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One frequently heard refrain around the liberal blogosphere is “[fill in the blank with name of Democratic congressperson who voted the wrong way on the important legislation of the day] is a bad Democrat; let’s primary him!” That’s certainly a healthy instinct, as credible primary challenges have occasionally yielded good results, either with a victory for a more progressive person or with a loss but with the winner chastened and moved to the left. But it’s often delivered without much thought about the nature of that person’s state or district, and what kind of candidate that place might actually support. Most of us have a basic understanding that liberal places tend to elect liberals, conservative places tend to elect conservatives, and swingy places can’t make up their minds but tend to elect moderates of both parties ... but how do we refine that knowledge into something useful?

In addition, around this time every year, there’s a flurry of discussion of who’s the “most liberal” or “most conservative” members of Congress, which usually coincides with National Journal’s release of its congressional rankings. Now, by itself, that’s not very interesting, not just because the methods for distilling everything that a congressperson says and does into a number are very subjective, but also because such lists mostly just contain the same usual suspects, found in non-competitive states or districts, year after year.

But they do provide a helpful tool; by combining them with information about how their state or district has voted in recent years, we can analyze whether a congressperson is performing in line with how you’d expect him or her to, given their constituents. In other words, how "valuable" are they, or how good a "fit" are they, given the kind of district they have to work with?

Most congresspersons, in fact, do perform about how you’d expect, but it’s the ones who don’t who are the interesting ones and deserving more of our attention. We can use this method to spot Democrats who are underperforming their districts and might benefit from a primary challenge to straighten up or get out; we can also use it as a means of finding below-the-radar Democrats who are voting more liberally than their districts would warrant, and giving them some encouragement. It can also help us spot potentially vulnerable Republicans, the wingnuts hidden in swing districts whose records provide ample ammunition for a general election attack.

That’s a project I’ve attempted several times in recent years; those of you who were longtime readers of Swing State Project probably remember the PVI/Voting Index (named that because it plots a district’s lean, “PVI” according to the Cook Political Report, against a congressperson’s voting record) as a staple at that blog. With another year’s worth of aggregators releasing their congressional voting data, let’s take another look at the Index.

It’s deceptively simple. Rank every state from 1 to 50 or every congressional district from 1 to 435 in terms of how Democratic its presidential voting record was in the last two elections. Rank every senator from 1 to 100 or representative from 1 to 435 in terms of how liberal his or her voting record was, and then calculate the difference. A larger difference, depending on the direction, is an indication that a person is overperforming or underperforming his or her district’s lean. (There are a lot of methodological issues that go along with this assumption, which I’ll discuss over the fold; first, though, let’s get right to the numbers.)

We’ll start with Senate numbers, starting with Democrats who are underperforming their states. For short, we'll call them "bad Dems," though many of them aren't especially bad, but have records that put them toward the middle of the Democratic caucus while coming from solidly blue states. A couple of them are actually more objectionable, to the extent that they're centrists near the midpoint of the whole Senate, while still from blue states (that basically boils down to Joe Lieberman, who we'll be rid of next year anyway, and Tom Carper).

Sen. Based
on DW/N
Sen. Based
on NJ
Sen. Based
on PP
Carper (DE) -30.5 Lieberman (CT) -33 Lieberman (CT) -32.5
Lieberman (CT) -27.5 Sanders (VT) -27.5 Inouye (HI) -26.5
Inouye (HI) -24.5 Inouye (HI) -22.5 Kerry (MA) -26.5
Gillibrand (NY) -24.5 Blumenthal (CT) -20 Carper (DE) -15.5
Feinstein (CA) -19.5 Kerry (MA) -18.5 Cantwell (WA) -13

First things first: You're probably wondering what all these abbrevations and numbers mean. "DW/N," "NJ" and "PP" are the names of the three aggregators that I'm using: DW/Nominate scores, National Journal scores, and Progressive Punch scores. There are other aggregators that I'm not using, and there are quirks to each of these three aggregators that encourage me to use each of their scores separately (rather than averaging out their scores, which forces too much apples-to-oranges comparison). I'll talk about the aggregators a little more over the fold, in the context of methodology.

And here's how the score is calculated. Let's use the example of Carper, who's the most underperforming Democrat according to DW/Nominate scores. He's in Delaware, which has a PVI of D+7.0, making it the 10th most liberal state. However, because each state has two senators, that means that each of the two senators from Delaware are tied as having the 19.5th most liberal constituency. Carper has a DW/Nominate score of -0.189, which makes him the 50th most liberal senator (meaning the only Democrats trailing him are Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin and Ben Nelson, each of whom has a much tougher state to work with). Find the difference between the PVI ranking (19.5) and the Vote ranking (50), and, voila, you come up with a PVI/Vote Index score of -30.5.

