Just talked to a Republican leadership aide. Here’s what he had to say about the big margin today. He cited three factors:
1) Up to the point of the Monday vote, members were only hearing from people adamantly opposed to the bill. After the vote, that changed. They began to hear from employers, bankers, and opinion leaders back in their districts who told them how much it would hurt the local economy if they didn’t act to try to calm the credit markets; 2) The strong Senate vote helped. Members could say to themselves, “Well, both my state’s senators voted for it.” And Sen. Tom Coburn’s strong support for the measure carried a lot of weight with House conservatives; 3) The inclusion of the FDIC increase gave members something positive and easy to understand to talk about in explaining the bill. The purchase of illiquid assets isn’t easy to explain, and if you can explain it, doesn’t sound very appealing to anyone. The FDIC provision was easier to portray as a proposal to help “Main Street,” with local bankers complaining and worrying about large withdrawals.
Even up to this morning, Republicans were worried about just getting the votes to pass the bailout. Leadership was surprised by the big margin. This aide noted a couple of members who he thought were particularly courageous: Rep. John Campbell from California, an up-and-comer in the RSC who bucked the RSC to support the bill, and was very active, speaking up at conference meetings and writing op-eds; John Shadegg of Arizona, a conservative stalwart (and a favorite of mine) who switched his vote from Monday to today; and Rep. Joe Knollenberg of Michigan, who is in one of the toughest races in the country for a Republican incumbent but nonetheless voted “yes” today.