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Competitiveness and the 2008 legislative races

Posted at 10:42 AM on April 24, 2007 by Bob Collins (2 Comments)

The National Center for Money in State Politics sees a direct connection between the ability of someone to get elected, and the amount of money behind the candidate. Although I realize this is a common opinion -- maybe even a correct one -- I often wonder whether the reason money isn't behind a particular candidate is because he/she/it isn't a very good candidate to begin with.

The Center is out with a new tool, that looks at the races of 2006.

According to the group:

the tool generates a color-coded national map that illustrates the differences in monetary competitiveness across state lines. Each state and election cycle also can be viewed as a separate displ ay, allowing users to access summary data for a state and election cycle, as well as more detailed contribution information for each legislative candidate in that cycle.

The thing I notice, first, is that Minnesota has a very high percentage of competitive races in the Legislature, behind Arizona, New Hampshire, and South Dakota.

I was struck, actually, by the number of races in which the money total was relatively even. There are some exceptions of course. Take Senate District 55 where Charles Wiger won handily over Pete Fehlan in both vote totals and cash. Well, this is St. Paul and it's a tad absurd to suggest a Republican is going to win a Senate seat in St. Paul, although one could look at this and say "the reason Wiger won is because of the cash."

There's another tidbit here. The largest "take" for a lot of the candidates is the state subsidy.

Sometimes I wonder whether the predetermined conclusion that money=winning colors the data.

If anything, though, it does offer the opportunity for a discussion. I guess that's worth something.


Comments (2)


As this post is on the topic that I do business in, I have a lot to say about it, but I will just make a few points.

First, both MN and AZ have campaign finance subsidies - I do not know about NH or SD.

That, in itself, does equal the playing field, somewhat, among the top 2 candidates.

Second, I wish they, they being the media and who ever seems to think money is the key, would look at 'other' factors. But in the end the 'other factors end up being things such as: organizing, motivating volunteers, networking, charisma.

So if you are a good organizer, can motivate volunteers, have a network (and good at getting plugged into other peoples networks) and are charismatic most likely you can get people to vote for you. These same factors (to one degree or another) are the same things that make candidates good fundraisers.

So a good candidate can raise more money (in theory) than a not so good candidate.

So the money horse race is born, because it is easier (for media mostly, but general public also) to report $1,000,000 vs $100,000, instead of possibly being lied to about number of volunteers or organization strengths.

My company helps a lot of campaigns (PAC’s and Non-Profits) with organization, one thing we love is when the candidate calls and says something like: “I need to get organized, so I can get Contributions (volunteers, support, etc)” it shows that they will be successful (if not win at least be competitive).

Third point, incumbents win 90% of the time. Incumbents are, generally, plugged into networks, have staff for organization, since they are winners motivating people isn’t hard (everyone wants to be on winning team) and in most cases they have a degree of charisma. They usually have a fundraising advantage, in more and more cases, they fundraise from the day after the last election to the day of the next one. They are building on existing infrastructure, so they raise more money.

So while I don’t think that the money itself wins elections, the ability to raise money does show a level of competence in the candidate that voters will respond to.

Posted by Brian Hanf | April 24, 2007 1:58 PM


Brian nails it. I have very little to add but to reiterate Brian's point that the Candidate and the Organization trumps money. The political landscape is littered with great candidates who had poor organizations and lost. It is the very rare exception when there is an outstanding candidate with a strong organization that money is the deciding factor. As someone who worked on a number of legislative races in the 7th and 8th CD's this past fall, there is no question that the quality of the candidates and the organizations they put together were the deciding factors in a number of "swing" districts.

Posted by mike simpkins | April 24, 2007 5:30 PM