As a reader, I don't believe many of the stated premises here. I don't mean that as a troll, but as a fan of Democracy SOS and thus as feedback. For example, "The money goes to candidates who donors know will win." I'm a politico enough to know a LOT of senate races in 2020 outraised/outspent their competitors and still lost, and a quick search of the internet verified this. https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ELECTION/SENATE-FUNDRAISING/yxmvjeyjkpr/ Knowing that premise isn't true, I'm skeptical of the rest.

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 10, 2022Author

Hi Pat, thanks for your comment and weighing in on this important topic. The link you have provided actually proves my point. The overall point I made was this: “the overwhelmingly dominant factor in who wins and loses all but the closest legislative elections is not campaign spending inequities but partisan residential demographic patterns in red and blue America.” In other words, the partisan tilt of the district is the decisive factor (which can be fairly easily determined by using the presidential vote in each district as a proxy for that district's partisan leaning, and with another non-campaign spending factor being the power of incumbency). So if you look at your Reuters link, you can see that even though Mitch McConnell was outspent in his race, he still walloped his Democratic opponent by 20 points. That’s because Kentucky is such an overwhelmingly Republican state (Trump beat Biden by 26%) that even a Democrat who outspent McConnell lost by a landslide. This was predicted by virtually every poll and pundit that followed that race without knowing that the Dem candidate would outspend McConnell. Who knows what Democrats were thinking, why they wasted so much money on an unwinnable race. Maybe they were encouraged that a Democratic governor barely beat his Republican opponent in Kentucky (by .4% of the vote) but even then the Libertarian won 2%, so the conservative vote split (in other words, without that Libertarian in the race, most likely the Republican wins -- but in a fairly close race, which is interesting). Maybe they just wanted to make the Senate minority leader sweat a little bit (they failed). In any case, they wasted tens of millions of dollars on a badly losing effort.

Because, as my article says, the dominant factor in deciding most races is the partisan tilt of that state or district – not campaign inequities. The same with the Lindsey Graham race in SC, who won by 10 points. There was no chance that a Democrat was going to beat a longtime incumbent like Graham, not in heavily-Republican South Carolina. But Democrats spent like drunken sailors anyway.

There are always exceptions to the rule. But not often. At the very top of the graphic you have provided, you can see that 21 races were won by the candidate that spent the most money – but if you look at the little icon representing each state where this happened, you can see that all of the ones under the GOP category were in very red/conservative states. And those under the Democratic category were in blue/liberal states. So OF COURSE those races turned out so predictably.

And in those 9 states in which Democratic candidates outspent GOP candidates and lost, those were in states like Mississippi, Alabama, Montana, North Dakota, Iowa. These are all solidly Republican states too, yet for whatever reason the Democrats decided to go all out and raise a bunch of money in races in which they had no chance to win (most of that money raised "overwhelmingly" from out of state as part of this national campaign to win a Senate majority). But that is unusual, the exceptions that prove the larger point: in most elections, in most states and districts, campaign spending inequities do not determine the winners. That is determined by the partisan tilt of that district and state.

And from there flows the second part of what I wrote: so the donors give to the candidates they KNOW are going to win. Those donors are trying to buy access. Is that a 100% rule? No, nothing in politics is. But it's a pretty reliable rule of thumb.

Thanks, all the best

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Even our elected members of Congress "have to pay to play". They are expected to raise money for their political party. Those that are successful get appointed to the more significant committees. Those who don't raise money for their party may be limited to just voting on bills.

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