and moderate) US Representative Charlie Bass won this open seat rural district that also includes Nashua and Concord.
  2. NV-3 (D+2): Former state Senator and physician Joe Heck won this suburban Las Vegas district that leans Democratic, currently represented by incumbent Dina Titus. Heck was a moderate-to-liberal Republican in the state legislature, with two-thirds of his copartisans more conservative than him. Compare that to Sharron Angle, who was the most conservative state legislator in Nevada over the past decade.
  3. PA-08 (D+2): Former US Representative Mike Fitzpatrick defeated incumbent Patrick Murphy. During his time in Congress, Fitzpatrick compiled a rather liberal voting record, on par with Chris Shays of Connecticut, and more liberal than Joseph Cao’s.
  4. IL-14 (R+1): State Senator Randy Hultgren is won this Northern Illinois district that is currently represented by Democrat Bill Foster. In the Illinois state legislature, Hultgren compiled a conservative-for-Illinois record, that in national terms is moderate-to-liberal, or about where Scott Brown is.

No legislative experience (Medium Confidence of Moderation):

  1. IL-10 (D+6): Bob Dold beat 3-time candidate Dan Seals in this liberal district containing Chicago’s Northern Shore suburbs. It was previously represented by moderate Mark Kirk, who just won Obama’s old Senate seat.
  2. CA-20 (D+5): Farmer Andy Vidak has very likely beat liberal incumbent Jim Costa in this highly Democratic district covering Fresno and Kings County, following a new SurveyUSA poll that puts him up 10.
  3. PA-11 (D+4): Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta defeated Paul Kanjorski in this district that includes Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.
  4. IL-17 (D+3): Pizza businessman Bobby Schilling is won this district in Western Illinois that stretches all the way to Aurora and Elgin. The current incumbent is two-term Phil Hare.
  5. PA-07 (D+3): Prosecutor Pat Meehan beat former state legislator and prosecutor Bryan Lentz in this suburban Delaware County district, formerly held by Joe Sestak who defeated Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary this year.
  6. WI-07 (D+3): Prosecutor (and former reality star) Sean Duffy won in this rural western Wisconsin district, after four-decade incumbent David Obey retired.
  7. MN-8 (D+3): Pilot Chip Cravaack defeated incumbent Jim Oberstar, who had represented the district since 1975.

Overall, we have 11 new moderates elected from the more than 60 newly elected Republican representatives. That’s not a trivial amount, but neither is it nonexistent. Not all the Republicans of the class of 2010 are hard core conservatives.

One thing that struck me on this list is the presence of Illinois and Pennsylvania, each with three new probable moderates. Incidentally, I met the Illinois three on a taping on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight program, where I talked about the election with longtime host Phil Ponce. You can see them here.

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