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Sep. 30 is one of the most important days of the election cycle. The reason why: it's the last FEC-required quarterly campaign finance disclosure day before the election, after which inside-the-Beltway types with the national committees and third-party groups take stock of how various candidates having been faring on the fundraising front. That (along with polling, of course) becomes the basis for who they support, and since they have a lot more money to bring to bear than do individual donors, that's crucial in determining who actually makes it across the finish line in November.

So with that in mind, who should get our netroots dollars? Daily Kos has endorsed a number of candidates, including through our Speaker Pelosi Project, which is an excellent starting point for finding an array of progressive House candidates to give to. In the past few weeks, I've also published several diaries that try to help quantify the contribution decision, including how to find the races in the media markets that offer the most bang-for-the-buck, and looking at races in Obama-majority districts that have flown below the radar this cycle.

But the questions that some of you may be asking, that neither of those diaries answered, may be "Who's most progressive? How do I get as many progressives as possible into office?" Quantifying 'progressiveness' is easier said than done, but there are several vote aggregators who provide that service. (There isn't total unanimity in their findings, but there's enough consensus among them that it's easy to tell progressives from New Dems from Blue Dogs, and establishment Republicans from wack-a-doodles.)

By looking at those ratings, we can make contribution decisions based on actual past voting records, instead of just on campaign platitudes. We can choose to contribute to the most progressive Democrats... or we can turn that on its head, and contribute to the opponent of the most objectionable Republicans. In fact, where possible, we can place the two candidates side by side, and make our decisions based on which races have the widest numeric gulf between the Dem and the GOPer.

Unfortunately, vote aggregators are helpful only to the extent that a candidate has previously served in the Senate or House; if a candidate has only been a governor, state legislator, or hasn't been elected before at all, then there's no data. However, where the data is available, I've included it for every candidate in every Senate race that we at Daily Kos Elections have deemed competitive.

Note that I've arranged the races into their Tossup, Lean, and Likely categories; the competitiveness should factor into your decision too. A "Likely Dem" race is almost certainly going to go in the Dem direction, for instance; a "Tossup" race is too close to call and will be one of the races that will be the tipping point on who has the Senate majority next year. While the Tossup races are probably the most important, the other races can and should be part of a contributor's "portfolio" if you have money to spread around, and if there are races that you find especially compelling because of one or both candidates.

Likely D Lean D Tossup Lean R Likely R
NJ-Sen: Menendez
 -.391 (16/101)
PA-Sen: Casey
 -.355 (23/101)
WA-Sen: Cantwell
 -.306 (32/101)
WV-Sen: Manchin
 -.144 (53/101)
HI-Sen: Hirono
 -.555 (32/436)
OH-Sen: Brown
 -.478 (5/101)
MI-Sen: Stabenow
 -.347 (25/101)
NM-Sen: Heinrich
 -.307 (163/436)
FL-Sen: Nelson
 -.195 (49/101)
NM-Sen: Wilson
 .430 (House 07-08)
MI-Sen: Hoekstra
.511 (House 09-10)
FL-Sen: Mack
 .596 (385/436)
WI-Sen: Baldwin
-.603 (19/436)
CT-Sen: Murphy
-.350 (143/436)
NV-Sen: Berkley
-.335 (150/436)
MT-Sen: Tester:
-.278 (38/101)
MO-Sen: McCaskill
-.177 (52/101)
MA-Sen: Brown
.140 (57/101)
MT-Sen: Rehberg
.357 (249/436)
ND-Sen: Berg
.384 (262/436)
VA-Sen: Allen
.407 (Senate 07-08)
NV-Sen: Heller
.475 (316/436)
MO-Sen: Akin
.623 (397/436)
IN-Sen: Donnelly
-.132 (191/436)
AZ-Sen: Flake
.988 (436/436)
If you're wondering about the mysterious numbers after each candidate, these are DW/Nominate scores. These rate members of Congress on a scale of -1 (most liberal) to 1 (most conservative), considering all votes without cherry-picking, synthesizing how all members act in relation to all other members. Because of the sheer amount of data they consider, they're one of the best-regarded aggregators... but because their ratings are kind of opaque, I'm also including their rank ordering for members within their chambers. As you see above, for instance, Sherrod Brown is the 5th most liberal Senator in the past two years, while Rep. Mazie Hirono, running for the open Senate seat in Hawaii, was the 32nd most liberal Representative. (If you're wondering why they total up to 101 and 436, it's because they have scores in a few cases for different persons who occupied the same seat both before and after a special election.)

One advantage of DW/Nominate scores are that they're designed to be able to generalize from the Senate to the House, and also from one cycle to another. So, as you can see, I can still incorporate people who haven't been in the House (Heather Wilson) or Senate (George Allen) in a number of years. (Rank ordering would be an apples-to-oranges comparison for them, though, so I don't scale them from 1 to 101.) While I often like using Progressive Punch scores for projects like this (since they're more intuitive to understand, their main advantage over DW/N scores), they don't make scores available for previous cycles.

