Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fun With Numbers: Just $5 Million More?

by Kyle Michaelis
Looking back at the figures reported by the Omaha World-Herald earlier this month showing that 2006 Senate challenger Pete Ricketts spent $60 in his campaign for each vote received in the general election, I just found myself curious how much it would have cost him, at that rate, to make up the difference in his 36%-64% whooping by incumbent Sen. Ben Nelson.

The Secretary of State's election results have Nelson winning by a margin of 164,460 votes. Assuming a fixed turn-out, Ricketts needed 50% + 1 of that total to flip on his behalf to have won the race. In other words, he would have needed another 82,231 votes.

At the established cost of $60 per vote, Ricketts would have won had he spent only $4,933,860 more on his campaign. And, just to be on the safe side, who could have blamed him for upping that amount to an even $5 million?

Of course, economic and political realities don't lend themselves to such simple calculations. But it's certainly something to think about. In November, did the people of Nebraska prove their votes weren't for sale or did they simply have a higher asking price?

More likely, "MONEY" is a threshold concept - one you need to win but which can't be broken down into dollars and cents. As an heir to a multi-billion dollar fortune, it was a threshold Ricketts met the second he declared his candidacy. In a position like that post-election, I can't help wondering whether Ricketts has been asking himself what he should have done differently or how much more he should have spent.

Unless he's convinced himself his race with Nelson was never winnable. If only that had truly been the case.


Anonymous nepolwatcher said...

Kyle - good thought. You assume that ricketts stellar 36% showing was a result of his spending. I think it was, but not the way you see it.

See, with NE GOP voter registration at 50% (or whatever it is) it was Ricketts own money that drove down his popularity and electability. So, spending five million more would not have increased his take, it would have reduced it by roughly 40% - so he would have lost by not 28% but really closer to 40%.
Its actually a good thing he stopped spending money at some point- it got worse for him with every dollar.

He could have done everything different and he would have still lost to Nelson. Nebraskans like Nelson, they hated Pete and they didn't beleive a thing he said about Ben - no matter how many ads he ran behind it.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


I consistently made note of that phenomenon in NNN's "Can't Buy Me Love" series on Ricketts' falling approval rating (July, Aug, Sept, Oct).

Still, I hope you don't mind my humoring myself and readers with a hypothetical from a somewhat different perspective. A full story can't be told in numbers. Consider this my attempt at diversity.

Anonymous nepolwatcher said...

Kyle - I wasn't arguing with you. I do thank you for the interesting post - it makes one think about the collosal waste that was the Ricketts campaign. Keep it up. I was just trying to engage the discusson a bit.

Anonymous Off The Wall said...

Kyle...if I might.

I think that a better equation to come up with an "all things being equal" argument would be as follows.

In the first reported poll (Nov. 1 '05), Ricketts had 29% against Nelson. After that time, Ricketts spent about $11,000,000. From that time until the election he went from 29% to 36% on Election Day. That is roughly 1.57 mill/percentage point. At that rate, it would have taken an additional 23.6 million to get 51% of the vote. That is quick math, and could be somewhat off...but I think it's in the ballpark.

Nepol could also tear apart this argument...but it is an "all things being equal" hypothetical argument as opposed to an absolute theory on what would have won the election.

Moral of the story...Ricketts was not getting a bang for his buck.

Anonymous nepolwatcher said...

Oh no - I think this is the most solid argument yet that outlines the collosal waste of money that was the Ricketts campaign )if you can call something that moved 7 percentage points a campaign.) Thanks OTW!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One has to wonder if Ricketts wakes up every day and thinks, "I spent $12 million for what?!?!?!"

Frankly, there was no better evidence through this campaign of his bubble enclosure than his willingness to keep writing absurd checks in the wake of all available evidence that it was not helping him and was likely hurting him.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ricketts might have had a better showing if he would have unchained himself from Republican Orthodoxy. Sure, Nebraskans are conservative, but they are not partisan about it, and would vote for a conservative Democrat gladly.


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