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I don't write diaries often anymore, but this particular piece in the New York Times did catch my eye.

The most expensive election in American history drew to a close this week with a price tag estimated at more than $6 billion, propelled by legal and regulatory decisions that allowed wealthy donors to pour record amounts of cash into races around the country.

But while outside spending affected the election in innumerable ways — reshaping the Republican presidential nominating contest, clogging the airwaves with unprecedented amounts of negative advertising and shoring up embattled Republican incumbents in the House — the prizes most sought by the emerging class of megadonors remained outside their grasp. President Obama will return to the White House in January, and the Democrats have strengthened their lock on the Senate.

I highlight this last piece, because it's thrown in there as an afterthought, but it's the most critical part of the "cash flood" that did more to keep the status quo in the house than anything else.

As an example, we can talk about my legislative district, PA-8.

Pennsylvania went Obama, as we all know by now, by 6 percentage points, giving Romney the rounded-up Schadenfeaudian number of 47%.

You'd think that this overall number would have been represented in the swingiest of swing districts, of which PA-8, Bucks County, is one.

What's really interesting about the numbers of PA-8 is that overall, Bucks County went to Obama, 50-48.  Though it's not mentioned in HuffPost's election results, it's a pretty reasonable assumption that Bob Casey also won the county, despite a boatload of ads and a ground campaign supporting "Tea Party" Tom Smith.

Here's how close it was, though: had you lumped the "others" for president with Romney, he might have carried the county.

Still, you'd think PA-8, which swung towards Pat Murphy in 2008, but swung right back to Fitzpatrick in 2010, would be a highly competitive race.  Kathryn Bookvar was a good candidate, and Obama won the district.  In many years, I'd be willing to bet, this would have been sufficient to sweep her into office, or at least make the race somewhat close.

It wasn't.  And that's where the unlimited Super PAC spending, mostly bankrolled by a bunch of aging GOP zillionaires, made a gigantic difference.

Two and a half years ago, when he decided to make a run against Congressman Patrick Murphy for the 8th District job that was once his, Mike Fitzpatrick had a challenge for the incumbent: Limit spending on the 2010 campaign to $1 million apiece.

“The cost of running a campaign is out of control,” Fitzpatrick said back then. “Candidates spend much too much time fundraising and not enough time with the people and addressing their issues.

“And given the economy, and with so many good Bucks Countians out of work, it’s absolutely the right thing to do. As leaders, it’s the responsible thing to do.”

Now that he has a large monetary advantage against Democrat Kathy Boockvar, he won’t be making the same offer.

Being an incumbent explains his reticence. With a one-year head start in fundraising, Fitzpatrick has raised $1.8 million compared to his Democratic challenger’s $675,000.

So far, $37,000 has been spent by outside groups — all but $1,500 against Fitzpatrick or for Boockvar.

And:
At least one Republican, meanwhile, spent heavily to hold onto his seat. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, running in the most narrowly divided district in our area, put $1.5 million into his race in the past three months, according to campaign disclosures. He had just $311,000 left to spend in the Bucks-based race as of the end of September. His opponent, Democrat Kathy Boockvar, has previously said she raised more than $500,000 last quarter. But Fitzpatrick is believed to have a strong lead, contributing to national Democrats' decision to put its TV money elsewhere.
Again, I highlight this: in a year when the Democrats are considered "big winners", in a year when Obama won the day, the money had deep effects, forcing Democrats to not contest very contestable seats.

Fitzpatrick, fer Crissakes, missed his re-swearing in since he was entertaining big donors and hanging out with lobbyists.  This should have been a message that Bookvar should have been saying every chance she got.  But in her defense, she never had the money to get that message out.  Mike Fitzpatrick didn't have a lot of TV spots, even with his amount of spending, but he did have a couple, where he was shown as the guy who helped someone in need, and though I'm not exactly sure, he may have also given his support for puppy dogs and ice cream as well.  Unsuprisingly, he campaigned as a "moderate", not the tea-party fueled Grover Norquist pledge-keeping politician he actually is.

But he won.  And it wasn't even close.  57% to 42%.  ng>57-42!  This means people are splitting the ticket to vote for this guy.  

The only explanation is the fact that Bookvar was badly outspent, and didn't even have a chance to challenge Fitzpatrick even on the complete lay-ups, like the "hanging out with lobbyists."  Hell, I'm no expert, but don't the attack ads write themselves?