I'm a firm believer in showing all your work, but I don't want to numb your minds with graphs showing that kind of calculation for everyone in Congress. However, if you do want to see that, here is a link to the Google Doc spreadsheet that does have those calculations for everyone, if you're curious what a particular person's score is (or how their votes or their district stacks up by itself).

And now let's look at the Democrats who are most overperforming their states. We'll call them the "good Dems" though most of them on this list haven't always been netroots favorites; they're on the list by virtue of providing moderate/centrist records in dark-red states that would otherwise elect Republicans. For instance, Kent Conrad is one of the caucus's main budget hawks, while Ben Nelson is ... well, what hasn't Ben Nelson done to tick us off? On the other hand, Sherrod Brown makes the list by being in the Senate's most-progressive echelon while representing a swing state.

Sen. Based
on DW/N
Sen. Based
on NJ
Sen. Based
on PP
Conrad (ND) 54.5 Rockefeller (WV) 53.5 Begich (AK) 50.5
Begich (AK) 50.5 Begich (AK) 47.5 Conrad (ND) 50.5
Brown (OH) 42.5 Johnson (SD) 45.5 Rockefeller (WV) 46.5
Rockefeller (WV) 40.5 Conrad (ND) 44.5 Johnson (SD) 45.5
Nelson (NE) 38.5 Brown (OH) 41.5 Brown (OH) 44

Here are the Republicans who are most overperforming the lean of their states, hence the ones with the ugliest records: either quasi-moderates in blue states (Scott Brown, Mark Kirk), or else the hardest of the hardcore conservatives in swing states (Pat Toomey, Kelly Ayotte). Unlike the Democrats, we've actually got some unanimity among the various aggregators as to who's the most out-of-step with his state of all: Wisconsin's Ron Johnson. Unfortunately, with the exception of Brown, all of these senators are freshmen elected in 2010, so we're stuck with them for four more years ... though, given the way they've voted in relation to their states' general leans, November 2016 ought to be quite the day of reckoning.

Sen. Based
on DW/N
Sen. Based
on NJ
Sen. Based
on PP
Johnson (WI) -60.5 Johnson (WI) -65.5 Johnson (WI) -66
Toomey (PA) -57.5 Brown (MA) -50.5 Ayotte (NH) -52.5
Brown (MA) -50.5 Toomey (PA) -45.5 Toomey (PA) -51.5
Ayotte (NH) -44.5 Ayotte (NH) -44.5 Brown (MA) -49.5
Kirk (IL) -43.5 Kirk (IL) -44.5 Kirk (IL) -45.5

Finally, here are the underperforming Republicans, who put up voting records less conservative than would be expected from their dark-red states. I'm listing them really for the sake of curiosity and/or symmetry. Unlike the overperforming GOPers, we aren't going to make targets out of them in a general election (unless an opportunity for mischief presents itself, like Alaska in 2010); we can only sit back and enjoy some popcorn while the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and their ilk attempt to primary them from the right.

Sen. Based
on DW/N
Sen. Based
on NJ
Sen. Based
on PP
Murkowski (AK) 31.5 Murkowski (AK) 32.5 Murkowski (AK) 32.5
Hatch (UT) 28 Johanns (NE) 29.5 Johanns (NE) 24.5
Hoeven (ND) 23.5 Lee (UT) 21 Hoeven (ND) 22.5
Cochran (MS) 16.5 Hoeven (ND) 18.5 Lee (UT) 18.5
Shelby (AL) 16 Cochran (MS) 15.5 Cochran (MS) 17.5

We'll look at the House, and answer some methodological questions, over the fold ...

Personally, I always find the House a more interesting place to do this sort of analysis; you don't get the same level of consistency from aggregator to aggregator as you do in the Senate, but that's because there's just a much wider range of districts (the gamut runs from D+41 in NY-16 to R+29 in AL-06 in the House, as opposed to just D+13 in Vermont to R+20 in Utah in the Senate) and a much wider range of personalities and ideologies in the House than there are in the Senate.

