Contribution Link analysis: Yes, incumbents with money won on Tuesday, but there were outliers

By on August 17, 2012

The following is a guest post from Brecht Heuchan of Contribution Link.

It is generally understood that in order to increase a campaign’s chance of victory, candidates need money to get known and communicate with voters. But how much of victory depends on money? As a small sample, we looked at the state legislative 2012 primaries in Florida:

  • There were 73 primaries, 62 in the House and 11 in the Senate.
  • There were 44 Republican primaries, 36 in the House and 8 in the Senate.
  • There were 29 Democrat primaries, 26 in the House and 3 in the Senate.

Republicans were much more likely to challenge incumbents. In all, half of GOP primaries involved incumbents, although none lost. Only 14% of Democrat primaries (4) involved incumbents, two of them lost (Perman and Julien).

What about money being an indicator to victory? Importantly, this analysis does not account for the sometimes significant role that outside groups play in the outcomes of elections. However, there are lessons to be learned nonetheless.

The candidate that raised the most amount of money won 82% of the time. These 13 primary races were the exception; they were won by the candidate who raised a lesser amount of money:

HD 21 – Democrat Primary – Bosshardt $124k v Morey $26K – winner

HD 45 – Democrat Primary – Bracy $11k – winner v Curry $26k

HD 63 – Democrat Primary – Danish $6k – winner v Hafeez $63k

HD 66 – Democrat Primary – Ambrose $17k – winner v Kennedy $21k

HD 69 – Republican Primary – Peters $59k – winner v Phillips $86k

HD 76 – Republican Primary – Grant $186k v Rodrigues $63k – winner

HD 82 – Republican Primary- Magar $98k – winner v Carl Domino $273k

HD 104 – Democrat Primary – Stark $99k – winner v Robin Behrman $112k

HD 107 – Democrat Primary – Julien $107k – Watson $35k – winner

HD 108 – Democrat Primary – Campbell – $39,800- winner; opponents raised $54k and $57k respectively.

SD 12 – Democrat Primary – Siplin $142k v Thompson $130k – winner

SD 25 – Republican Primary – Peterson $20k – winner v Sommers $99k

SD 39 – Democrat Primary – Dwight Bullard $50k – winner v Saunders $167k

These statistics show some of what we already know, money is critical to success in elections. Campaigns are about minimizing risk and mistakes, money is the great equalizer, making up for other campaign deficiencies. As you can see however, there are outliers – in each case, something trumped hard money to the campaign, factors like quality of candidate, third party involvement, ground game, generic political performance, political climate, turnout, geography, strategy, good advice from smart people and support from family and friends. There are an unlimited number of scenarios that determine outcomes in politics which is why it fascinates many.

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