Today's Washington Post has an interesting piece on the failure of wealthy and self-funded candidates to win their elections on Tuesday:
The Center for Responsive Politics calculates that out of 58 candidates who used $500,000 or more of their money on federal races in 2010, fewer than one in five won. Eight of the top 10 self-funders this cycle lost, with only GOP Senate challenger Ron Johnson of Wisconsin ($8.2 million) and House candidate Scott Rigell of Virginia ($2.4 million) emerging victorious.
The results continue a long tradition of ambitious but failed bids for political office by self-financing tycoons from Ross Perot to Steve Forbes, who frequently have difficulty translating their financial advantages into votes. Since 1990, only five of the top 20 self-financed candidates have won, according to the center's data.
As it so happens, I wrote a very similar piece last month. And not only did I touch on the general failure of wealthy candidates to go beyond primaries or win elections, but I tried to explain the "why" of their missed success. In short, there's a lot more to winning an election than spending a lot of money:
As [Jennifer] Steen notes, "You can campaign by going out to shake people's hands at an event and by sending direct mail, or you can pick up a phone and call to ask for a donation." Successful fundraising strengthens ties with important interest groups, mobilizes voter blocs, and helps a candidate build the majority necessary for victory. Simply put, while a check for oneself is nice, a strong network of supportive donors is far better.
The upside to this is that progressives shouldn't panic when wealthy candidates jump in to oppose them and their interests; without skill, patience, and necessary support from local interests, wealthy candidates are just like anyone else.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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