So, you'll notice that there are six Senate races where we have enough data where we can actually do the side-by-side comparison and see which races would move the needle from right to left the most:

Michigan: Hoekstra .511 minus Stabenow -.347 = .858
Nevada: Heller .475 minus Berkley -.335 = .810
Missouri: Akin .623 minus McCaskill -.177 = .800
Florida: Mack .596 minus Nelson -.195 = .741
New Mexico: Wilson .430 minus Heinrich -.307 = .737
Montana: Rehberg .357 minus Tester -.278 = .635
Interestingly, despite how off-the-deep-end Todd Akin has lately revealed himself to be, Missouri doesn't have the biggest disparity. Claire McCaskill's centrism (she's right at the Senate's midpoint) narrows the gap a bit. (The same applies in Florida, where Connie Mack IV is pretty hard-right but Bill Nelson's also in the middle.) Instead, there are bigger gaps in Michigan and Nevada, where Pete Hoekstra and Dean Heller are a little closer to the establishment end of the GOP, but where Debbie Stabenow and Shelley Berkley are also more liberal.

It's also quite possible that some of the other races for which we don't have data could present an even bigger gap. Tammy Baldwin, for instance, is one of the House's most liberal Democrats, at -.603; as long as Tommy Thompson (who was Governor, but never a Rep. or Senator) would pencil out to a score of around .200 or worse, that would be the biggest disparity. (.200 would imply a moderate Republican; while Thompson doesn't have a reputation as a firebreather -- which is why he barely won the GOP primary -- he's not that moderate.) On the other hand, consider Scott Brown, one of the least conservative GOP Senators at .140; while Elizabeth Warren is no doubt very liberal, she'd need to clock in around -.670 (higher than any current Senator, including Bernie Sanders) to top the chart.

Finally, consider Arizona, where DW/Nominate ranks Rep. Jeff Flake as the most conservative member of the House. (That's quite different from many other aggregators, who tend to put him closer to the middle; that's because he's pretty libertarian-flavored, tending to be laissez-faire on social issues but a super-hard-liner on budget issues.) Even if Dem challenger Richard Carmona turns out to be the Senate's biggest Blue Dog, they'd still have the biggest disparity of all, thanks to Flake's off-the-charts score.

Let's turn to the House races over the fold...

Likely D Lean D Tossup Lean R Likely R
CA-03: Garamendi
 -.501 (55/436)
NY-17: Lowey
-.418 (111/436)
IA-01: Braley
-.386 (126/436)
FL-09: Grayson
-.384 (House 09-10)
IA-02: Loebsack
-.340 (147/436)
WV-03: Rahall
-.332 (151/436)
MN-01: Walz
-.318 (160/436)
ME-02: Michaud
-.306 (165/436)
CT-04: Himes
-.258 (173/436)
CA-16: Costa
-.213 (183/436)
IL-08: Walsh
.719 (422/436)
NY-25: Slaughter
 -.499 (56/436)
CA-24: Capps
-.430 (104/436)
NY-01: Bishop
-.370 (135/436)
CO-07: Perlmutter
-.328 (153/436)
NY-24: Maffei
-.282 (House 09-10)
CA-09: McNerney
-.250 (176/436)
KY-06: Chandler
-.238 (179/436)
MD-06: Bartlett
.502 (329/436)
NY-24: Buerkle
.555 (365/436)
MA-06: Tierney
-.554 (33/436)
MN-08: Nolan
-.518 (House 79-80)
OH-16: Sutton
-.474 (71/436)
RI-01: Cicilline
-.457 (84/436)
NH-01: Shea-Porter
-.364 (House 09-10)
PA-12: Critz
-.309 (162/436)
IA-03: Boswell
-.251 (175/436)
NC-08: Kissell
-.230 (181/436)
IL-11: Foster
-.227 (House 09-10)
NY-21: Owens
-.187 (185/436)
NC-07: McIntyre
-.168 (187/436)
UT-04: Matheson
-.147 (189/436)
AZ-01: Kirkpatrick
-.100 (House 09-10)
IL-10: Dold
.216 (202/436)
FL-26: Rivera
.304 (229/436)
IL-11: Biggert
.312 (232/436)
IA-03: Latham
.330 (239/436)
NH-02: Bass
.345 (245/436)
IL-17: Schilling
.374 (258/436)
MN-08: Cravaack
.387 (265/436)
CA-52: Bilbray
.393 (270/436)
OH-16: Renacci
.441 (297/436)
NH-01: Guinta
.452 (302/436)
FL-18: West
.467 (309/436)
CA-07: Lungren
.504 (330/436)
OH-06: Wilson
-.333 (House 09-10)
NY-27: Hochul
-.298 (167/436)
TX-14: Lampson
-.199 (House 07-08)
GA-12: Barrow
-.132 (192/436)
PA-08: Fitzpatrick
.223 (204/436)
NY-11: Grimm
.229 (206/436)
NJ-03: Runyan
.249 (211/436)
NY-19: Gibson
.260 (215/436)
NV-03: Heck
.301 (226/436)
FL-16: Buchanan
.325 (235/436)
NY-18: Hayworth
.325 (236/436)
IN-08: Bucshon
.409 (283/436)
CA-10: Denham
.439 (295/436)
CO-03: Tipton
.473 (314/436)
WI-07: Duffy
.475 (317/436)
OH-06: Johnson
.514 (335/436)
CO-06: Coffman
.548 (361/436)
TX-23: Canseco
.593 (383/436)
MI-01: Benishek
.625 (399/436)
IA-04: King
.654 (406/436)
NY-22: Hanna
.195 (199/436)
PA-06: Gerlach
.209 (201/436)
PA-18: Murphy
.232 (207/436)
NJ-07: Lance
.258 (214/436)
CA-36: Bono Mack
.340 (242/436)
SD-AL: Noem
.377 (259/436)
NY-23: Reed
.378 (260/436)
AR-01: Crawford
.390 (267/436)
VA-02: Rigell
.417 (284/436)
NE-02: Terry
.433 (289/436)
OH-07: Gibbs
.466 (307/436)
FL-10: Webster
.499 (326/436)
TN-04: DesJarlais
.507 (333/436)
MN-02: Kline
.518 (339/436)
MO-04: Hartzler
.559 (367/436)
WI-08: Ribble
.576 (375/436)
MN-06: Bachmann
.579 (377/436)
VA-05: Hurt
.588 (380/436)
FL-02: Southerland
.637 (401/436)
MI-03: Amash
.837 (432/436)
Despite how much larger the House is than the Senate, there are only a few more races where we have data on both candidates and can measure the ideological gulf between the opponents. (See here for our full House ratings, including races where we don't have data on either canddiate.)

