Expectations for massive fund-raising in the 2012 election may obscure one point — big bucks don’t always lead to victory. And in fact, too much spending — especially in the form of too many advertisements — can turn off voters.
There have been several notable examples of heavy, but ultimately fruitless, outspending in recent elections.
In the 2010 midterms, Republican Meg Whitman, the billionaire former chief executive of eBay, spent $140 million of her own money, or about $43 per vote,to campaign for governor against Democrat Jerry Brown. Brown spent $7.50 per vote to defeat her by 12 percentage points, in a race that was a rare bright spot for Democrats in elections that saw most Republicans sweep to victory.
Another Republican, wrestling executive Linda McMahon, also spent lots of her own money last year — lending her campaign about $50 million — or about $100 per vote — in losing by 12 percentage points to her Democratic rival Richard Blumenthal.
But big spenders don’t always lose. Jon Corzine, a liberal Democrat who made a fortune as a Wall Street executive, spent $60 million of his own money as he won his U.S. Senate race in 2000, his first run for public office. That race broke the previous record, set by Republican Michael Huffington as he lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat in California in 1994.