The Democrats Are Winning the 2010 Elections

If electoral outcomes are in any way tied to campaign spending, the state of the economy, or the results of state and national polls, then virtually everything journalists have told you about the 2010 elections has been wrong.

The popular line seems to be, “the Democrats are screwed in 2010.” Yet by these three measures – campaign spending, the economy, and the actual non-generic ballots – we have a totally different story. When it comes to campaign spending, the more successful party is unambiguously the Democrats. Each of their federal campaign fundraising arms has outraised their Republican counterpart by a significant amount. (Oh by the way, money matters in elections, especially if you’re the minority party)

Of potential interest is the cash on hand/debt ratio. So far in 2010, the Republican Party has acquired less campaign money to spend, but has managed to accrue about as much debt. I’m not sure, but I Googled around and it seems like major party arms accrue debt in basically the same way the rest of us do. Rather than candidates lending to themselves, some (probably large) donors expect to be paid back.

So it turns out the Democrats are in pretty top shape financially, even though admittedly a dollar spent by a challenger is worth more than a dollar spent by an incumbent, as a general rule. Empirically speaking, if campaign spending matters, the Democrats have plenty yet to spend.

Consider the state of the economy: Terrible. Real GDP growth the past two years has been at about the level of the post-9/11 recession, without a midterm electoral season colored by the start of a war. By other markers, the economy is barely trudging out of one of the worst recessions ever – though employment in the United States is recovering (recovered?) much faster from this recession than the 2001-2002 recession.

So, there are two sides to this coin. The state of the economy is about on par with an election that should result in a large kicking out of the bums, but employment – one of the most salient features of economic health, that is associated with feelings of personal satisfaction and by proxy, voting behavior – has been recovering. On the one hand, the party in power is faring disproportionately well considering the lousy state of the economy, and on the other, the most salient measure of economic impact is actually improving. Whether this has anything to do with Democratic policies is up for debate.

I will let my favorite political journalism site do the talking about the Democrats’ current polling prospects. As it stands, the Republicans can count on flipping a measly four House seats and in fact the Democrats are forecast to flip two seats themselves. If the outcome of the 2010 election is as its currently predicted it will be an historic coup: A lousy economy and unpopular policies will translate into a very small bump in the minority party’s seating.

So no, to be clear: The Democrats aren’t going to make any net gains in 2010, but they’re “winning” in the sense that they’re leaps and bounds above where the data suggests they ought to be.

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One Response to “The Democrats Are Winning the 2010 Elections”

  1. How Much Did Democratic Outspending in 2010 Matter? « Casual Factors Says:

    […] August I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about how the Democrats were “winning” their elections because their Congressional and […]

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