Monday, November 14, 2005

Election Bang for the Buck

Welcome, Blue Staters!

Enlighten New Jersey shares some interesting data in the aftermath of the gubernatorial election.

In the 2001 New Jersey governor's race with Jim McGreevey against Bret Schundler, the candidates spent a combined $36 million on the campaign with the Democrat McGreevey outspending the Republican Schundler by a margin of 3-to-1. The result was McGreevey 1,229,818 votes to Schundler’s 915,314, a difference of 314,504 votes in favor of the Democrat.

In this year’s gubernatorial race the candidate’s spent a combined $75 million with Jon Corzine outspending Doug Forrester by a margin of 2-to-1. The result was Corzine 1,157,385 votes and Forrester 954,347, a difference of 203,038 votes in favor of the Democrat.
Since I love to play with numbers, I decided to see what I could learn here. First, some basic spending rates. (See if you can guess which candidate is a fiscal conservative.)

Campaign Spending per Vote
McGreevey (D)
$ 21.95
Schundler (R)
$ 9.83
Corzine (D)
$ 43.20
Forrester (R)
$ 26.20

So that made me wonder, what would it take for Forrester to buy parity with Corzine? On a pure cost per vote basis ($26 apiece), that works out to another $5.3 million. Any amount of additional spending by Forrester would likely have been matched by Corzine. Assuming he did so at 1:1, Corzine's additional $5.3 million would have added another 123,117 votes to his total, meaning Forrester would not have closed the gap completely. Assuming a constant average cost, Doug needed to spend about $13 million more to get even.

Right about now, you're probably thinking the average cost is a flawed assumption. You're right. Forrester's $26 average price includes a lot of committed Republicans. A better measure would be the marginal cost per vote gained from the last election. Forrester spent about $16 million more than Schundler and garnered 39 thousand more votes, so his marginal vote cost works out to just under $410. At that rate, Doug needed to spend another $83 million to close the 200 kilovote gap with Corzine.

Applying the same marginal cost per vote model to Corzine, this gets really interesting. Corzine spent about $23 million more than McGreevey, for 72 thousand fewer votes, yielding a marginal rate of negative $317.53 per vote. If he spent the same additional $83 million as Forrester, he would lose 262,000 votes, giving Forrester a significant margin. The break-even point in this model comes in at about $36 million in additional spending.

So what's my point? Obviously, more spending by the Republican campaign was not the answer to winning this election. More effective spending would have helped, and for the most part Republican spending was significantly more effective than Democrat spending. What this data tells me is that Corzine is not an effective manager of money, delivering negative vote productivity in a largely blue state, while spraying cash like water through a fire hose. He may get the results he sets out to achieve, but he does it in a way that is wasteful and inefficient when using his own money. I'm not looking forward to what he will start doing with my money once he gets to Drumthwacket.

Thanks to The Blue State Conservatives for hosting the Friday Linkfest.