Monday, April 2, 2018

Carhartt, Bloodlines, and Place of Birth: The Recurrent Battle Over Who’s the Most Montanan


This is a special guest post by Kal Munis, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia. Kal is a lifelong Montanan, and is an alum of both Montana State and the University of Montana. I expect to feature his work often here.

With the 2018 midterm elections just a little over seven months away, candidates have begun to ramp up efforts to distinguish themselves from one another. In addition to the various typical dimensions on which we might expect those aspiring to represent us to stress their unique qualifications—such as prior political experience, policy positions and past accomplishments—there is another conspicuous characteristic upon which political candidates in Montana attempt to out-maneuver one another: successfully conveying that they possess an authentic Montanan identity.
 Typically, candidates try to signal to voters that they share with them various attachments to the customs, values, and lived experiences particular to their geographical constituency. They do so in numerous ways including in video advertisements, mailers, press releases, emails, social media postings and other campaign media. It should be noted that these activities don’t stop at election day—indeed, many politicians will continue to cultivate their image of place-based authenticity as a component of what political scientists refer to as their “home-style.”
Candidates in Montana and elsewhere clearly engage in this behavior cycle after cycle due a belief in the campaign community that it is an effective practice. In a content analysis of all video based advertisements that were paid for by campaigns during the 2012 and 2014 U.S. Senate elections, I found that these types of ads are widespread throughout the country, with the highest level of usage being clustered in Western states such as Montana. Despite their seeming ubiquitousness, it remains unknown whether campaigns' decisions to deploy these appeals are evidence based or the product of folk-wisdom based inertia.
 Irrespective of their effectiveness, however, some pundits (and voters—see the comments on this ad) have remarked that excessive hand-wringing over which candidate is the most Montanan borders on xenophobic, particularly when such concerns are tied to place of birth. At the same time, however, it seems widely accepted that the success of many candidates in Montana, particularly Democrats Senator Jon Tester and Governor Steve Bullock (as well as former Governor Brian Schweitzer), has been largely predicated on their ability to connect with voters on the basis of place.
In large part, the mechanism through which this connection has been fostered in Montana, as well as that upon which many campaign appeals based on place identity are made, is the candidate's birthplace. For successful Democratic candidates in Montana, it seems that part of the litmus test has been whether they’re a native of the state. For a recent example, look no further than Governor Bullock’s successful 2016 reelection bid against then Republican gubernatorial candidate and current U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte. In that race, the Bullock campaign was able to successfully paint Gianforte as an outsider with deep connections to California and New Jersey. So out of touch with Montana was Gianforte, according to Bullock’s campaign, that he was willing to try to run roughshod over that which many Montanans hold to be most sacred: public lands. The narrative was simple: Bullock, a native Montanan, respects and maintains Montana values, whereas Gianforte—a Californian multi-millionaire by way of New Jersey—does not. The result, meanwhile, was shocking, as returns revealed that Bullock defeated Gianforte by 4 points, all while Gianforte’s co-partisan in the presidential race, Donald Trump, crushed his Democratic foe by a staggering 22 points.
As part of the 2018 midterm elections, Tester will defend his Senate seat and multiple Republicans are competing in their party’s primary to challenge him. Currently, most observers regard Matt Rosendale as being the front runner among these challengers. And, if recent advertisements are any indication, it would seem that several left-aligned groups, including the Montana Democratic Party, consider him to be the front-runner as well.
