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LA Democrats' big spending prevented bigger GOP gains

If Louisiana Republicans are looking for the main reason explaining why they could not grab more legislative seats in the six majority-white House districts that had runoffs this cycle and the eight that allied organizations targeted with some kind of Democrat incumbent running that got resolved in the general election without a GOP win, they only have themselves to blame by letting state Democrat organizations and their officeholders past and present beat them in tactical funding decisions.

The common perception of Louisiana Democrats as a party was it was a joke for being unable to find one serious candidate for statewide executive office this past election cycle. But when it came to the legislative level, its strategy of selecting a handful of seats to protect largely blunted the less precise, more bludgeoning approach Republican leaders expected to prevail.

Given the demographics, in all six runoff contests Republicans should have been favored.
Yet their candidates captured only four of these seats, likely because, as previously noted, their candidates got outspent in both instances they lost, while in the other four Republicans, with little assistance from Republican Party or allied organizations, spent more and also won.

Regarding the two losses, in both instances money spent by the Republicans through the latest period yet reported, Oct. 30, exceeded the Democrats they opposed. But also in both, Democrat organizations and politicians stepped up to make the difference and then some, both with in-kind expenditures and (much smaller) contributions, including those after Oct. 30. Where Republicans won, they dramatically outspent Democrats, even including couple of the losers who received substantial in-kind and last-minute politician contributions.

By way of comparison the six Republicans spent by Oct. 30 $478,000 compared to the six Democrats’ $206,000. Yet the five Democrats that received up until the election in terms of in-kind contributions from party organizations and in contributions from politicians after Oct. 30 a sum of $263,000 while the five Republicans that received the same kind of help only got $36,000 (for both, neither intervened in the same one contest). Most tellingly, while almost every dollar that went to the five Democrats was in-kind party aid, less than half of the GOP relative pittance was, with the majority coming from organizations set up by Sen. David Vitter, Gov. Bobby Jindal, state Rep. and leading next Speaker of the House candidate Chuck Kleckley, and the campaign accounts of a couple of other GOP House members.

This near-parity in funding for all of these open seats stands in stark contrast to the overwhelming advantage that Democrats had fending off GOP challengers to Democrat House incumbents, Senate incumbents, and an incumbent Democrat in the House running for an open Senate spot during the general election phase. As noted before, these incumbents raised much more than their opponents leading into the homestretch of the campaign, and in translated into a huge money spending advantage made only starker by party assistance.

In each of these eight instances, Democrats outspent considerably the Republicans, with in-kind party aid markedly favoring them. In those last weeks, Democrats spent $1.05 million and benefitted from $286,000 in party aid, while Republicans spent only $319,000 and got just $136,000 in party assistance. In only one contest did Republican aid exceed that of Democrats, by $8,000, where the incumbent outspent down the stretch the challenger by $123,000 and barely won, while in only one race did the Republican outspend the Democrat, but with the gap narrowed to under $20,000 when party in-kind assistance was tossed in.

For all of the talk about organizations like Vitter’s and Jindal’s trying to throw their weight around with $2,500 donations here and there, the real stars of the show were the four incumbent Democrats who spent well over $100,000 each in the closing days for a total of $822,000, where only one faced a tight race, and the party which dumped in aid to the five non-incumbents and seven of the incumbents (one of the six figures-plus spenders received no party help) $551,000 compared to the their Republican opponents (except one challenger of theirs that also received no funds) netting $192,000.

(Interestingly, some portions of these funds were recycled. Traipsing through the Democrats’ three party committees’ reports, many of the campaigns above gave money to one or more of them, only to then get it shuttled back to them. And, ironically, four Democrats that Jindal endorsed for reelection and even donated to turned that cash right back around and donated some of it to these groups – probably not what Jindal had intended.)

In retrospect, at least one incumbent may have been knocked off and all six runoff seats nabbed with more judicious use of GOP party aid in the last three or six weeks of the election. Had the party been more aggressive in raising funds, it might have flipped one or more smaller-spending incumbent Democrat contests to its advantage. It is a story of missed opportunities.

But the real story, overlooked by the mainstream media, is the efforts made by the campaigns and the House Democratic Campaign Committee, the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, and LA Democrats, where the committees collected through the beginning of October through to the runoff election, in order, $510,533, $110,164, and $406,538 (although about $150,000 of this was cross-donated among them) and spent much of that in the same period. It was the politicians, unions, select professional and trade associations, and other wealthy special interests who gave to these entities that prevented the thrashing Democrats received in legislative contests from turning into a rout.


Anonymous said...

Sorry the Democrats managed to play the Repubican's game better than the Republicans for this cycle. Seems like it left you very disappointed, at least you only used perjorative language and didn't try to paint it as a crime. Maybe your lockstep mentality gets better during the holidays. Stunning to see you use your knowledge to give an almost objective opinion instead of a partisan screed.

Jeff Sadow said...

Your powers of perception do not do you credit. The reason I come to my conclusions precisely is because I review all the facts and use airtight logic to reach conclusions (which drives one frequent commenter to the point of apoplexy, by the ill-informed and illogical comments he posts, while another simply resorts to name-calling in his, which I regularly delete since they contribute in no, not even in an ill-informed or illogical, way). I may express a policy preference, but only because logical analysis inevitably leads to it. So to assert that you more often sense "partisan screed" rather than "objective opinion" tells more about your difficulty in understanding quality analysis than the kind of analysis itself.