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The Joys and Sorrows of Swing Voting

According to ABC News, President Obama is spending some quality time this afternoon with 17 lucky senators:

Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

There's obviously nothing to be done about this sort of thing, but I do worry about the incentives. Imagine you're a first-term senator from a conservative, but not all that conservative, state. Florida, say, or Delaware, or Missouri. And imagine you're not some sort of evil sociopath who has worked their way up the ladder in Democratic politics only to vote against health-care reform on the eve of its passage. What incentive do you have to make your vote safe, as opposed to spending a lot of time publicly wavering so you get invites to the White House and audiences with Rahm Emanuel and priorities inserted into the bill?

But though that sort of thing is fine when one or two senators are doing it, it's a bigger problem when half the party is trying to get in on the action. All that public wavering makes the bill seem endangered and leads to a lot of stories in the media about how health-care reform is in trouble. And those stories lead to lower poll numbers for the effort, and a lot of people explaining all the flaws of the bill that explain its troubles. Which in turn makes it actually problematic for vulnerable senators to support, which means they have to do a lot more public wavering. And so on.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 11, 2009; 4:44 PM ET
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A bigger problem is Senators who pretend to represent their constituents but are actually corporate shills. Joe Lieberman that means you.

Notice that most of the Senators mentioned above are also on Nate Silver's list of those likely to have sold their vote to the health care lobby.

Posted by: bmull | September 11, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

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