Winning without the Mother's
Milk of Politics
POLITICAL ANALYSTS, steeped in the strategies of television campaigning and polarization, generally attributed the Democrats' 2006 victories to the fund-raising of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the work of Congressman Rahm Emanuel in recruiting the right candidate for each district. Indeed, immediately after it became clear that the Democrats had succeeded in taking over Congress, one of the best-known consultants in the party, James Carville, suggested that Howard Dean should resign as DNC chair because his fifty-state strategy had deprived some Democratic candidates of victory by not providing them with the money necessary to win (“Odd Attack” 2006). DNC members predictably ignored such foolish advice and reelected Dean, but the argument that “whoever has the most money wins” still persists.
Federal Election Commission post-election data allow us to test this hypothesis in forty-nine marginal districts.The numbers, which show the expenditures of each candidate as well as those of each party's congressional campaign committee in individual races (but, it should be noted, do not show what was spent by outside interest groups), demonstrate that money still provides some advantages in a campaign—but not nearly as much as commonly believed.
It is true that those Democratic challengers whose campaigns raised more money than their Republican opponents or at least matched them dollar for dollar did have about a 70 percent chance of winning in this Democratic year. When the Republican candidate raised more money, the Democrats' success rate dropped to less than one in two, suggesting some relationship between victory and dollars but hardly a perfect correlation. Certainly, a Democrat's chances of winning became progressively worse as