In a recent advertisement, the MTDP makes an overtly place identity charged indictment of “Maryland Matt” Rosendale, namely that he is an outsider who “doesn’t share our Montana values.” In the ad, the MTDP takes a ‘don’t just take our word for it’ strategy by relying mostly upon statements made by (or on behalf of) prominent Montana Republicans, as well as upon a compilation of footage of Rosendale himself butchering the pronunciation of the state he is running to represent in Washington. The statements (which are attributed variously to current U.S. Senate primary opponent Russ Fagg, former U.S. House primary opponent and current Secretary of State Cory Stapleton, and to a PAC that supported Ryan Zinke in the 2014 Republican primary for the U.S. House of Representatives) all suggest that Rosendale’s non-native born status should be viewed as a deficiency in the eyes of voters. Of these statements, Stapleton’s makes the case against Rosendale’s non-native status most powerfully, stating “we don’t need that East Coast value here in Montana, we don’t need somebody from the East Coast representing us in Montana, we need a Montanan representing us on the East Coast.”
This theme, though in decidedly less antagonistic tone, was on display yet again a few weeks ago in Bozeman at the Republican U.S. Senate candidate forum (not a debate!) put on by the College Republicans at Montana State University. The forum, which featured Rosendale and his three opponents, Troy Downing (a fellow non-native from California), Albert Olszewski, and Russel Fagg, saw all candidates take pains to stress their connections to Montana and demonstrate their embrace of Montana values. Rosendale and Downing (the non-native candidates) did so in decidedly apologetic fashion, with the following statement by Downing being emblematic of the tone: “I’ve always been a Montanan, it just took me 31 years to get here.” Fagg and Olszewski (the native candidates), meanwhile made their born and raised Montanan bonafides front and center from the outset, with Fagg, for example, noting that he “has the Montana roots, the Montana endorsements, (and) the Montana donations.”
It was a portion of Fagg’s closing statement as well as Rosendale’s that followed, however, that really drew my attention. In his last appeal to the crowd in Bozeman that night, Fagg made his case that his native Montana roots would be critical to defeating native Jon Tester in 2018. “I’m a fourth generation Montanan…and (my family) has live and loved Montana since before Montana was a state,” he said “[…] and the reason that’s important, I appreciate everyone that has moved to Montana because they love Montana, but the Democrats are going to unmercifully beat up two of my opponents because they moved here nine years ago (Downing) and fifteen years ago (Rosendale). It may not be fair, but it’s the truth. If you put me on that ticket, that takes that argument away from Senator Tester.” Fagg then went on to note that he has to date collected the lion’s share of endorsements from prominent Montana Republicans from well-known names such as Marc Racicot and Denny Rehberg (Rosendale, meanwhile, has the support of prominent national Republicans such U.S. Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee) before passing the mic to Rosendale.
Fagg’s point was brought into stark relief just moments later when Rosendale mispronounced “Montana” so badly that even I, a social scientist who studies the role of place-based identities in politics, couldn’t help but to find it grating. In my defense, it was the contrast of Rosendale’s mispronunciation and Fagg’s ominous message regarding the importance of Montana roots in eyes of Montana voters that made the moment so powerful. And, apparently I wasn’t the only one to notice—the MTDP released the “Maryland Matt” ad just a few days later and appeared to indirectly reference the forum in a short blurb accompanying the ad’s posting.
Do voters care about where candidates were born? To begin to investigate this question, I draw upon data from three different surveys that I have fielded (one in Autumn 2015, one in Spring 2017, and another in early fall 2017) utilizing Mechanical Turk samples. All respondents in these surveys reside in the United States. Within each survey, I included a question asking whether and how important respondents thought it was that candidates running for Congress in their state had been born there. In the most recent two surveys, an additional question was asked regarding whether respondents felt that candidates born in their state were more likely to understand the values and needs of people in their state.

