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Pelosi Tips the Scales?

The more that I think about this, the more I think that the failure of the bailout package in Congress today was something of an inevitability — perhaps the only way to right the perverse incentives that had been at work.

The Republicans’ best-case scenario was the bill passing the House by one vote — with as few as those votes as possible coming from Republicans.

Their worst-case scenario for them might have been … what just happened this afternoon. Opposing the bailout had been a political freeroll before because it wasn’t manifest to the public what the risks of a nay vote would be. But with the Dow having dropped 780 points today, the risks are now painfully obvious. What had looked to be a politically prudent position 24 hours ago now looks cavalier and reckless. And yet, the Republicans will still by and large will get blamed for putting us in this predicament in the first place. Plus, the failure of the bill is an embarrassment to John McCain…

I’m not saying that Pelosi’s ostensibly partisan speech today (which I still haven’t heard) was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the bill. The margin was such that the bill was almost certainly headed for failure regardless. But her risks were pretty well hedged if the bill failed — much better, it turns out, than the Republicans’ were. Roy Blunt and John Boehner ought to have known to build in a fudge factor. They didn’t, and now their party is liable to suffer as a result.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.