The "bad Dems" list also exposes one of the limitations to this method of analysis: It shows that if you're already in one of the nation's bluest districts, there's no way to overperform it ... when you're expected to have the House's most liberal voting record, there's nowhere to go but down, in other words. That's why you see a lot of members of the Congressional Black Caucus on the list (especially on the Progressive Punch-based scores, for some reason), even though they usually have records on the progressive side of things. Given that distortion, it's probably more fruitful to cast your eyes a little lower on the list and look at representatives who are putting up Blue Doggish records in less dark-blue but still safely Democratic districts, like Dan Lipinski (from Chicago's IL-03) and Joe Baca (who'll be running in new CA-35 this year).

In general, given the amount of variation between the various aggregators, I tend not to get concerned when someone's name pops up on only one of the House lists; it's the ones who appear consistently on each who are worth the attention. That would, first and foremost, mean Laura Richardson, who represents the Long Beach-area CA-37, and who's been putting up a New Democratic-style voting record this cycle in a district that, at D+26, can easily support a solid progressive. (She's also run up a record in her time in Congress encompassing ethical violations and a pattern of foreclosed personal mortgages.) Luckily, she's facing a primary from newly-minted fellow Rep. Janice Hahn (whom you might remember from winning last year's CA-36 special election) in new CA-44 this year ... and Hahn, if you'll look just below, is on one of the three "good Dem" lists.

Another name consistent across the top of this list is Terri Sewell, the freshman representative in D+18 AL-07, who was elected to replace Artur Davis (who went on to lose the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2010 and, still in a snit fit about that, has since all but repudiated the Democratic party in a series of op-eds). She seems to be carrying on Davis's tradition of providing the 7th with representation well to the right of what that district can support. David Scott (one of only two African-American Blue Dogs) in GA-13 is an interesting case; he represented a swingy district with a white-plurality constituency when he was first elected a decade ago, but his district has seen so much demographic change in the last decade (it had become safely Democratic and black-majority even before the lines were redrawn), and his is a case of his record not having evolved as quickly as his district.

Rep. Based
on DW/N
Rep. Based
on NJ
Rep. Based
on PP
Richardson (CA) -99 Sewell (AL) -103 Richardson (CA) -111
Doyle (PA) -98 Fattah (PA) -86 A. Green (TX) -109
Moran (VA) -87.5 Sires (NJ) -76 Richmond (LA) -102
Quigley (IL) -86.5 Dingell (MI) -75 Sewell (AL) -100
D. Scott (GA) -85 Brady (PA) -72.5 Wilson (FL) -84.5
Meeks (NY) -76.5 Richardson (CA) -71.5 Jackson-Lee (TX) -83
Maloney (NY) -74.5 D. Scott (GA) -71 Fattah (PA) -82
Crowley (NY) -71.5 A. Green (TX) -70 Meeks (NY) -76
Sewell (AL) -67 Pelosi (CA) -70 D. Scott (GA) -74
Andrews (NJ) -67 Baca (CA) -69.5 B. Scott (VA) -73
Van Hollen (MD) -60.5 Jackson-Lee (TX) -69 E. Johnson (TX) -69
Lipinski (IL) -60 E. Johnson (TX) -69 Engel (NY) -67
Schiff (CA) -59 Van Hollen (MD) -67 Dingell (MI) -60.5
Speier (CA) -59 Lipinski (IL) -66 Lipinski (IL) -60
Berman (CA) -58 Meeks (NY) -61 H. Johnson (GA) -60
S. Davis (CA) -57 Richmond (LA) -60 Brady (PA) -58.5
A. Green (TX) -53 Schiff (CA) -57 Baca (CA) -56.5
Baca (CA) -52 Quigley (IL) -56.5 Rangel (NY) -54.5
Eshoo (CA) -51.5 C. Brown (FL) -55.5 C. Brown (FL) -54
Sires (NJ) -51 Reyes (TX) -54 Sires (NJ) -54

Now let's turn our attention to the "good Dems," i.e. the ones who are most overperforming their districts' leans. Many of you might be taking a quick glance at the list and saying "ewww, Blue Dogs, yeccch." And, yes, it's true there are certainly some names on there who aren't netroots faves (and most of whom, conveniently, aren't planning to return anyway next year, like Heath Shuler, Mike Ross and Dan Boren—though the flipside to losing their rhetorical cover for the Republicans will be that those three seats are now likely to elect actual, and much worse, Republicans now).