Table 1: How important do you think it is for candidates running for Congress
in your state to have been born in your state?


Fall 2015
Spring 2017
Fall 2017
Extremely Important
25
(5%)

200
(11%)

130
(11%)
Very Important
117
(25%)

368
(20%)

255
(22%)
Moderately Important
136
(29%)

496
(28%)

300
(26%)
Slightly Important
87
(18%)

320
(18%)

232
(18%)
Not at all important
111
(23%)
423
(23%)
229
(23%)
N
476
1,807
1,146

Results for the first question are remarkably stable across all three samples, as can be seen in Table 1. In the most recent sample, one third of respondents indicated that they felt candidate place of birth to be highly important (including both the “extremely important” and “highly important” categories). A little over a quarter of respondents indicated candidate place of birth to be moderately important. Meanwhile, a minority of respondents (41%) indicated that candidate place of birth is only slightly important or not important at all to them.

Table 1: In general, do you think that candidates born in your state are better
at understanding the values and needs of people in your state?

Spring 2017
Fall 2017
Yes
853
(47%)

554
(48%)
No
287
(16%)

144
(13%)
Unsure
667
(37%)

450
(39%)
N
1,807
1,146

            As for respondents’ perceptions regarding whether native born candidates are more likely to better understand the values and needs of their constituency, a large plurality in both samples (an average of 47.5%) indicated that they felt this was the case, with a small minority (an average of 14%) of respondents saying this wasn’t likely to be the case. A large number of respondents in both samples indicated that they were unsure regarding this question (38%). These results are presented in Table 2.
            To further explore responses to these questions, I use various methods (including ANOVA, OLS, and logistic regression) to model the relationship between responses to these questions and respondents’ partisanship.[1] First, I estimate the association between how important respondents rated candidate birthplace and respondents’ partisanship while controlling for the influence of other background characteristics. Results show that, on average, the place of birth of political candidates is significantly more important to Republicans (by about 25%) than it is for Democrats even after controlling for the influence of respondents' level of educational attainment, gender, self-reported recent voting history, and whether the respondent lived in a rural area. Moreover, further analysis reveals that Republicans’ average importance rating of candidate place of birth is significantly higher than that of independents as well, though Democrats and independents do not differ significantly from one another in this respect. Finally, I model the association between partisanship and perceptions of whether being born in state imparts upon candidates a special constituency related knowledge (all while again controlling for a number of other related factors). Results indicate that Republicans are 4.5 times more likely on average to indicate that candidates born in their state typically better understand the values and problems associated with that state.
            Taken together, these results suggest that many Americans see candidate place of birth as being an important attribute of political candidates. More specifically, a majority of people in my sample indicated that it is at least moderately important that candidates be born in the state that they seek to represent in Congress, with a full third indicating that they feel it is highly important. Moreover, a plurality of respondents indicated that they believe that candidates born in the state they are running in are more likely to understand the needs and values of their constituency. Results also indicate a significant association between these considerations and partisanship, with Republicans endorsing both to a greater extent than non-Republicans on average. All of this is especially noteworthy considering that these results are derived from a sample comprising survey respondents from all across the United States. And, in terms of demographic characteristics, the sample skews slightly younger, more liberal, and more educated than the American population as a whole—as well as Montana. So, if anything, I would expect the patterns and statistical associations described above to increase in magnitude if the sample were one perfectly representative of Montana.
            Finally, in relating all of this back to Montana politics, the results presented here seem to lend some credence to Republican candidate Russ Fagg’s (as well as many others) warning to Republican primary voters that (in)congruence between where candidates are born and the district they hope to represent is important to voters—and, at least in this sample, especially amongst self-identified Republicans. And, since Tester will almost certainly have to win over a considerable percentage of voters who recently voted for our Republican president, these results suggest that one fruitful path for him to do so would be to continue to appeal to voters on the basis of shared Montana values and identity (as Bullock did in his successful 2016 reelection bid). Whether and to what degree he is able to do so could very well be moderated by whether a native-born Republican, such as Fagg or Olszewski, is at the top of the Republican ticket.
B. Kal Munis is, amongst other things, a 6th generation Montana native and alumnus of both Montana State University and the University of Montana. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter @KalMunis.


[1] If you want more specifics on the data and my analyses, please send me an email or leave a comment below.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Correlation Does Not Equal Causation: Lawsuits, Pirates, Forest Fire, and Global Warming

Yesterday, The Washington Post published an op-ed piece written by Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines about the awful wildfire season we’ve been experiencing here in Montana and the West. It is good to bring attention to an issue that has gotten lost in the coverage of the widespread devastation hitting Texas, Florida, and now Puerto Rico during an unusually intense start to the hurricane season.

It is troubling, however, how Senator Daines takes a very complicated issue—the causes and consequences of wildfire—and lays blame squarely on the shoulders of “radical environmentalists” and their lawsuits, which he purports prevent efforts to clear and thin trees by forest managers.  If these lawsuits would only cease, writes Daines, wildfires would be less intensive, less pervasive, and produce fewer damaging greenhouse gases. And, perhaps as importantly, Montanans would have more jobs as there would be more timber for mills to process into lumber. Stop the lawsuits, and everyone would benefit!

Senator Daines was a champion debater in high school, and like a skilled orator, he does his best to frame the facts to best advance his core thesis. In so doing, he intentionally obscures or downplays the biggest drivers of fire: temperature and climate. At best, that’s disingenuous. At worst, it gives us false hope for the power of forest management in stemming the effects of wildfire in the West.

Let’s unpack just one point Senator Daines makes in his article: the association between acres burned and declining timber harvests. Daines tells us that “If you look at the decline in timber harvests on National Forest land since 1990, you can’t miss the correlation between harvesting and wildfire. Harvests drastically declined and, combined with the legal obstacles preventing the removal of fire fuel, wildfires grew larger and more severe. We have effectively increased the risk of wildfire by allowing cluttered forest floors to build up with more material that can burn.”