That's because there aren't a lot of rematches or comeback attempts this year; in fact, two of them are unusual because they're redistricting-forced mergers of sitting members (Leonard Boswell vs. Tom Latham in Iowa, and Betty Sutton vs. Jim Renacci in Ohio).

OH-16: Renacci .441 minus Sutton -.474 = .915
MN-08: Cravaack .387 minus Nolan -.518 = .905
OH-06: Johnson .514 minus Wilson -.333 = .847
NY-24: Buerkle .555 minus Maffei -.282 = .837
NH-01: Guinta .452 minus Shea-Porter -.364 = .816
IA-03: Latham .330 minus Boswell -.251 = .581
IL-11: Biggert .312 minus Foster -.227 = .539
One of those member-on-member battles, in Ohio, in fact presents the biggest ideological gulf of any House battle (for which we have data). Betty Sutton is a labor-backed liberal; Jim Renacci is a tea-flavored conservative, and they got much better acquainted when redistricting put Akron and Canton together into one district. Right behind them is GOP freshman Chip Cravaack's uphill attempt to hold on to Dem-leaning MN-08; he faces ex-Rep. Rick Nolan. (If you're wondering if those dates on Nolan's last House term are a typo, they're not. He was part of the 1974 class of "Watergate babies," left the House when he was in his late 30s, and now he's making a comeback attempt in his late 60s. And, he was very much a liberal when he was there last.) Both of those races are Tossups, and very much worth your attention.

While Ann Marie Buerkle is very much on the right flank of the House GOP, the disparity there isn't quite as wide because Dan Maffei (who got bounced out of the House by Buerkle in one of 2010's biggest upsets) had a fairly moderate record. That's even more the case with the fights in Iowa and Illinois, both between Blue Dogs and not quite moderate, but at least civil, Republicans.

And of course, there are other races where the disparities may be even bigger, though we don't have a quantifiable way of showing that. For instance, take a look at Joe Walsh in IL-08 (all the way over in the Likely Dem column, meaning it'll take a miracle for him to still be in the House next year). Tammy Duckworth doesn't seem likely to be a full-blown progressive, but so long as she winds up with a score better than -.200 (basically so long as she doesn't turn into a southern-style Blue Dog), she'll swing the needle even more than Sutton vs. Renacci. Similarly, Christie Vilsack would need to perform only slightly better than that to top the chart; she's running against right-wing flame-thrower Steve King in IA-04, currently in the "Lean Republican" column.

Finally, consider the case of Democratic state Rep. Steve Pestka in MI-03. We pretty much know he'll be a Blue Dog if elected, fitting since he's in a Republican-leaning part of Michigan. But considering how far to the right GOP freshman Justin Amash is (he's Ron Paul's chief disciple in the House), all Pestka needs to do is show up and vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker and that'll still be the biggest right-to-left shift in the House.

Of course, you might also opt to contribute in any of the other races, either where there's a particular progressive Democrat that you like or a particularly unpleasant Republican. You might even contribute to select moderate Democrats if you can cold-bloodedly take into consideration that they're often the ones who most overperform what would be expected from them according to their district leans (case in point is UT-04's Jim Matheson, very much a Blue Dog but also, according to our PVI/Vote Index the single most "valuable" Democratic House member, given his dark-red district). With Sept. 30 fast approaching, though, whoever you give you, the time to do so is now.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 03:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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