Bryan Caplan  

The Outlier Who Would Be President

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Here's a neat piece on the peculiar status of John McCain in Poole and Rosenthal's ambitious empirical analysis of Congress:

Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, the two authors of the most widely used estimates of the ideal points of members of Congress, can help square the circle on McCain to some extent.

On pages 2-3, they note that their algorithm tends to place McCain as highly conservative but that his voting record is especially inconsistent, causing the predictive accuracy of their estimates to be the lowest of all the members of the Senate during the sessions in which he has served (i.e. "the worst fitting"):

There are, to be sure, occasional mavericks in Congress... John McCain (R-AZ), normally one of the very most conservative members of the Senate, has been the worst fitting member of the Senate in each of his eight Senates, most notably the 103rd (2001-02), where he frequently voted with the Democrats, perhaps in pique over losing the race for the presidential nomination in 2000.

They later note that the rapid evolution of McCain's views is abnormal and not fully accounted for by their statistical model, which assumes members don't bounce around so much (p. 93)...

Is this just coincidence? Is being an outlier a smart way to get national attention? My guess is that being an outlier is just a high-variance strategy that happened to pay off.

HT: Tyler

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The author at Dean's World in a related article titled Empirical analysis of maverickicity writes:
    My general impression of John McCain’s political leanings has been that on average he’s quite conservative, but he’s guided by gut feel and pragmatism rather than a consistant political philosophy, and he tends to resist the normal tendency to al... [Tracked on March 12, 2008 8:16 PM]
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Dr. T writes:

McCain was labeled a conservative Republican. When he voted with the Democrats, that made big news, especially with our left-leaning media. They used those incidents to 'prove' Republican badness: "Your proposed legislation is so bad that a conservative Republican voted against it."

This strategy has not been successful for liberal Democrats who were mavericks and voted with the Republicans. The media have treated those politicians as traitors, not as persons of conscience.

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