The logic seems crystal clear: Declining timber harvests have increased fuel loads, which lead to more and more intensive forest fires. The reason? Lawsuits from the aforementioned radical environmentalists. And Senator Daines links to a study conducted by The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service in support of his claim that “an abundance of science shows that a properly managed forest would reduce the size and severity of wildfires.” Stop the lawsuits, and we’ll have better managed forests with smaller and less severe wildfires, he argues.

If only it were so simple. This Sunday morning, MTN is airing a Face the State devoted to the problem of fire in the West. I encourage you to tune in. In preparing for the show, it was immediately apparent to me how complicated the issue of fire is in the American West even if I am not a fire ecologist—or any kind of ecologist.

But there’s one thing I do know as a social scientist—and it’s something that Senator Daines surely knows, too, as an engineer: Correlation does not equal causation. Senator Daines makes a causal claim when he asks us to look at the correlation between timber harvests and forest fire intensity. But simple bivariate relationships are not evidence that X generates Y; indeed, these simple associations are often misleading without having undergone a rigorous statistical analysis. (For a bit of fun, check out this website (LINK) devoted to correlations which are not causally related, such as the decline of pirates and rising global temperatures or people falling and drowning in pools and the release of Nicolas Cage movies). If I were to draw a causal conclusion from these relationships, we should be able to fix global warming by issuing more letters of marque or keeping Nicolas Cage away from the box office. Clearly, that’s absurd! And it is just as absurd to make forest policy based upon two trends moving together without a deeper analysis controlling for other factors.
Clearly, to address global warming, we need...Pirates!

Most troubling is that Senator Daines conspicuously ignores two key factors in his opinion piece: climate and temperature. According to fire ecologists and foresters, those are the key drivers of fire intensity and growth—and forest management or lack thereof plays a much smaller role (this recent example). You would hardly know that, however, from reading the Senator’s article.  You also would not know that fire is an essential part of a healthy Western forest which requires its regenerative powers to remain in balance and even to allow certain species to propagate (such as the ubiquitous lodge pole pine).

Finally, an abundance of science clearly demonstrates that carbon emissions by humans is a critical factor responsible for climate change which is leading to hotter and drier summers in the West. To reduce the likelihood of the West burning, we should pursue policies that would reduce those emissions. Senator Daines claims that thinning our forests would reduce the release of dangerous greenhouse gases, but has refused to acknowledge in this piece and elsewhere that carbonemissions from the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for precisely the conditions most directly responsible for leaving our forests in cinders.

I could go on, as Dr. Diana Six of UM, a leading expert on pine beetles, has argued that thinning itself by pine beetles helps our forests adapt to the new realities of a warming world and that thinning by cuts might stymie an important natural process. Declining timber yields in Montana have less to do with lawsuits and more to do with the free market (lumber companies moving south where trees grow faster and wages are lower) and unfair trade practices (government subsidies for timber in Canada)—here’s an extensive report on the issue published in 2005.

Bottom line: There are no silver bullets when it comes to fire in the West, and we need our elected officials to start leading an honest discussion instead of providing us with false hope and convenient scape goats for a problem that is much larger and messier than Senator Daines suggests.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Our Republic: We Better Start Keeping It. Fast.



I’m a political scientist—with an emphasis on the science.  I’ve viewed my role in the public sphere as inserting into debates what political scientists have learned about political processes and institutions—and to try to keep both sides faithful to the empirics. At heart, I’ve always been a skeptic and my training as a political scientist makes me even more so. I'm not one to join partisan frays. It's not my style. I just go where data lead.

The election of Donald Trump, someone who had zero political experience, certainly sent my skepticism into high gear given the data. Limited political experience does not often equate with political success. One major exception is Dwight David Eisenhower, but he is the exception who proves the rule. Eisenhower was an exceptional student of leadership and, as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, developed a well-honed ability to convince, negotiate and compromise with many talented, egoistic generals as they fought the Third Reich to rid the world of Nazism.

During the fall campaign, a video of historian David McCullough made the rounds on social media. I’ve long admired McCullough’s accessible and well-written history, especially his biography of Truman.

In the video, McCullough draws our attention to Eisenhower’s four qualities of leadership, noting that Trump exhibited none of those qualities. He had neither character, ability, experience, nor responsibility. In short, McCullough did not believe Trump was suited for the presidency. He was especially not suited to articulating a clear moral purpose and acting as the conciliator in chief in times of national sorrow and crisis.

