Comparing the effectiveness of the presidential campaigns

The Washington Post has a good article today comparing how the two campaigns spent there money and who got more bang for their buck.

In the most expensive presidential contest in the nation’s history, John F. Kerry and his Democratic supporters nearly matched President Bush and the Republicans, who outspent them by just $60 million, $1.14 billion to $1.08 billion.
But despite their fundraising success, Democrats simply did not spend their money as effectively as Bush….
In a $2.2 billion election, two relatively small expenditures by Bush and his allies stand out for their impact: the $546,000 ad buy by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Bush campaign’s $3.25 million contract with the firm TargetPoint Consulting. The first portrayed Kerry in unrelentingly negative terms, permanently damaging him, while the second produced dramatic innovations in direct mail and voter technology, enabling Bush to identify and target potential voters with pinpoint precision.

A supposed strategic advantage for the Democrats — massive support from well-endowed independent groups — turned out to have an inherent flaw: The groups’ legally required independence left them with a message out of harmony with the Kerry campaign.

Of all the money spent on television advertising for the Democratic nominee, Kerry’s campaign controlled 62 percent, according to spending totals analyzed by The Washington Post. The rest was spent on ads whose content or placement could not be coordinated with the campaign. The Bush campaign controlled 83 percent of the money spent on its behalf, giving it far more control over when and how it advertised.

The 2002 elections, along with the Kentucky and Mississippi gubernatorial contests the following year, became testing grounds for the Republican effort to mobilize supporters. Designed to get base voters to the polls, it became known as the “72 Hour Project,” whose cost Republican officials refused to disclose but is estimated by sources to have been in the $200 million range.

Dowd estimated that, in part through the work of TargetPoint and other research, the Bush campaign and the RNC were able to “quadruple the number” of Republican voters who could be targeted through direct mail, phone banks and knocking on doors.
Democrats had access to similar data files. But the Bush campaign and the RNC were able to make far better use of the data because they had the time and money to conduct repeated field tests in the 2002 and 2003 elections, to finance advanced research on meshing databases with polling information, and to clean up and revise databases that almost invariably contained errors and omissions.

An additional Republican television commercial that significantly affected the race, according to surveys, was a positive spot financed by a second GOP 527 group, Progress for America. It invested $17 million in “Ashley’s Story,” which featured Ashley Faulkner, 11, whose mother had been killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, describing her meeting with Bush.
Overall, Kerry, the DNC and the Democratic 527s spent $344 million on ads, while Bush and the GOP counterparts spent about $289 million, much of which was disbursed in the final three months. Arguably, Republicans got more bang for their bucks.
Washington Post

There’s plenty more interesting stuff in there.

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