How Much Did You Pay for That Primary Win?

Spending millions of your own money can get you nominated, but it won’t guarantee you a win in November.

National Journal
Adam Wollner and Karyn Bruggeman
May 27, 2014, 6:46 p.m.

Self-fund­ing can­did­ates are off to a strong start this elec­tion sea­son, but if his­tory is any guide, it won’t last.

Already, gubernat­ori­al hope­fuls, such as Re­pub­lic­an Bruce Rau­ner of Illinois and Demo­crat Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, won primar­ies after pour­ing mil­lions of their own cash in­to their cam­paigns. Dav­id Per­due waded through a crowded Geor­gia Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an field to ad­vance to a Ju­ly run­off elec­tion and polit­ic­al new­comer Curt Clawson won the GOP nom­in­a­tion for a spe­cial elec­tion in Flor­ida’s 19th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict the same way.

How much did it cost? Well, with $10 mil­lion spent, Wolf has taken the most out of his wal­let. Rau­ner shelled out more than $6.5 mil­lion, while Per­due per­son­ally put in nearly $3 mil­lion — with more po­ten­tially on the way. Clawson has spent more than $2.6 mil­lion.

While that might look like money well spent, self-fund­ing seems to only of­fer an ini­tial boost to help can­did­a­cies get off the ground. In­deed, his­tory shows it’s far from a sure­fire way to clinch vic­tory in Novem­ber.

Over the past three elec­tion cycles, 54 per­cent of House and Sen­ate can­did­ates who per­son­ally con­trib­uted or loaned at least $500,000 to their cam­paigns se­cured their party’s nom­in­a­tion, but just 22 per­cent of all self-fun­ders won their races, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. 

Over the past three elec­tion cycles, just 22 per­cent of all self-fun­ders won their races.

The biggest self-fund­ing flop dur­ing that peri­od came cour­tesy of Meg Whit­man, CEO of Hew­lett-Pack­ard, who spent a whop­ping $144 mil­lion of her per­son­al for­tune in a failed ef­fort to de­feat Demo­crat Jerry Brown in the 2010 Cali­for­nia gov­ernor’s race. On the Sen­ate side, former WWE CEO Linda McMa­hon pumped nearly $100 mil­lion of her own money in­to two un­suc­cess­ful bids in Con­necti­c­ut.

In 2012, Texas Lt. Gov. Dav­id Dewhurst fell short in his GOP primary run­off elec­tion against Ted Cruz even though he spent just shy of $20 mil­lion on the ef­fort. Dav­id Alameel’s fourth-place fin­ish in Texas’s 33rd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict primary per­son­ally cost him about $4.5 mil­lion — or $2,173 per vote.

This year, not all can­did­ates who at least par­tially self-fin­anced have found suc­cess. Sid Dinsdale lost in Neb­raska’s GOP Sen­ate primary des­pite loan­ing his cam­paign $1 mil­lion down the fi­nal stretch of the race, and Matt Bev­in spent $900,000 of his own money in his failed bid to un­seat Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell in Ken­tucky. Look­ing ahead to Iowa’s Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate primary on June 3, busi­ness­man Mark Jac­obs has put more than $3 mil­lion to­ward his cam­paign but still has fallen be­hind state Sen. Joni Ernst in re­cent polls.

For the lim­ited num­ber of self-fun­ders who emerge from the gen­er­al elec­tion, one ma­jor up­side is that they likely won’t be forced to de­liv­er a re­peat per­form­ance the next time around. A hand­ful of in­cum­bents who used their per­son­al re­serves to win of­fice are for­go­ing the op­tion while seek­ing reelec­tion this year. For in­stance, Flor­ida Gov. Rick Scott spent more than $70 mil­lion on his suc­cess­ful 2010 bid and Min­nesota Gov. Mark Dayton spent a com­bined $15 mil­lion on his 2010 race and pre­vi­ous Sen­ate win in 2000, but neither has in­dic­ated they’ll be open­ing up their wal­lets this year.

In ad­di­tion, Demo­crat­ic Sens. Mark Warner and Kay Hagan con­sist­ently rank among the 10 richest mem­bers of the U.S. Sen­ate in terms of net worth, but have used the perks of in­cum­bency to es­tab­lish strong enough polit­ic­al net­works to skip the self-fund­ing that fueled their earli­er runs.

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
4 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×