Campaign Spending and Scott Walker

Republican Governor Scott Walker has successfully — and quite handily — defeated his Democrat opponent Tom Barrett in a union led recall election.  Not surprising Liberals and Democrats are already making excuses for their landslide loss.  The immediate narrative is the amount of money in campaign spending Walker had at his disposal — and not the will of the people — is responsible for his victory.

(DailyKos) — Ratio of Walker to Barrett campaign expenditures @ 10:1.  Walker had a bazooka.  Barrett had a slingshot.  Barrett had no chance.


In a purple state like WI, the GOP candidate was able to raise and spend nearly 10 times the amount of money as the Democratic candidate.  In a purple state like WI, the GOP candidate raised so much money that he was essentially able to purchase victory.  In a purple state like WI, Democracy was usurped.

Of course, this presumes the voters of Wisconsin are stupid.  One possible reason for Walker’s strong support could be a 180° in budget spending, which is anathema to Liberals (only 20% of the country considers themselves Liberal on economic issues).

(WausauDailyHearald) — Gov. Scott Walker’s administration says new revenue projections show the state will finish the 2011-2013 biennium with a $154.5 million surplus.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated in February the state would finish the two-year period with a $143 million deficit. But Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch wrote in a letter to Walker today that personal income growth has been stronger than anticipated and the state now expects to collect $265 million more in taxes than the Legislative Fiscal Bureau expected.

What’s more was this lack of outrage over then candidate Barack Obama’s campaign financing and spending which brought in $200 million more than John McCain’s campaign.

(ABC News) — McCain … was forced to play defense in solidly red states and often couldn’t match Obama’s local number of paid staffers, campaign field offices and investment in paid media.

Obama really blew McCain away in television advertising.  In all, Obama spent $100 million more on TV ads than McCain.

In the important electoral prize of Florida, Obama’s TV ad spending outpaced McCain’s by a 4 to 1 margin, according to ad spending figures from the Campaign Media Analysis Group through Oct. 29. In Virginia, the ratio was 3 to 1; in New Hampshire, 2 to 1; and North Carolina, 3 to 1.

Would Liberals agree, then, that the only reason President Obama won the election in 2008 was because he “was essentially able to purchase victory”?  I remember at the time his election was because the country wanted Hope, and Change.  Or is this only the case when Democrats win?

But according to some economists campaign spending is not necessarily what determines election results.

(Freakonomics) — [M]oney doesn’t necessarily cause a candidate to win — but, rather, that the kind of candidate who’s attractive to voters also ends up attracting a lot of money. So winning an election and raising money do go together, just as rain and umbrellas go together. But umbrellas don’t cause the rain. And it doesn’t seem as if money really causes  electoral victories either, at least not nearly to the extent that the conventional wisdom says. For every well-funded candidate who seems to confirm that money buys elections (paging Michael Bloomberg), you can find counterexamples like Meg Whitman, Linda McMahon, Steve Forbes, and Tom Golisano.

And take a look at the Iowa caucuses last week. Rick Perry was the top spender, buying $4.3 million worth of ads — which got him only 10 percent of the vote. Santorum, meanwhile, spent only $30,000 on ads (the least of any candidate) and practically tied Romney — who spent  $1.5 million this time around on Iowa ads, versus $10 million in 2008.

Did Scott Walker buy the election, in which  case we would have to concede also that Barack Obama ‘purchased’ victory?  Or do people vote for the candidate who best represents their economic and social values?  You can’t credibly have it both ways.


  1. Marshall Art says:

    The only issue with money in running campaigns is getting the name of the candidate out in front of enough people often enough for that candidate to be remembered and considered a real possibility. It seems more important during primaries than generals because there are so many people vying for the party nomination, especially in the beginning. The closer to the primary election date, with fewer candidates remaining, the easier it is for the average citizen to understand who is on the ballot. From there, the citizen, if truly a serious one, can find a number of ways to find out about each one of them, I.e. his record, his proposals and promises, etc. I’ve never had the slightest interest in how much money a candidate is spending to run for office, though as a fiscal conservative, it seems a fiscally conservative candidate wouldn’t spend the most.

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