But note that these lists are split about 50-50 between Blue Dogs in dark-red districts, and solid progressives who are in swingy or light-blue districts. Some of them are folks whom the netroots are well familiar with (Raul Grijalva, Peter DeFazio, Rush Holt) but others have been moving the ball up field quietly for decades (and unfortunately, we're losing two of the great ones from that category to retirement this year: Maurice Hinchey and Bob Filner).

Rep. Based
on DW/N
Rep. Based
on NJ
Rep. Based
on PP
Matheson (UT) 197 Matheson (UT) 190.5 Matheson (UT) 197
Boren (OK) 176 Boren (OK) 167 Boren (OK) 176
Rahall (WV) 135 Grijalva (AZ) 126 Chandler (KY) 130
Chandler (KY) 131 Tonko (NY) 125 T. Bishop (NY) 127
Grijalva (AZ) 128 Chandler (KY) 123 Filner (CA) 125
DeFazio (OR) 121 Filner (CA) 114 Holt (NJ) 119
Filner (CA) 120 Pallone (NJ) 113 Pallone (NJ) 115
Hinchey (NY) 118 Rahall (WV) 106.5 Grijalva (AZ) 114
M. Ross (AR) 109 Tierney (MA) 101.5 McGovern (MA) 112
Kucinich (OH) 105 Shuler (NC) 100.5 Rahall (WV) 112
Hochul (NY) 104 Holt (NJ) 99.5 Yarmuth (KY) 107
Holden (PA) 98 McGovern (MA) 96 Tierney (MA) 106
Tierney (MA) 96 M. Ross (AR) 95 Hochul (NY) 103
Altmire (PA) 91 Holden (PA) 88.5 M. Ross (AR) 102
McGovern (MA) 89.5 Altmire (PA) 87 Holden (PA) 101
Shuler (NC) 89 Yarmuth (KY) 86 Shuler (NC) 97
Holt (NJ) 87 T. Bishop (NY) 82.5 Hahn (CA) 93
Sutton (OH) 74 Kucinich (OH) 76.5 Altmire (PA) 92
McIntyre (NC) 73.5 Cleaver (MO) 74.5 Tonko (NY) 91
Pingree (ME) 73.5 Garamendi (CA) 74 Kucinich (OH) 90

And here are the "ugly Republicans," the ones who are way overperforming their districts. For the most part, these are members of the freshman class who were elected in swingy or light-red districts in the 2010 wave, and who are the ones in that wave who weren't merely mouthing tea party platitudes to conveniently get elected, but who are the true believers. At the very top of the list, a number of them barely won in 2010 and are such bad fits for their districts that they weren't likely to be reelected anyway in a standard election year (Joe Walsh in IL-08, Ann Marie Buerkle from Syracuse's NY-25, and maybe most obviously Bob Turner, the winner of the NY-09 special election to replace Anthony Weiner) ... and then all three of them got even tougher rows to hoe out of redistricting.

The real battle will be picking off some of the tea-flavored freshmen who are a little lower on the list, since they're in slightly GOP-leaning rather than Democrat-leaning swing districts ... the path back to the majority runs through the Dan Benisheks, Reid Ribbles, Tim Walbergs and Quico Cansecos of the House. Note that some of the other names on this list are long-timers, who've managed to entrench themselves in fairly swingy suburban districts by not running their mouths on hot-button issues and focusing their attention more on being economic super-hard-liners, most notably Paul Ryan in the potentially-swingy R+2 Racine-area WI-01, but also including John Kline, Peter Roskam and Steve Chabot (the top man on the DW/Nominate list, who just returned to the D+1 Cincinnati-area OH-01 in 2010 after getting bounced out in the 2008 Democratic wave).

One question I'm sure many of you are asking: Where's Allen West? After all, he's a well-known loudmouth in a D+1 district, FL-22. Strangely, though, based on his actual voting record, all the aggregators put him smack in the middle of the Republican caucus, rather than on its fringes, so he misses the cut. He has about as orthodox a Republican voting record as you can ask for ... of all the prominent teabagging freshmen, he seems to be the one who's all bark and no bite. As for some of the other names you might expect to be here, like, say, Michele Bachmann, Steve King or Virginia Foxx, they have sufficiently red-enough districts that they don't show up as out-of-step as do the tea partiers elected to swingy districts in 2010 ... and their voting records, while very conservative, aren't at the furthest-right-most reaches of the GOP spectrum either. Aggregators can't score outrageous wrong-headed remarks made on television; they can only score actual votes.

