Timothy Taylor Blog | Extraordinary Spending in the 2020 Campaign | Talkmarkets
Managing Editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives

I am the managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, based at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, which can be read for free on-line courtesy of the American Economic Association. I am the author of two books: "The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know ... more

Extraordinary Spending in the 2020 Campaign

Date: Saturday, November 14, 2020 2:04 AM EDT

When you want information about campaign spending, the place to turn is the Open Secrets website run by the Center for Responsive Politics. It will take a few weeks longer to get a final tally on campaign spending for the 2020 elections, but some patterns are already pretty clear, as they point out in "2020 election to cost $14 billion, blowing away spending records" (October 28, 2020). They write:

The 2020 election is more than twice as expensive as the runner up, the 2016 election. In fact, this year’s election will see more spending than the previous two presidential election cycles combined.

The massive numbers are headlined by unprecedented spending in the presidential contest, which is expected to see $6.6 billion in total spending alone. That’s up from around $2.4 billion in the 2016 race.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will be the first candidate in history to raise $1 billion from donors. His campaign brought in a record-breaking $938 million through Oct. 14, riding Democrats’ enthusiasm to defeat Trump. President Donald Trump raised $596 million, which would be a strong fundraising effort if not for Biden’s immense haul. ...

Spending by deep-pocketed national groups also is driving the total cost of election higher. In the month of October alone, outside spending by super PACs and other big-money groups totaled nearly $1.2 billion. These groups are spending far more to boost Biden than help Trump, further aiding the Democrats cash-flush campaign. ...

Democratic candidates and groups have spent $6.9 billion, compared to $3.8 billion for Republicans. Democrats' spending falls to $5.5 billion when excluding spending by billionaire presidential candidates Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer.

The article and website are full of interesting illustrative figures. For example, here's total spending for the last few presidential years, divided into spending on the presidential and congressional campaigns. 

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