SummaryThis study is undertaken to assess whether an ambition-based approach to politics can contribute to the understanding of legislative behavior. More specifically, the study examines the effect of ambition on United States senators who ran for president from 1976 to 2004. The United States Senate is selected as a focus for the inquiry on both substantial and methodological grounds. A quantitative analytical technique is employed in exploring the effect of presidential ambition on legislative behavior.
Two measures of legislative behavior is used, attendance and roll call voting. Attendance is measured by using a senators percentage of missed votes, while roll call voting is measured by using W-NOMINATE scores which are estimates of legislators legislative preference.
Data presented in this study provide support for the hypothesis that ambition for higher office has a marked effect on legislative behavior. In most instances examined here, the presidential candidacies have a pronounced effect on behavior in the Senate during the period in which the presidential nomination was sought.
Of the two dependent variables examined, the findings are strongest and most consistent for attendance. In most cases, interest in the Presidency leads to a drop in Senate contenders’ attendance, or more specifically to an increase in their percentage of missed votes. The effect of ambition on contenders’ roll call voting is also noticeable--considerable for some--but the overall effect is not as dramatic as it was expected to be.