On September 13th, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former Mayor of New York and former Democrat candidate for US President, made a big announcement: He was going to spend one hundred million dollars of his own money to swing the state of Florida for Joe Biden.
Last night, President Trump won Florida going away, significantly increasing his vote on 2016. But Bloomberg’s wasted hundred million wasn’t even the most egregious example of Democrats trying to buy an election and failing.
In the state of Kentucky, Democrats set out to defeat US Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. Kentucky has a population of 4.4million people – about the same as Ireland. Democrats raised, and spent, eighty-eight million dollars to try and defeat him. To put that in context, Fine Gael’s campaign at the last Irish election cost about two million euros. Imagine what eighty-eight million dollars would look like, if an Irish party spent it in one election.
And they still lost. McConnell ended up winning his Senate seat by a 21% margin – winning 58% of the vote to his opponent’s 37%. Has $88m ever been so badly spent?
Well, maybe. In the state of Maine, population 1.3million (about the size of Dublin) the Democratic candidate, Sarah Gideon, raised $37m in the third quarter of the year – part of the $100m or so Democrats spent trying to defeat Republican Senator Susan Collins. Democrats poured so much money into the election that a local newspaper reported that they struggled to spend things to spend it on:
Few Senate campaigns have ever worked with as much money as Gideon, particularly in a small state like Maine with relatively cheap advertising rates. The Democrat’s campaign raised $63.6 million overall and entered October with $22.7 million on hand, slightly more than the $22 million it spent over the previous three months….
… Toby McGrath, a Democratic strategist who ran the 2008 and 2012 campaigns for former President Barack Obama in Maine, said he was not sure how one would spend as much money as Gideon has between now and the election.
At the time of writing, Susan Collins seems fairly likely to hold her Senate seat with relative ease.
In South Carolina, Democrats spent even more – about $150m – to try and unseat Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Graham was outspent by more than ten to one in the last month of the election, and yet he managed to win his seat by almost 15% of the vote.
In Kansas, another state with a tiny population, Republican Senator Roger Marshall was outspent by his opponent in the last month by $13m to $2m. He won anyway – by about ten per cent.
The massive Democratic expenditure was a feature of this election that went largely unreported in the Irish media, which generally only cares about the absurd money in US politics if the Republicans, the bad guys, have more of it than the Democrats, the good guys.
President Trump himself is no slouch on the fundraising front, but Biden routinely outspent him by 5 or 6 to one in every single swing state. And yet, at the time of writing, the outcome of the election hangs in the balance, with Biden only a slight favourite to win the narrowest of victories.
Money, it seems, isn’t everything.
But isn’t it extraordinary? For years and years, the Koch brothers and so on were reviled in Ireland for funding Republican candidates. But they never came close to the levels of spending behind Democrats and Joe Biden in this election.
It’s received barely a mention in the Irish media. These things are only a problem, you see, when the wrong people are spending the cash.