Mitt's Big Spending Ways Don't Bode Well for His Candidacy
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 05:22:15 PM EDT
The folks within the Beltway seem content with their diagnosis that Mitt Romney won the Ames, Iowa straw poll over the weekend by a sufficiently large margin, meeting (though perhaps not beating) expectations. But I'd like to take a moment to challenge that assumption.
Earlier today Todd posted an interesting metric: the number of votes each Republican candidate garnered per visit that candidate made to the Hawkeye state. By this measure, Romney performs fairly well, trailing only Ron Paul in number of supporters per trip to Iowa. But USA Today's Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence, writing in the newspaper's On Politics blog, post another interesting metric: how much each candidate spent per vote. The numbers are decidedly different.
The top three finishers in the Iowa Republican Party straw poll are on talk shows today. We'll be back later with a report on what they said. Meanwhile, here's our own cost-benefit analysis of how they did yesterday at the Ames event:
- Third-place finisher Sam Brownback says he spent about $325,000 to win his 2,192 votes. That's $148.27 for each vote.
- Second-place finisher Mike Huckabee spent about $150,000 and received 2,587 votes. That's $57.98 per vote.
- Winner Mitt Romney has not said how much he spent. The reporting in this Washington Post article suggests at least $2 million and possibly more than twice that much. Assuming $2 million for 4,516 votes, that's $442.87 per vote. But it could top $1,000.
The fact that Romney won the Ames straw poll somewhat convincingly will likely provide a boost to his campaign, even considering the fact that his main rivals did not participate in the event. But the numbers posted by USA Today nonetheless bode rather poorly for the Romney campaign.
Clearly, Mitt Romney is a wealthy man. We didn't have to wait for his remarkably belated financial disclosure today, which showed he is sitting on a pot of money of upwards of $250 million, to figure that out. Indeed, because of this personal wealth Romney has been able to invest about $9 million of his own money into his campaign as of the end of June, money that has allowed him to stay on-air (in Iowa and elsewhere) and generally keep his campaign going (without the money his campaign finance filings would look a lot like that of John McCain -- too much spending and not enough fundraising).
But while Romney is clearly wealthy, he is not wealthy enough to buy a general election on his own, as he may be able to do a Republican primary. At the rate that Romney spent per vote in the Ames straw poll this last week he would have to spend between $27.5 billion and $62 billion in order to win the popular vote (assuming George W. Bush's roughly 62 million votes in 2004 would be sufficient to win in 2008). Romney doesn't have nearly this kind of cash, nor would he spend it if he did (one would hope).
Now of course it isn't going to cost general election candidates the type of money per vote that it will cost candidates in the primaries, and certainly not what it cost the Republican candidates participating in the Ames straw poll. Nevertheless, the fact that Romney spent perhaps as much as 17 times more per vote this last weekend than did second-place finisher Mike Huckabee indicates that Romney is not nearly as strong as some might believe and that, what's more, his win over the weekend was not nearly as impressive as some might have you believe.