Progressive Ambition among United States Senators: 1972–1988
A rational-choice model is used to account for the decisions of United States Senators to run for president. The model predicts that senators will be more likely to run for president if their relative costs of running are low, if they have no political liabilities that might reduce their chances of winning, and if they have a propensity to take risks, which we measure by their past willingness to take risks in running for the Senate. The model works well in accounting for the decisions of Democrats to seek the presidency in 1972, 1976, and 1984, and can explain why few Republican senators ran in 1980. The model is used to predict which senators in the 99th Congress are relatively likely to run for president in 1988. The model works better in accounting for the past behavior of Democrats than Republicans, and also generates more plausible predictions about future Democratic presidential candidates. This partisan difference results largely from the different opportunity structures of the two parties. Finally, we discuss the changing dynamics of the nomination process and the implications of this change both for our model and for American electoral politics. © 1987, Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.
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