Does Campaign Spending Matter? Ask Mitt Romney

In Freakonomics, we argued that campaign spending matters a lot less than people think. Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign would seem to offer a fresh bit of evidence in favor of our theory.

Viewed in this light, Hillary Clinton‘s decision to loan her campaign $5 million looks like the wrong move. It isn’t the money that is boosting Obama. Rather, it’s the fact that he is a strong candidate that is attracting both the money and the votes.

Clinton also fired her campaign manager last week. At the moment, there’s no academic evidence on whether or not this action helps a candidate. I wonder if our sabermetric friends have done any research on whether firing a manager mid-season helps a baseball team? It is a difficult question to answer well, because the only teams that will fire their managers are those that have been performing worse than expected; as such, they might improve simply because of mean reversion.

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  1. Adam S says:

    The question is whether she lent her campaign money because they needed money, or because her advisors thought it was a good way to get people to give her money. Her campaign has raised over $10 million since word got out and it didn’t cost the campaign (or Hillary) anything in the long term. She loans them money and says her senior staff won’t reveive paychecks. Lots of money comes in, she gets paid back and her senior staff get paid. Sounds like good fundraising to me. Especially since most of the work for spreading the word about the loan was done by the media.

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  2. mgroves says:

    So McCain-Feingold is just unnecessary regulation of free speech then? Why would our government pass such a thing?

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  3. Andrew G says:

    In 2003, the Florida Marlins were 16-22 when the fired Jeff Torborg for Jack McKeon. McKeon went 75-49 and the Marlins won the World Series. I doubt there are very many (if any) examples of such success for other midseason manager switches. Generally I would imagine teams making that switch would be too bad for any turnaround to matter (no chance of making the playoffs). Would like to know what the stats say though.

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  4. Jose Hernandez says:

    Wouldn’t fund your own campaing would encourage corruption? if i’m investing that type of money is because i think i would be able to make more or at least my money back.

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  5. Micah says:

    mgroves – Just because exorbitant amounts of cash do not necessarily win elections does not mean that money is meaningless. I would argue that there is a minimum amount of money necessary to pass the viability threshold to win an election.

    Also, the claim that money does not impact electoral results is worth positing because it goes against conventional wisdom. Candidates and their contributors do not act with this theory in mind. Moneyed interests influence politicians who believe that cash will help them get elected. This leads to legislation that is biased towards moneyed interests. McCain-Feingold is much more about the sale of influence than it is about the raising of electoral capitol. With those regulations in place, Senator Obama raised more in January that any candidate in a primary had previously.

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  6. Roger, Charlotte Nc says:

    My Question: Is McCain Eligible to the office of President?
    Why the question? Well he was born in Panama.. Therefore under the constitution he does not qualify to the office of The President.

    Article II Section I of the US Constitution reads:

    “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

    The Key word is “NATURAL BORN CITIZEN”.

    He is a Citizen of the United States because both parents are but because he was Not born in a USA Territory then accordingly to the Constitution he is not eligible to the office of President.
    Panama in 1936 (The year he was born) was LEASED and the USA holds no Territory OWNERSHIP.
    The founding fathers during the process of writing the Constitution were engaged in a debate as to what kind of Americans should be eligible to the office of President and Vice-President.

    In 1790 an Act of Congress was passed where it said “”the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond Sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born Citizens”.
    But The Act of 1790 was superseded by the Naturalization Act of 1795 therefore the Act of 1790 it is not valid.
    So, to be a “natural born citizen,” a person must be born in the United States; otherwise, they are citizens by law and are naturalized.
    As of Today no court or Congress has yet address again address the key words
    “Natural born Citizen”

    So do you see the embarrassment that is coming to the Republican party if McCain becomes the party nominee?

    Respectfully yours,


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  7. Lyn LeJeune says:

    Mean reversion, uh? I once supervised several departments in a company (many years ago) and one of my managers was, well, just a bad manager. Production was down, his employees had high sick days, and he spent an awful lot of time in the men’s room. So, I fired the guy, even though he said I was mean, and I reverted to a new manager and things turned around. So, we can extrapolate from baseball and politics, and the initial response is usually positive, but after a while people expect results. Win state delegates, win more games, make employees happy and make more widgets (what is a widget anyway?). I also locked the men’s room.

    Lyn LeJeune- The Beatitudes Network- Rebuilding the Public Libraries of New Orleans, Cajun Country Recipes, The Beatitudes the book with all royalties going to rebuild NOLA at

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  8. Charles D says:

    Hillary has raised more than Obama and is losing the election right now(I won’t count super delegates since they aren’t concrete yet).

    Guiliani and Romney both grossly outraised McCain yet are no where close to his delegates. Paul and Thompson both outraised Huckabee aren’t doing nearly as well as him.

    This election did wonders to expose the myth that money buys votes. This might be the first election to do that; however, since advertisement is no longer costly with the vast amount of free space on the internet. Older votes may still be costly, but I think younger votes are very inexpensive. Those of us on the internet a lot are going to get to the issues quickly and effeciently without any cost to the candidates.

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