With $1.75 billion spent in the House this cycle, I looked at some of the most extreme stats that popped out at me, from high spenders to the most efficient campaigns.
First up is wine distributor David Trone in Maryland’s 6th, who outspent his opponent by $15.9 million, more than the 62 cheapest House races combined. After spending $12 million in 2016 just to lose in a primary where one of his first events was a meet and greet outside of the district, Trone poured his heart and soul and deep pockets into this one to ensure a victory. Even this may be short-lived though, as the Supreme Court takes a look at his seat with a high chance of dismantling it next cycle.
The honor for most spent in a campaign this cycle, however, comes from Katie Hill, who knocked off incumbent Steve Knight in California’s 25th district by 8.7%. Her campaign plus Democratic outside spending ended up putting $22 million in total which comes out to about $165 per vote. This is more overall spending than 8 presidential contenders’ campaigns and roughly the same cash per vote as Rand Paul.
The dubious distinction of biggest flop goes to Pennsylvania’s 1st Democratic candidate Scott Wallace, who spent the most money on a losing campaign, just over $101 per vote and $16.3 million total while failing to capture the Bucks County-dominated seat. This had more even spending overall, but Wallace self-funded while outside groups rushed in to back his opponent from getting too overspent.
Steve Russell’s internal polling in the closing weeks allegedly had it close, but he didn’t act like it, spending only $800,000, which is the lowest spent by an incumbent in a losing race. It ranked in the bottom 10 for incumbent spending in general, and most break a million. OK-5 would flip by a tight margin to Democrat Kendra Horn, and one wonders if we’ll see at least one of these surprise sleeping-on-the-job races every cycle.
The most efficient candidate was Texas’ 24th Democratic candidate Jan McDowell, who only spent $93,380, one of the lowest candidate totals, but rode Beto-mania to losing the contest by just under 3%-an incredible 75 cents per vote in the end. While this is an impressive performance, the lackluster fundraising and spending may mean McDowell is not in a strong position with the national party to run again in 2020, if this race gets attention.
An indicative factor to look at with party spending and strategy is how much of the cash went to “waste,” or losing races. Overall, the parties each wasted a little over $300 million overall, but since Democrats spent more, less of their cash went to losses.
$63 million of the Republican waste was in California alone- almost 20% of the total.
Among outside group’s independent expenditure spending, the waste rate was even more imbalanced:
Democratic groups funneled much of their money into expensive toss-up targets that, in the wave, broke their way.