Trump’s repeated failure as a leader over the past eight months should not surprise. He was as prepared for the presidency as I am to do any kind of home or car repair.

Yet the president can be a poor leader and the nation can survive: We managed the ineptitude of Hoover and Carter. What is most troubling is that Trump himself, through apparently carefully contrived acts, may be encouraging values antithetical to the Republic itself.

That causes me great alarm and concern, as it should every American regardless of party.

There are certain moral certainties, bright lines in the sand, that are not debated in civilized society. Racism, white supremacy, and support for Nazism are among them. No race, no people, no ethnicity is superior to any other. Advocating violence against someone else because they are different than you is wrong. Killing innocent people is wrong. Full stop.

An easy test of leadership, methinks, is denouncing yesterday’s terrible events in Charlottesville with clarity and precision. “Nazism, racism, and violence are acts of terrorism, and have no place in our Republic and receive my strongest condemnation” would’ve been a good start. Perhaps you might have taken a cue from Vice President Pence, who had no problem naming who was the blame for yesterday's events: "We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK," said Pence, calling them "dangerous fringe groups" today in Colombia.

Instead, the President issued a statement that was ambiguous at best, but spoke volumes: Calling out racism, Nazism, and white supremacy wasn’t on the table. Best case? He’s a coward and inept. I'm less inclined to believe this is the case: He's spoken out clearly concerning acts of terrorism undertaken by Muslims in the past. And Trump certainly has no trouble telling us what he thinks most of the time. That leaves the worst case: He’s sympathetic to their cause.

Many Americans voted for Trump because they were angry at what they believe our country had become. Others voted for Trump simply because he was the Republican nominee. Still others voted for him because they couldn’t stomach Hillary Clinton. It is not for me to judge a person who voted for Trump. That’s their business, and frankly, that’s water under the bridge

We’ve seen Trump can’t stomach doing what’s right when the path is clear, and may be conspiring with forces seeking to undermine the very foundation of our Republic. It doesn’t matter how you voted, but how you answer the question: “What now?”

If you are troubled with what you’ve seen, at least we have a constitutional system with multiple points of access. Write to the president; tell him how you feel (although I'm skeptical that would matter). Write to your congressional delegation: Remember, ambition counters ambition in our system of separated (but shared) powers. Write to your state parties and tell them to make changes to the primary system that will make it more likely better candidates survive the nomination process (ironically, that may mean a little less democracy in the primaries and more control to party elites who were overwhelmingly opposed to Trump). But do something. Be heard, while you still can.

We have a democracy. That is, as Ben Franklin said, as long as we can keep it. We’ve kept it for more than 200 years.

Whether we keep it for another 200 depends on the choices you make now.

Just in case you need a refresher course on leadership, here’s how great leaders should behave:

1.       Responsibility. Eisenhower, on the eve of D-Day, prepared this statement should the landings fail:

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I
 have  withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on  the  best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."

2.       Character. George W. Bush after 9-11.

3.       Ability and Experience. LBJ and the Voting Rights Act.

4.       Fortitude. Ronald Reagan in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gates.

5.       All of the Above. Churchill. 1940, as France fell and Britain stood alone.

Ask our members of Congress to display the leadership our President will not.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Legsilative Effectiveness and Influence: It's more than Passing Bills



How does one measure influence and the effectiveness of legislators? This is not a trivial question, as voters have to make sense of competing claims during election years when deciding whether to return an incumbent for another two or six year term. Of course, incumbents seek to inflate their importance and influence, while their opponents attempt the opposite. Justin Grimmer wrote a fascinating account of how legislators attempt to puff up their credentials in press releases, claiming credit for government spending and appropriations which are routine--the legislator likely had little role in procuring. 

I am drawn again to the topic of legislative effectiveness and influence by a recent post by Don Pogreba at his new website, The Montana Post. Pogreba contrasts the legislative accomplishments of Senator Tester with those of Senator Daines, suggesting that Tester is far more accomplished than Daines—inferring that Daines has little influence in Washington and does nothing of substance in the U.S. Senate.

