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Rohde: Risk bearing and progressive ambition

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Rohde. 1979. Risk bearing and progressive ambition. AJPS 23:1-26.

Place in the Literature

Schlesinger argued that there are three types of ambition present among House members:

  • Discrete ambition: You want to run, hold office for one term, then retire.
  • Static ambition: You want to run, then hold that one office until you are old, then retire (e.g. many House members).
  • Progressive ambition: You want to run for progressively powerful offices.

Rohde counters that all House members have progressive ambition, but whether they exhibit it depends on their calculus--is it worth trying to run for a higher office or not?

The Calculus

See the article for specifics. Basically, whether a House member runs for Senate or governor depends on his expected utility of doing so--which, in turn, hinges on the value of the higher office, the probability of winning it, and the value of their current office.

Empirical Application

Rohde attempts to operationalize and test the model. A few examples:

  • Value of the higher office: length of gubernatorial term
  • Probability of winning: Open seat, whether the state favors his party, and the size of his district relative to the entire state
  • Value of the House seat: inversely proportional to the member's seniority
  • Whether the House member is a "risk taker."