DCCC: Where they spent, and how they did

By far, the best site for results in this election has been The New York Times. Head over to their House results page and you’ll find their “Electoral Explorer” feature, which allows you to view districts based on a number of criteria — Hispanic population, senior citizen population, median income, and the amount spent by each party in a given district, for example.

The map tells a very interesting story about party spending on the Democratic side. Of the 50 districts where the DCCC spent the most, they scored a net loss of 33 seats. That number is misleading — it’s a lot like saying that teams lose when they shoot lots of three-pointers, when in fact teams shoot a lot of three pointers when they’re losing. You’d expect the Democratic Party to spend the most money wherever the greatest danger exists.

But the quality of their investments in this election varied. Their best big one, perhaps, was the $1.6 million they poured into VA-11 to save Rep. Gerry Connolly, D, including  $1 million at the last minute. He appears to have survived by 900 votes.

The DCCC’s offensive investments seem, in retrospect, to have paid off poorly. They blew $1.75 million trying to take over Senator-elect Mark Kirk’s seat in IL-10. They fell short, with the same candidate who failed to beat Kirk in 2008. They spent over $1.4 million trying to take over FL-25 and fell 10 points short. It did, however, cost them less than $1 million to knock off Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii.

Their defensive expenditures are difficult to second-guess, but you might look at them and conclude that they weren’t aggressive enough with triage. Their single largest expenditure, of nearly $1.8 million, was spent trying to save Rep. Marion Berry’s seat in AR-1, a cause that most pundits believed hopeless. And it was — their candidate lost by 8 points.

They spent nearly as much on the open WA-3 seat of retiring Rep. Brian Baird, D, which they lost by 6.4 points. Reps. Zack Space, D-Ohio, and Frank Kratovil, D-Md., lost by 14 and 13 points, respectively, despite $1.5 million infusions in each district. The Democrats spent a combined $2.7 million to lose two Michigan districts, neither of which was very close in the end. They spent $1.3 million and came close (but no cigar) to keeping WV-1.

There were at least eleven seats that the DCCC sensibly wrote off, knowing they were hopeless. But they also failed to spend a dime defending several incumbents who lost narrowly: Reps. Solomon Ortiz, D-Tex, Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., (pending absentees) Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., and Rick Boucher, D-Va. They came in with too little, too late for Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss. There might have been no hope for Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, whose district was just too heavily Republican in the end, and who received no help from the party.

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