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The Money Quote

Now that the election is over in what turned out to be the most expensive presidential campaign -- by far, even adjusted for inflation -- in history, I thought it might be fun to play with the numbers a bit.

In John McCain's case, it's easy. He accepted public financing for his campaign, so his total for the general election is a nice, fixed amount -- $84 million.

In Obama's case, it's a bit trickier. He raised a total of over $600 million for the race, but it's pretty vague what was for the primary and what was for the general. Also, he has yet to release his October figures. But I think I can calculate a decent half-assed guess, extrapolated from a couple of data points-- he got the nomination towards the end of August, and in September he raised $150 million. Let's say he matched that in October, plus he had the end of August and the first few days of November. Just to make the math easier, I'll say he had $316 million.

That would put the breakdown on election spending at 79% Obama, 21% McCain.

On the general election, that puts McCain at a considerable advantage for efficiency. With 21% of the money, he still pulled in 46.1% of the vote, while Obama only garnered 52.6% of the vote.

On the electoral side, it's a bit more congruent. Obama got about 68% of the electoral vote, while McCain won only about 32%.

So, for spending 4 out of 5 dollars, he got only 2 out of 3 of the electoral votes.

Taking the raw numbers, Obama spent $4.83 for each popular vote, and $$865,753.42 per electoral vote.

McCain spent $1.46 for each of his popular votes, and $515,337.42.

So, on the one hand, McCain ran a far more efficient campaign.

On the other hand, though, there's the old saying that "there's nothing more expensive than the second-best military."

In the end, McCain showed that he was, in many ways, a good loser. Because in the end, it's results matter. McCain spent far less money, and spent it far more efficiently, but in the end he achieved exactly nothing. His spending totals, his popular votes, and his electoral votes all together, with five bucks in cash on hand, might get him a cup of coffee at Starbucks. And Obama, who spent money so profligately that drunken sailors were saying "whoa, dude," ultimately has to be considered the more efficient -- because he achieved his goal.

When we look back at this election, I think we will see that Obama didn't just defeat McCain at the polls. He didn't just kill McCain's long-held presidential ambitions, he drove a stake through the heart of one of McCain's proudest legacies: the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act. By rejecting public financing, by freeing himself of the limitations that imposes on who accept public money for the presidential election, Obama has proven that the election financing system is severely broken, and ain't getting better any time soon.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that in 2012, the Republican nominee will also eschew public financing -- and that both campaigns will end up raising over a billion dollars each over the entire campaign cycle.

For a job that will pay them a grand total of $1.6 million over four years.

I would also like to see political campaigns be forced to comply with the same financial reporting and security and responsibility demands that private businesses are obliged to meet. But I sincerely doubt that the Democratic Congress will be inclined to change the system that worked so well for them this time.

The one thing that gives me any consolation is that the vast majority of the money raised by the campaigns was spent here in the US, providing a healthy shot in the arm to the economy. (Here in New Hampshire, the primary is always good for our economy.) And as long as we continue to hold the first primary (which I do wish would come a bit later next time), we can continue to count on that quadrennial bonus.


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Comments (19)

Just imagine the whining we... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

Just imagine the whining we'd be having from the Democrats if McCain was outspending Obama 4:1.

But this is the number one issue to discuss, because even without McCain's self imposed limits, it would still have been heavily in Obama's favor. The system is broken and in the Democrat's favor.

What's been troubling me is... (Below threshold)

What's been troubling me is the fact that we're supposed to be in such dire straights economically. Democrats have been saying that an Obama presidency will alleviate their financial woes. Yet these folks, who are a majority Democrat, somehow coughed up record amounts of dough to give to a Presidential candidate.

Anyone remember when the ol... (Below threshold)

Anyone remember when the old battle cry was people buying elections.

Look I really do not care how much money anyone spends on elections. I don't how much anyone donates.
Because we have seen elections with tons of money spent and the candidate loses.
1. Full disclosure on how the money was spent.
2. Full transparency on who is donating the money
3.No foreign money.

I'll go you one better on y... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

I'll go you one better on your point 3, hcddbz:

3. No money raised from any source outside the candidate's district.

IOW, no more national PACs, 527s, congressional campaign committees, NOTHING.

