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.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.
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.
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.And:
“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.
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.