Republicans and Auto Bailouts

Sara Binder looks at patterns in House GOP support for the auto bailout package:

And which Republicans were most likely to support pumping emergency loans into the Big Three? Location, location, location. All of the eight Michigan Republicans who participated in the vote supported the bailout. Indeed, Republicans from Rustbelt states were disproportionately (though not surprisingly) more likely to vote with the auto manufacturers, even controlling for ideological predispositions. Republican moderates were also more likely to cross the double yellow line to vote with the Democrats, just as they were for the Wall Street bailout package in October. Granted, Republicans from Rustbelt states tend to be more moderate than their Republican colleagues. But both ideology and geography tend to matter in driving GOP support. Finally, even after controlling for policy views and constituency forces, retiring Republicans were more likely to vote with Motown. Single-minded seekers of re-election can quickly become single-minded seekers of saving their 401K’s.

What lesson should the Big Three draw from the House vote as they seek roughly a dozen GOP votes to break Senator Richard Shelby’s promised Senate filibuster? Fill your tanks and buckle up for a bumpy ride. The geographic concentration of the domestic auto industry in the Rustbelt radically limits the industry’s voting power in the Senate. Nor has the spread of foreign automakers in search of lower labor costs into the South helped the Big Three’s cause, as southern senators — already ideologically predisposed to shun direct government support for the auto industry — seem unswayed by the potential for a heavily-unionized domestic industry in the Midwest to go bankrupt. And unfortunate for the Big Three, few of the remaining Senate GOP moderates yet appear to be on board for the bailout package.

Not earth-shattering revelations — this is about what you’d expect. But it’s good to know for sure and not just be guessing.