"I have a track record in Washington, D.C., of getting things done," former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said during the pre-show debate Thursday night, by way of establishing his credentials. And he does. Among the 11 (!) 2016 candidates who at one point served in Congress, Santorum's record of getting legislation passed is impressive.
How does the field compare overall? Before we answer that, we will dispatch with the inevitable response from some quarters: "But it is good for Congress not to pass laws!" If that is your view, so be it; we've addressed that before on the grand scale. We aren't talking about Congress, though. We're talking about legislators. And if you support, say, Rand Paul, you probably want bills he has sponsored to pass, no?
So, using GovTrack, we pulled data on how often each of the 11 (plus Joe Biden, just in case) were able to pass legislation in the House, in the Senate, or in both and then signed into law. Here's the comparison:
Only one 2016 candidate has had a bill passed by both the House and Senate that didn't make it into law. It was a bill by Santorum to ban partial-birth abortion.
Of course, Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are all pretty new to the Senate, giving them less time to get things passed.
The number of bills sponsored by each legislator also varies, in correlation to how long they spent on the Hill.
So who packed the most punch for his or her time in Congress? Not Santorum, but someone else on that stage Thursday night: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Jindal got 1.7 laws passed for every year he spent in the House, far more than anyone else.
By sponsored bills, he also comes out on top, though John Kasich also had a relatively high percentage of the bills he sponsored in the House see the president's pen.
So who is the most effective legislator running for president? By this metric, we'll give it to Jindal. But we suspect about the only people who consider that the most appropriate metric are those working for Jindal's campaign.