Wednesday, January 4, 2012

American Democracy Is Shockingly Expensive - Up to $70,700/Vote In Iowa Yesterday

The results from the Iowa caucuses are in, with almost no surprises.

Mitt Romney, ever the Republican's least favorite front runner, picked up a smaller share of the Iowa caucus vote in 2012 (24.6%) than he did in 2008 (25.2%), though he did manage to convince all of 66 more people to vote for him in the course of 5 years of campaigning in Iowa - congrats, Mitt!

The latest not-Romney, Rick Santorum (I'd suggest against Googling his name) came in a very close second, a mere 8 votes behind Romney.

Perhaps the biggest winner of the night was Ron Paul - he was expected to do relatively well, but he grabbed more than twice the share of the vote (21.4%) than he managed to grab in 2008 (10.0%). But, I predict that if Ron Paul becomes a serious threat to the Republican Establishment's poster-boy Romney, the Establishment will put the smack down on Paul, just like they did Gingrich, and I bet they'll be just as effective in ending Paul's candidacy as they did Gingrich's.

What I found most surprising, however, is how starkly the Iowa Republican caucus illustrated the absurd amounts of money required to be a serious Presidential contender in the USA. Total spending on Iowa TV ads in the Republican caucus was $15.6 million in 2012, up from $11.75 million in 2008, a whopping increase of 32.8%! All to try to grab a slice of about 120,000 voters, for an average cost of $130/vote. Forget stocks and bonds - if the Republicans lose this year, I'm going to invest in Iowa TV ad spending futures for 2016.

It gets even more amazing when you look at how much each candidate paid for each of the votes they received (the chart is in dollars, and comes via the Atlantic):


And for the total amounts the different candidates spent on TV (including money spent by the SuperPACs supporting the candidates), we have this graphic from Buzzfeed:

This graphic actually gives us a lot of interesting information, beyond the raw totals. Practically all of the PAC money went to Perry and Romney, telling us that they were obviously the Republican establishment's choice candidates. Now that the Perry campaign has all but fizzled out, I think we can expect even more vicious Establishment attacks against all remaining non-Romney candidates to kick them out of the race for good. There's a small chance that Santorum could come from behind for the win and be blessed by the Establishment, but I doubt it.

Seriously - how can anyone vote for a guy that tweets this picture
to the entire world?

The graphic (well, both graphics, actually) show the extent to which the Bachmann campaign has/had absolutely no money whatsoever. It's no surprise that she's given up her campaign less than 24 hours after the Iowa results were announced.

On the other hand, the graphics are slightly reassuring in that they show that it is impossible to simply buy all elections in the USA - otherwise, Perry would have won, hands down. That's not to say that money isn't crucially important in American politics - of course it is; otherwise, candidates wouldn't spend so much time trying to raise it - but it's good to see that, once in a while, any random person with lots of money can't simply buy the election that he or she is looking to buy.

But, my favorite way of thinking about these numbers is thinking in terms of the number of dollars spent per additional vote garnered since 2008. Since only Ron Paul and Mitt Romney ran in 2008, I can only calculate this number for these candidates. Paul paid about $190 per additional vote - that seems high to me, but it's nothing compared to the whopping $70,700 per additional vote that Romney paid!

It's a good thing Romney's worth more than $200 million and has a lot of very rich Republicans looking to get him elected President - if each additional vote in the 2012 primaries costs him $70,700, winning the Republican nomination is going to get very expensive very quickly.

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