Unfortunately, I thought the piece trivializes an important issue to sell a partisan point. Both parties are guilty of simplifying this issue to create a narrative useful to them. Let’s elevate the conversation, and see what political science can offer. Who is more effective: Daines or Tester?
I addressed the issue of influence and effectiveness in Battle for the Big Sky, as a key argument Team Tester made about Congressman Rehberg was that he had accomplished little of substance during his decade plus in the House of Representatives. I wrote this in evaluating the effectiveness of Tester and Rehberg as lawmakers:

            On average, House members passed less than one bill in the 109th through the 111th       Congresses that became law, according to data compiled by the Congressional Bills Project. In the Senate, it isn’t much better: Senators passed fewer than two bills on  average that were signed by the president over the same period.17 Of the 42 bills and resolutions sponsored by Tester during his first four years in office, two passed. Rehberg  passed seven of the 82 bills and resolutions he introduced between 2001 and 2010.18 In neither case do Rehberg nor Tester stand out as successful legislators, but their efforts are less reflective of their individual abilities than they are of governing in an era of   polarization and divided government. Senior members of both chambers tend to be more success­ful because they often have committee chairmanships that provide them with the opportunity and responsibility to advance legislation central to their party’s legislative agendas.

A couple of points are important. First, it’s really hard to pass a bill. Second, it’s really hard for House members to be effective in sponsoring bills—but it is “relatively” easier for Senators to get their legislation made into law. Third, appropriators don’t often sponsor bills and exert influence through earmarks instead. Finally, seniority matters: Freshmen simply don’t pass bills they sponsor in either chamber often. 

Let’s compare apples to apples. In 2007, Senator Tester was a part of the new Democratic majority. According to GovTrack, the same source Pogrebra uses to assess Senator Daines’ performance, Senator Tester did not have a bill sponsored by him (not counting co-sponsored bills) pass that year. In 2015, Senator Daines was also in his first year in the Senate as part of a new Republican majority. And, no surprise, he did not have a single bill sponsored by him become law. 

But sponsoring bills is only one way to think about legislative effectiveness. Indeed, it is a measure that is not terribly useful when looking at freshmen legislators. I noted in Battle for the Big Sky that the Senate gives far more opportunities for senators to participate directly in the legislative process through floor amendments. This is the similar tactic that my Georgia State colleague, Jeff Lazarus, employed to compare the legislative effectiveness of Senators Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Read the piece here; Lazarus concluded that Clinton was the far more effective legislator, owing in part to the support she marshalled for her amendments.

Tester effectively used amendments to advance his legislative priorities, particularly for a freshman Senator in the majority. While he ranked second to last among his class in the passage of sponsored bills (in the first four years of his first term), he was the second most successful Senate amender among the cohort elected in 2006. Of the 38 amendments he sponsored, eleven were adopted on the floor. Again, this data is from my book.
Senator Daines, in the 114th Congress, sponsored 55 floor amendments (Data for this analysis was obtained from Congress.gov). Only five were adopted by the chamber—for a success rate of nine percent. How does that rank among Republican freshmen? 

Eleven Republican freshmen were elected in 2014. Six had higher amendment passage rates than Daines, five had lower success rates. Senators Rounds and Sullivan had 32 percent of their amendments agreed to (about Tester’s success rate), but both sponsored fewer amendments (19 and 41 respectively). At the bottom end of the scale, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford sponsored 34 amendments and had only one receive Senate assent (for a passage rate of 3 percent). Among freshmen, Daines also sponsored the most amendments—eight more than Colorado Senator Corey Gardner (17 percent success rate).

Legislative effectiveness is tricky to measure and must be placed both in career and institutional context. Daines’ inability to pass legislation sponsored by him should not surprise given his relative junior status—and Tester found himself in precisely the same boat when he arrived in Washington. Looking at amendments, Daines is less effective than Tester was early in his career. Tester’s experience as a successful legislator in the Montana Senate has carried over to the U.S. Senate. Daines, whose experience was in the private sector and not in politics prior to arriving on Capitol Hill, likely has had a steep learning curve when it comes to legislative maneuvering on the Senate floor.

One final and related point: political scientists have long argued that term limits are bad for legislatures. As David Mayhew notes in America’s Congress, some of the country’s most important, historic legislative measures were drafted and passed by members of Congress late in their careers. As the above analysis and discussion demonstrates, passing laws is the business of seasoned legislators and not those new to Capitol Hill. It is also not a particularly useful way to measure whether a legislator is effective or not earlier in their careers—especially not in isolation. There are also other ways to think about legislative effectiveness, including casework and pork brought back home. Both of these are hard to measure, and in the case of pork, ever more difficult to obtain given the recent ban on earmarks. Legislative effectiveness is multi-faceted and needs to be placed into comparative contexts.