I am very afraid that the results of this election, good for Democrats at the national and state levels, obfuscate a deeper problem that needs to be addressed.  Obama won, and many Senators won, despite a flurry of money that made a race that frankly should have been an Obama blowout and made it competitive.  And this loss shows itself in races like PA-8, which should have been contests, but weren't.

The Democrats have no time to pat themselves on the back.  They need to either find a way to stop the obscene campaign financing system that hopelessly tilts the field in favor of big money, or find a way to match the spending of the rich GOP white guys, or they will find themselves on the back on another hammering in 2014.  Demographics, schemographics.  The name of this game is money, and the Democrats, in more ways than folks care to see, lost a lot more than people realize last Tuesday.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great point. The new meme is 'all this money and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RandomNonviolence, bluedust, cai

    nothing changed', as if that's the only result spending can have. Thanks for turning the meme on its head - I'm really tired of it already.

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 08:57:28 AM PST

  •  I don't think that it is quite as dire as you (0+ / 0-)

    portray it, as gerrymandering likely had just as much, or more, of an impact as big money spending did, but I agree that it is a considerable problem.

    The grassroots needs to bump up the amount of small donations that it makes in 2014.  I will personally make that pledge:  I didn't donate in 2010, but I am going to make sure to donate in 2014 and am also going to do my best to convince all the Americans living abroad whom I know to donate at least 100 bucks in 2014.

    We shouldn't make the same mistake that we did in 2010, that much is sure.

    Tipped and recced.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 08:58:43 AM PST

  •  Important diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chicagobleu, cai

    Brings us back to a central issue.  How to overturn Citizens United.  It is an issue which, I have found among my friends, transcends the normal divide.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:02:26 AM PST

  •  Was There No Redistricting There? (0+ / 0-)

    That could have accounted for some of the difference.

    Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

    by TooFolkGR on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:02:28 AM PST

  •  My understanding is the Koch bros gave DeFazios (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cai

    opponent Robinson money. After Robinsons son ran in a primary against DeFazio AND lost , pops stepped up with more money... He won just 1% more of the vote to end with 40 instead of the usual 39% Defazios opponents usually achieve.

    Robinson tried to play like he was a moderate but the truth is he wants to end the public school system as well as other nutcase ideas... Why if thier ideas are so great do all these AHs have to disguise themselves..

    But we need to get a handle on this and fix voting.

    How can you tell when Rmoney is lying? His lips are moving. Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:16:25 AM PST

  •  Work has just started (0+ / 0-)

    We have to carry the success of Presidential election years and the Senate campaign into mid-terms and the Congressional elections.

    The campaign can't stop. The President needs to take his case to the people and hammer congress, demonize the Republicans in congress and go into mid-terms better equipped and deployed then even we were even in this successful election year.

    We have to cut out the cancer or it will return in a new just as virulent form.

  •  This is why (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cai

    The Supreme Court is going to be one of the biggest issues the next four years.

    We really need one of the GOP judges to leave soon, which will then lead to Citizen's United being overturned.

  •  2 other thoughts. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cai

    1. In 2010 and in the 2012 primary the DNC was vilified for supporting DINOs (McCaskill anyone?) and sabotaging progressives. When Howard Dean was making the strategic decisions we got Speaker Pelosi.
    2. If I were the shadowy mastermind of the fascist vote fraud program and I saw polling figures for Romney, Akin, et all I would resort to Plan B - go to House races (even individual precincts) where I could steal small numbers of votes and get a disproportionate result. 57-42 sounds whopping for such a plot, but how many votes over how many precincts was that? And how many people would notice a 1500-550 precinct go 1400-550 or 1500-450? You can hide a lot of theft that way. The same argument works with gerrymandering of course. Swap a 1500-500 neighborhood for a 500-1500 neighborhood and you don't even need to spend the 30 seconds it takes to flip a voting machine.

  •  Money comes from same place, but ALEC gets more (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cai

    "credit" for the GOP House win, in my opinion, by concentrating on state-level spending to elect GOP legislators who would gerrymander red states to keep the GOP in office, even when the Dems had the popular vote advantage.

    $%*@$$  the Roberts court.

  •  Yes, and they threw a lot of money into Alaska (0+ / 0-)

    also.  And it isn't pretty what happened here.  Although there are a few redeeming races.

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