Sunday, May 03, 2009

Replacing Boswell By The Numbers

Replacing Boswell By The Numbers

Congressional vote rating site Progressive Punch has added a new measurement to its cluster of counts that illustrates even more clearly why Leonard Boswell neds to be replaced though retirement or primary.

The new measure is called "Progressive Score vs. District Tilt," and it looks at the partisan leanings of a district compared to the member's voting record. It's a five star system, with more stars being better.

Progressive Punch argues that a member from a strong Democratic district should be voting progressive at least 83.33 percent of the time. The scale drops to 70% for a member from a deep red district. This give a break to someone like Timothy Bishop of New York, who has only an 85.5% progressive record but comes from a swing seat. He gets all five stars, whereas Debbie Wasserman Schultz, with a similar record but a solid Dem district, gets only three.

The scale tends to lose meaning near the top, with the usual cluster of urban districts. Only 29 members get all five stars; even Speaker Pelosi gets only four.

Things get more interesting as you move down the scale. Iowa's top member is Dave Loebsack at number 128, near the middle of the House Democratic caucus. He has a lifetime score 0f 80.25 on "critical progressive votes" from a strong Democratic district. Punch thinks he should be at 83.33, so Loebsack's score is -3.05 for a two star "tolerable."

Bruce Braley is number 154. He's at -7.28 for a one star "intolerable." A harsh description, but even Dennis Kucinich rates only an "acceptable" three stars. The number is what's significant.

And by the numbers, Leonard Boswell is near the bottom of the Democratic list, number 194 of 221 ranked Democrats (freshmen aren't listed). With a Leaning Democratic district, Boswell should be at 80 percent progressive. Instead, his lifetime record on crucial votes is only 64.06, for a score of -15.96.

But if you put Leonard into Steve King's district, where he lived before he carpetbagged into Des Moines, without changing his voting behavior (which he should), the bar for Boswell drops from the 80 percent mark to 70 percent. That moves his score up from a -16 to a -6 and his rank up to about 150th, better than Braley. Still a harsh one star, but even Progressive Punch acknowledges that “'intolerable' members from Strong Republican districts probably aren’t worth fighting with."

But intolerable members from good Democratic districts are worth the fight. Braley may just need a nudge from time to time, but Boswell is a lost cause. This measuring system, more than anything else I've found, explains plainly why Leonard Boswell needs replacement. Iowa 3 is electing a member who votes like someone from a deep red seat like Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota or Chet Edwards of Texas. Des Moines doesn't have to settle for a Blue Dog. They should be able to sustain someone with an 80 score like Robert Wexler or Kendrick Meek of Florida or... lookee here, Dave Loebsack.

One interesting quirk of the scoring: Steve King is actually not Iowa's worst member under this system, because his district is so awful. He ranks at number 300, but Tom Latham, from a swing district, is number 368, or number 8 from the bottom, with a whopping -75 points. Latham is seen as "more moderate" because he's not prone to King's type of rhetorical excess, but his actual voting record is just as bad.

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