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Did Outside Money Matter in House Races?

In our local congressional contest, Jerry McNerney’s campaign was not only out raised and out spent by Ricky Gill’s campaign (at least through the third quarter), but Republican aligned outside groups also spent far more money on behave of Gill than Democratic aligned groups spent on behalf of McNerney. The Center for Responsive Politics data show a nearly 5:1 advantage for Gill in outside spending. (Outside groups spent $4.80 on behalf of Gill for every $1 spent on behalf of McNerney.) Despite this imbalance, Gill lost.

What about other House contests? Did outside spending make a difference across the country? In a word, no. The result we saw here, according to an analysis by Lee Drutman, Alexander Furnas, Amy Cesal and Alex Engler at the Sunlight Foundation, was repeated in House races across the country.

They write:

One of the emerging post-campaign narratives is that all the outside money (more than $1.3 billion) that poured into the 2012 election didn’t buy much in the way of victories. And as we dig through the results in detail (our extensive data visualizations and analysis are below), the story holds up: we can find no statistically observable relationship between the outside spending and the likelihood of victory.

The kicker in the analysis is this chart:

The vertical axis is the Republican’s vote share. The horizontal axis is the Republican’s advantage in outside spending. Can you spot a relationship? I can’t.

So why didn’t outside spending matter much in 2012? Drutman and his colleagues offer a handful of explanations:

  1. National factors were more important.
  2. Outside spending produced a backlash.
  3. Money has diminishing marginal returns.
  4. Outside spending is more about offense.
  5. Candidate spending matters more.

I’m not sure which of these I agree with most. What about you?

[h/t the Monkey Cage]

More on McNerney v. Gill

November 10, 2012 1 comment

In a previous post, I argued that Ricky Gill’s campaign made a strategic error in defining him as the San Joaquin candidate. (Here’s what I mean by that.) The argument got some blowback from Gill’s campaign consultant in the comments and Mike Fitzgerald at the Record. Since, admittedly, I oversold the argument in my first post I want to provide some context and elaborate on it a little more here.

It was always going to be hard for Ricky Gill to win his contest against Jerry McNerney. There were three primary strategic challenges facing Gill at the start of the contest:

1) Jerry McNerney was the incumbent. The maps below show McNerney’s old district (CD-11) and his new district (CD-9). Although the two differ in important ways, including the fact that McNerney’s old residence is not in CD-9, most of the new district overlaps the old one. Most voters in the new CD-9 previously saw McNerney’s name on their ballots.

CD-11 (McNerney's prior district)

McNerney’s old district, CD-11

McNerney’s new district (CD-9)

Read more…

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