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In most expensive midterm elections in history, the biggest spender didn't always win

November 16,2018 21:42

WASHINGTON – A record-breaking total of more than $5 billion was spent on the just concluded midterm elections, but dozens of candidates who spent more money than their opponents were not celebrating a win on election night. In at least 41 House races, ...



Bill Theobald USA TODAY
Published 3:10 PM EST Nov 16, 2018

WASHINGTON – A record-breaking total of more than $5 billion was spent on the just concluded midterm elections, but dozens of candidates who spent more money than their opponents were not celebrating a win on election night.
In at least 41 House races, the bigger spender lost – including 36 contests in which the Democrat outspent the Republican, according to an analysis of campaign spending totals compiled by USA TODAY.
That’s not to say the amount of money raised and spent was not a factor. The winner of the majority of House races was the candidate who raised and spent the most money. Democratic candidates held a huge spending advantage over Republicans in this year’s midterms, which drew massive voter turnout compared to most off-year elections.
 Democrats ousted one incumbent GOP senator – Nevada’s Dean Heller – and at least 22 Republican incumbent House members (with several races still to be decided), while Republicans defeated three Senate Democratic incumbents – Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.  
Another big factor in winning at the polls remains a longstanding trend in American politics: the power of incumbency. More than 90 percent of the incumbents who did run for re-election won their races. 
Records were also set by the more than $1.3 billion spent by outside groups – those other than the candidates’ campaign committees – and the $98 million in so-called dark money. These are funds spent by groups who don’t have to reveal their donors.
“Let’s say you haven’t paid any attention," said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, the government reform group. "The result would be pretty much what you expect: the red states went red; the off party in the midterm did well."
 A good example of an election where the candidate who spent more money didn’t win was in Georgia’s 6th District in the northern suburbs of Atlanta where Democrat Lucia McBath defeated Karen Handel. McBath’s campaign spent $1.2 million compared to $8 million dropped by Handel’s campaign.
Outside groups helped make up the disadvantage that McBath faced by spending $12.2 million to support her or attack Handel, compared to $4.3 million spent by outside groups who supported Handel or attacked McBath.
This congressional district race is no stranger to big money. Last year, it was one of the most expensive House races in history ($55 million) when Democrat Jon Ossoff lost to Handel in a special election for a seat once held by Tom Price, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price resigned from the Trump administration for using chartered flights on official government business.

Here are a few other campaign finance facts out of the 2018 midterm election:
• The Texas race in which Republican Sen. Ted Cruz defeated challenger Democrat Beto O’Rourke is the most expensive congressional race in U.S. history, with O’Rourke alone setting a record by raising $69.1 million.
• The Congressional Leadership Fund, a committee that supports GOP candidates, set a record for a Super PAC by spending $137.5 million in the campaign. according to the Center for Responsive Politics.    
• Special interest political action committees continue to focus their giving on incumbents, with these PACs giving $385 million to those already in office for an average of more than $500,000 per incumbent compared to the $72.5 million, or average of more than $35,000, for challengers.
• Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate, and his wife, Miriam, were the top individual Republican donors, giving a total of more than $130 million to GOP candidates and other committees. The top Democratic giver was Thomas Steyer, the businessman who has been pushing for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. He gave more than $50 million

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Published 3:10 PM EST Nov 16, 2018

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