Where Is the “Leveling Point” in CD-6?

The Colorado Pols Leveling Point

Yes, this is absolutely a terrible graphic

We frequently discuss fundraising results here on Colorado Pols, because in politics, fundraising matters more than well…anything, really. You can have all the grassroots and volunteer support in the world, but as many a candidate has found, none of that really matters unless you have enough money to both run a campaign and reach out to voters (largely through television ads).

But as we watch the money continue to pour into the various candidates and issue committees in CD-6, we've started to wonder: When all sides are raising and spending ridiculous sums of money, at what point does the financial piece of ad spending stop moving the needle? In other words, if there is a "Tipping Point" in fundraising, is there also a "Leveling Point?"

As Kurtis Lee of the Denver Post reported today, the race for Congress in CD-6 is getting pretty expensive already:

In an effort to preserve and pick-up as many House seats as possible this November, the National Republican Congressional Committee plans to spend upwards of $30 million in TV ad buys, with the largest buy carved out for the Denver media market.

The NRCC has reserved $3.3 million in TV ad space to aid incumbent GOP Congressman Mike Coffman as he defends his Aurora-based 6th Congressional District seat. Coffman, who is vying for a fourth-term, is being challenged by Democrat Andrew Romanoff, a former speaker of the Colorado House…

By contrast, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to date has reserved $1.4 million in the Denver market this fall to help Romanoff.

Per the most recently-available campaign finance reports, Democrat Andrew Romanoff has about $2.3 million in cash on hand, compared to $1.96 million for incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, but those figures are starting to become largely meaningless as third-party spending levels increase. According to OpenSecrets.org, more than $6 million has been raised by Romanoff and Coffman — the fourth-highest total of any House race in the country. If we include the money already pledged by the NRCC and the DCCC, respectively, we've already surpassed $10 million — and that doesn't include what has already been spent or pledged by third-party groups.

According to Roll Call, the most expensive House race in 2012 was for Florida's 18th District, with combined spending from candidates and outside groups adding up to $29 million; the campaign for Republican Rep. Allen West raised and spent nearly $18 million alone, however, making that race a bit of an outlier. The next four most-expensive races on Roll Call's list were in the $15-17 million range — a figure that the 2014 race for CD-6 should obliterate by about August.

There was some discussion following the 2012 Presidential Race about the idea that both President Obama and Mitt Romney raised and spent so much money that they were almost cancelling each other out on television; what ultimately made the difference, in terms of resources, was probably the Obama Campaign's unprecedented list-building and voter-ID programs. (This would only be true for the General Election, of course, since fundraising is still vitally important during the long and plodding Primary process).

From our vantage point, it is quite possible that campaign spending in CD-6 will end up being a non-factor in deciding the outcome of the race. If that proves true, it will be other intangibles that make the difference in November. It's difficult to try to guess what will ultimately be the next "Tipping Point" in the race, which is where you come in, Polsters. What say you? If the money ends up being about even, what will push one candidate past the other?


6 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DavieDavie says:

    I believe with saturated airwaves, viewers will essentially tune out all but the most attention-grabbing ads and news reports (TV and newspaper) about the candidates.

    Word of mouth from friends and family that you trust will make a big difference, I think.

    I hope Andrew is reaching out to community leaders to gain their endorsements so that the community followers will be motivated not only to like Andrew, but to get out the vote and pass along their enthusiasm to their friends and family too.


  2. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Some factors tipping the balance towards Romanoff will be

    1. appeal & marketing (personality and looks). Romanoff wins there, hands down. The ladies on here will agree: Andrew Romanoff is much hotter than Mike Coffman. He's also a much better speaker.
    2. policy and history: for the political nerds amongst us, admittedly a small group of the population, Romanoff's history on immigration, reproductive rights, is much more consistent and humanitarian than Coffman's. Both candidates have appealing life stories.
    3. on the ground campaigns – Bluecat might have some insight here,as to the Romanoff vs. Coffman campaign effectiveness.  Usually, Republican campaigns have enough money to pay people to canvass, but this doesn't compare with the volunteer energy Dems will get for free. Folks can tell if the person at the door or on the phone beleives in what they are doing, or are just running through a script. Dems will also have some paid canvassers, undoubtedly, close to the election.
    4. Mail in ballots – Marilyn Marks thinks that MIBs disadvantage Republicans in elections. No longer can the corporatists rely on their easily-swayed base getting angry enough to get out to the polls – everyone is equally able to receive a ballot, research candidates, vote at the kitchen table, and return the ballot privately, without opportunity for voter suppression in between the voter and the ballot box.
    • BoulderDem says:

      I think you're wrong on #3. Dems pay canvassers much more than Repubs do (but only because Repubs barely bother … to the extent they do field it's all by phone). Also, every campaign manager ever invented will tell you that paid field is MUCH more effective than volunteer, which is usually just for show.

  3. DanleySteel says:

    Money is not the most important thing in campaign politics. Votes are.

    Votes are allocated by the decisions of voters. Voters make those decisions based on *perceived* differences between the candidates, and by whether or not they vote *at all*. A candidate who can spend $10/voter, and whose opponent doesn't have any money or no comparable amount of money, can use that money to ensure that every voter receives a clearly communicated positive perception of that candidate and an unfavorable impression of the other candidate, and to remind supportive voters to vote. In some districts that still won't be enough, because voters are partisan. No person with "R" after their name would be likely to beat Jared Polis even on the basis of $10/voter worth of unopposed communications–Boulder simply doesn't vote for Republicans. However in competitive districts with about the same number of R voters and D voters, money often matters tremendously.

    In competitive districts, money starts mattering a lot less once both sides have a lot of it. If both sides can spend upwards of $10/voter, an extra $1/voter matters a good bit less than that first $10/voter. Plus both sides will be watching what the other says, and trying to catch them saying something arguably offensive, flip-floppy, or false–and so one campaign's spending can sometimes be co-opted to benefit the other campaign. (See Scott Brown, whose efforts to prove he's a "true" NH local are feeding the narrative that he is perceived as a carpet-bagger. Or see Meg Whitman, whose self-funding hurt her because it facilitated a narrative that she was trying to buy the Governor's mansion.) In a race with a real contrast between the candidates, additional money often can't do anything to change voters' perceptions because any effort to undo the basic contrast is too clearly political spin.

    Romanoff and Coffman both are looking decently well-funded. (The $10/voter mark is at about $3.5 million for congressional races, assuming about 1/2 of the 710k folks in a congressional district vote.) They both have established views and long voting records that can't be entirely made to go away. Money will still matter, but it won't be the only thing that influences this election. 

  4. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Let's assume that both sides in the CD6 race will have armies of paid canvassers, because they probably will.  Dems will have more volunteer canvassers and phone people. Here's what I think will make the difference: leadership by campaign staff.

    What will hurt either campaign is if they start to rely on young, untried poli-sci majors who alienate the volunteers and residents of the district by being snotty, rigid, and high-handed .

    It is so rare to find staff who are knowledgeable about politics and organizing, yet still have people skills. Successful campaign staff are aways dedicated and hard-working, obsessive personalities, which is necessary to get the job done. These traits apparently often crowd out kindness, humor, and ability to get along with diverse people, (including more or less educated, older, and younger people.)

    OK, I'm done venting.  Hopefully, the Romanoff campaign will be selective in hiring good staff, whilethe Coffman side will naturally gravitate to hiring obnoxious a–holes,

  5. itlduso says:

    I will say this (and only this) — I am very impressed with the professionalism of the Romanoff campaign.

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