There's a good reason that ... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

There's a good reason that there's so much money flowing into campaigns and lobbying - money follows power. There's a corollary - an increase in government power creates an increase of money in politics. It would also work the other way (decrease power->decrease money in politics) but that direction rarely happens.

After a massive expansion of the size of federal gov't (and hence power) should anyone really be surprised at the massive amount of money now flowing into politics ?

I think we all benefit when you 'spread the power' (i.e. individual rights and states rights over federal government power).

Missing from all these calc... (Below threshold)

Missing from all these calculations and discussions is the 'value' of the influence shared by the msm. That, it would seem, is priceless.

Perhaps, in the ensuing failure of this administrations, their last shreds of credibility among the 'common man' will finally be snuffed out - BUT there is still an overwhelming majority of people who depend on the msm for their news. So even without credibility they still rule. Who &/or what will fill the void?

John McCain $84 million.<br... (Below threshold)

John McCain $84 million.
Barack Obama $600 million.

I thought Republicans were the party of the rich?

Yep, we have the best presi... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

Yep, we have the best president money could buy.

"Yep, we have the best pres... (Below threshold)
LaMedusa:

"Yep, we have the best president money could buy."

Isn't it awful that he's the best they could do? Where did all the money go?

Big Ears did raise the big ... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Big Ears did raise the big money. After he promised he wouldn't. Lying comes so naturally to lefties. ww

McCain was given a valuable... (Below threshold)
OLDPUPPYMAX:

McCain was given a valuable lesson in human nature. McCain-Feingold trampled on the rights of the American people, but arrogant, self-important people like McCain always know best. This law was, after all, for the greater good! The lesson learned by everyone but McCain is that thugs will always discover a way around supposedly good, but misguided intentions. The left was working on ways around the law before the ink was dry. McCain will simply decide the act must be strengthened in some way.

"Big ears"? Willie, your wi... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

"Big ears"? Willie, your wit is boundless.

Obama paid more per vote than McCain for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many of Obama's voters would normally have stayed home and likely took some prodding. GOTV is expensive and Obama did it well. McCain's GOTV operation was pitiful.

Money well spent, if you ask those who spent it.

Obama paid more per vote... (Below threshold)
Tim:

Obama paid more per vote than McCain for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many of Obama's voters would normally have stayed home and likely took some prodding. GOTV is expensive and Obama did it well. McCain's GOTV operation was pitiful.

Money well spent, if you ask those who spent it

What do they care? It wasn't their money.

We will eventually see wher... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

We will eventually see where a lot of Big Ears money came from. Of course the left will be outraged I tell you. ww

neocons always choose curio... (Below threshold)
peabody3000:

neocons always choose curious times to abandon their "might makes right" mantra.........

And once again, Jay makes a... (Below threshold)
Brian:

And once again, Jay makes an incomplete and disingenuous argument.

But McCain has found a way to work around these limits. The Republican Party -- and not his campaign committee -- has paid for more than half of his campaign ads and outspent Obama on television in the first week following the conventions.

McCain is using an arrangement in which he is not collecting private money, while the Republican National Committee is.

An analysis released on Wednesday by the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison finds that the RNC helped pay for more than 55 percent of McCain's ads in the week after the convention.
...
This works so well because the RNC is raising far more money than the Democratic National Committee. In its last official filings, the RNC had $75 million on hand -- almost 10 times more than the DNC.

So before you go comparing Obama's $600M to McCain's $84M, you need to disclose that the RNC raised $66M in Sept. alone for McCain. Granted, it's still less than Obama's $150M, and yes, the DNC also provided Obama with additional funds. Which just goes to show how incomplete Jay's argument is.

I thought Republicans we... (Below threshold)
Brian:

I thought Republicans were the party of the rich?

Mr. Obama had 632,000 new donors in September, bringing the campaign's total to 3.1 million. The average contribution, Mr. Plouffe said, was less than $100.

Volume, volume, volume.

Yet these folks, who are... (Below threshold)
Brian:

Yet these folks, who are a majority Democrat, somehow coughed up record amounts of dough to give to a Presidential candidate.

No, the folks didn't cough up record amounts of dough. Obama just inspired record amounts of folks.

"No, the folks didn't co... (Below threshold)

"No, the folks didn't cough up record amounts of dough."

Yes, they did.




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