Rep. Based
on DW/N
Rep. Based
on NJ
Rep. Based
on PP
Chabot (OH) -217 Buerkle (NY) -242.5 Turner (NY) -263
Walsh (IL) -214.5 Chabot (OH) -223 Buerkle (NY) -225
Buerkle (NY) -189 Guinta (NH) -203.5 Canseco (TX) -185.5
Benishek (MI) -168 Ellmers (NC) -200.5 Kline (MN) -180.5
Campbell (CA) -163 Walberg (MI) -170 Guinta (NH) -176
Ribble (WI) -159 D. Ross (FL) -164.5 Chabot (OH) -173.5
Ryan (WI) -152 B. Johnson (OH) -163.5 Amodei (NV) -173
Amash (MI) -149 Rooney (FL) -163 Walberg (MI) -169.5
Schweikert (AZ) -144.5 Adams (FL) -157.5 Farenthold (TX) -165
Walberg (MI) -141 Fincher (TN) -153.5 Roskam (IL) -160
Mulvaney (SC) -140 Roskam (IL) -150.5 D. Ross (FL) -150
Canseco (TX) -139.5 Yoder (KS) -150.5 Yoder (KS) -146
Duffy (WI) -139.5 Webster (FL) -149 Ellmers (NC) -140
Yoder (KS) -137 Rogers (MI) -148.5 Adams (FL) -138.5
Rohrabacher (CA) -127 Hurt (VA) -142.5 Rogers (MI) -130
Southerland (FL) -126 Ribble (WI) -141.5 Ribble (WI) -128
Garrett (NJ) -123 Canseco (TX) -136.5 Ryan (WI) -126
Farenthold (TX) -122 Kline (MN) -132.5 Webster (FL) -122
Hurt (VA) -122 Tipton (CO) -130.5 Hurt (VA) -121
D. Ross (FL) -121 Pearce (NM) -128.5 Sessions (TX) -119

Finally, here are the Republicans' misfit toys, the ones who are underperforming their districts. (I'm only including 5 here, since, as with the Senate, they aren't targets for us; in fact, we should probably be grateful for a few of them, like Walter Jones, who's turned into the House GOP's lone voices of occasional sanity.) It's also worth noting that one of these guys may actually be the next victim of the purity brigades, and very soon: Spencer Bachus in AL-06, an establishment GOPer in the nation's reddest district, is facing a credible primary challenge from the right that'll be decided this Tuesday.

This list also points to the one of the problems in this method of analysis: the question of how various aggregators deal with the iconoclasts, i.e. the ones who vote against their party position but out of purity when things don't go far enough, rather than out of moderation. Ron Paul appearing at the top of the list for two of the three aggregators is a prime example; National Journal and Progressive Punch scores aren't really able to distinguish the intent behind votes so he shows up as one of the most "moderate" Republicans, while the complicated DW/Nominate method looks at the whole universe of votes and how different representatives' voting records are from each other, and they accurately capture Paul instead as the House's most conservative Republican. (The flipside, of course, was Dennis Kucinich, who often tended to show up on "bad Dem" lists in the past because of his record of purity votes ... though in the last year he's been voting the party line, apparently in anticipation of his redistricting-forced primary against Marcy Kaptur, to the extent that he's actually on all three "good Dem" lists this year.)

Rep. Based
on DW/N
Rep. Based
on NJ
Rep. Based
on PP
W. Jones (NC) 184.5 Paul (TX) 215 Paul (TX) 217
Simpson (ID) 174.5 W. Jones (NC) 212 W. Jones (NC) 206
Emerson (MO) 167.5 Bachus (AL) 185 Duncan (TN) 184
Aderholt (AL) 164 Chaffetz (UT) 182.5 Emerson (MO) 163
Bachus (AL) 159 Duncan (TN) 173.5 Coble (NC) 161

Finally, as promised, here are some methodological Q & A's, probably of most interest to stats-heads, but also to anyone with uncertainties about how this works and what it means:

Why do you have to have three different aggregators, instead of averaging their scores out?

As I've said, there's an apples-and-oranges problem here. DW/Nominate is probably the best aggregator, since they incorporate every single vote, and their method seems to capture and adjust for purity votes. Unfortunately, instead of an easy to understand 0-to-100 scale (that corresponds with our sense of grading people "A" through "F"), their scores run from -1 (most liberal) to 1 (most conservative), expressing how far representatives deviate from their chamber's norm. That doesn't lend itself toward averaging with National Journal or Progressive Punch, both of whom use a 1 to 100 scale.

