McCain: The Measure of a Maverick

by Henry Farrell on October 22, 2008

Charles Doriean has written a new and topical paper with Scott Page seeking to measure the maverickyness of John McCain as a senator. They’ve asked me to publish it on CT – the PDF version is “here”: and a Flash embedded version is beneath the fold. In the authors’ description:

A maverick, … can be defined as someone who surprises us by voting against their party as often as they do, given their ideology. To determine whether a senator is a maverick (and how much of a maverick they are,) all we need to do is figure out how often we expect that senator to support their party, and then see how often they actually do support their party. The difference between the expectation and the reality can be called a “maverick measure.”

Under this definition, John McCain is very definitely a maverick. Indeed, he’s the seventh most mavericky Senator since 1877. However, he isn’t the most mavericky Senator in recent history; that honour goes to Lincoln Chafee, who comes in at number three. Also, McCain-ites who want to embrace this result should note that it is based on the same kind of measures of ideology (DW-Nominate scores) that have been “used to show”: that Barack Obama, _contra_ the _National Journal_ and Republican mythology, is not (for better or worse) the most liberal Senator by a significant stretch.

Cross-posted at “The Monkey Cage”:
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Pulling the plug?

by Henry Farrell on October 22, 2008

From a short “NYT piece”: on the shrinking McCain advertising budget in swing states.

But the McCain campaign also needs the extra money to keep up with its current plans, due to a quiet decision it has made that most voters will hardly notice. Until now, the campaign has been teaming up with the Republican National Committee to jointly produce a large percentage of its advertisements. By sharing the costs down the middle, Team McCain has been able to basically double the amount of advertisements it can run for its money. This is all legal: campaigns are allowed to split the costs of their ads with their affiliated parties. But there’s a catch: The spots must serve not only their campaigns but also the collective agendas of their congressional colleagues.

Such advertisements – known in the political business as “hybrids” – tend to garble a presidential candidate’s message. So, for instance, a spot attacking Mr. Obama also has included references to “liberals in Congress’’ and figures like Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, who is not as well known to everyday voters.

The campaign has started to phase out those ads in these final days, deciding to stick to advertisements it can devote fully to Mr. McCain’s campaign message. That will greatly disadvantage Mr. McCain as he struggles to keep up with the far better funded Mr. Obama. But Mr. McCain’s aides have clearly decided a trade of volume for greater clarity is worth it.

Now this is one possible interpretation of what is going on. But while mixed messages are a significant problem, I (as an admitted naif on these issues) would have thought that getting completely swamped by your opponent’s advertising is a rather bigger one. Isn’t a more plausible interpretation of this decision that the RNC are finally “pulling the plug”: on their subsidization of the McCain campaign, and the McCain folks are trying to put the best face that they can on it?