Candidates and Money

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People commonly say that elections are determined by who has the most money. A look at the data gives some interesting and at times surprising insights to this conventional wisdom. Consider the following three items:

1. There are several websites that seem to do a pretty good job of tracking and presenting campaign finances and related issues. For example,

opensecret.org

The Campaign Finance Institute

CQ Money Line

Campaign Money

National Institute on Money in State Politics

There’s always a lot of talk about who has the most money, but what does it really mean?

2. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in Freakonomics suggest how much money a candidate has doesn’t matter all that much. They say,

Here’s the surprise: the amount of money spent by the candidates hardly matters at all. A winning candidate can cut his spending in half and lose only 1 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, a losing candidate who doubles his spending can expect to shift the vote in his favor by only that same 1 percent. What really matters for a political candidate is not how much you spend; what matters is who you are. . . Some politicians are inherently attractive to voters and others simply aren’t, and no amount of money can do much about it.

So a different perspective on campaign war chests might be that they are more of an indicator of who is going to win (and who is going to want to get paid back in some form). That is, people donate to candidates that they think will win, and the more a candidate looks like they will win, the easier it is to get donations.

3. And finally, on a different angle, don’t you have to be rich just to run? CNN Money gave a nice story a few days ago on how much money the candidates have, which is summarized below. The article provides an additional breakdown as well as an analyst’s evaluation of the candidate’s holdings.

Net Worth of Candidates
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