For that matter, even National Journal and Progressive Punch aren't average-able either, since National Journal seems to use discrete ranks, where there is the same number of people in each decile or quartile, and the most median person in the House gets a score of 50, even if he's actually voting the Republican party line most of the time. By contrast, Progressive Punch more accurately reflects the percentage of time people vote in favor of the Democratic point of view, so there are very few members who don't have scores above 80 or below 20. That's why Progressive Punch scores tend to be immediately appealing and understandable to most people; they fit right in with the grading scheme we learned in school.

In addition, there's one other problem that would prevent useful averaging: Not every mid-term replacement representative shows up in every aggregator. For instance, Janice Hahn, Mark Amodei and Bob Turner are new enough that only Progressive Punch can account for them; Kathy Hochul registers with PP and DW/Nominate, but not National Journal.

For that matter, there are lots of other aggregators that I'm not using, but they tend to be either specific to one issue area, or else ones who don't use a broad enough sample of votes leaving insufficient differentiation between members (lots of people refer to Americans for Democratic Action ratings, but they only score 20 votes per year, meaning nearly all Democrats get a score of either 90, 95 or 100). I'm also well aware of the argument against National Journal ratings, that they somehow always manage to give the GOP a talking point by finding that the Democratic presidential candidate is the most liberal person in the Senate. That's not propaganda but just a flaw in their system: A presidential candidate is only showing up for the most important crucial votes, not the ticky-tacky procedural stuff that really distinguishes members' records. And if he votes the party line on those very few votes, voila, you've got the Senate's most liberal member (i.e. he's batting, say, 5 for 5, instead of 95 for 100).

Why aren't you using a regression analysis instead of discrete ranks?

I started doing discrete ranks when I began this line of analysis several years ago because, well, that was all I knew how to do. After that was well-received, I took the time to sit down and learn how to make regression work in Excel, but I found that the results were actually less helpful, and went back to doing it the old-fashioned way. The problem with using regression analysis is that it tends to even further exacerbate the problem you can see in the "bad Dems" House table, which is that it over-penalizes the Democrats residing in the most dark-blue districts, most of whom are quite progressive but, try as they may, can't find a way to vote the Democratic party line more than 100 percent of the time. Looking at an actual scatterplot is the best way to see that illustrated:

A regression analysis looks for outliers, which are data points the furthest away from the central trendline. As you can see from the graph (using Progressive Punch scores), the Democratic data points furthest away from the trendline are all the ones that are in the bluest districts. They're all located in that area where the dots start to fan out in a spray at the most right (i.e. the most Democratic-leaning districts, the ones with PVIs of D+30 or more), which merely reflects that there are few districts that Democratic but the representatives there have a finite limit on just how progressive their voting records can be.

An analysis that just tells me that the "bad Dems" are Jose Serrano, Charlie Rangel, Yvette Clark, Ed Towns, John Conyers, etc., roughly in that order, is really of no use to us, so I went back to what I already knew worked. (Of course, the discrete rank method has the effect of distorting the middle of the pack instead of the ends ... for instance, it over-emphasizes small and probably non-significant differences in people's voting records. Does the difference between a Progressive Punch score of, say, 94 or 95, really matter? Not in reality, but might matter in terms of whether you make ones of my lists.)

Are these the old or new district lines?

These are the old district lines, using PVI based on the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. This is necessarily a backward-looking project, as it's based on last year's votes, and on people who were elected using last decade's lines, so one would expect their voting records to match the constituents they currently represent. (Though there may be some anticipation of future constituents in the way that some representatives have voted lately; for instance, Larry Kissell and John Barrow, Democrats who've constantly flummoxed the netroots in recent years with Blue Doggish records in swingy southern districts, were probably hedging against the likelihood that they were going to get hosed in redistricting and given much worse districts where they'd need a Blue Dog-type profile to survive. And that's exactly what happened to them.)

I'm using old lines not only because it's an inherently backward-looking analysis, though, but also because we don't even have definite lines in several big states, and even for states where we know the lines, we don't necessarily have enough information to calculate PVI yet. Given the many retirements this cycle, and the fact that filing deadlines haven't passed in a majority of states yet, there are really more questions than answers about the face of the next Congress right now ... nor does this type of analysis seek to predict the future, anyway. The PVI/Vote Index is really more of a way of looking back and taking stock at what happened in the previous year, seeing who's been meeting expectations and who hasn't, and helping the netroots have a quantitative basis for deciding how to take action based on that.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos Elections.

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