Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Keller on 2006 Gubernatorial Spending

Last week, Jon Keller had a blog post where he confessed his love for Michael Dukakis. He took issue, however, with the Duke's comment at South Shore Democrats party for former Massachusetts Democratic party chairman Phil Johnston. Keller calls Dukakis "flat wrong" when he said that then-candidate Deval Patrick was outspent by, overall, some huge number. Here's the quote that gives Keller so much trouble:

Turning to John Walsh, the new state Democratic Party chair who managed Deval Patrick's run for governor last year, Dukakis says: "Yeah, you raised some bucks in the end John, but I don't know what he was outspent by, overall. It was huge, and he won by 21 percentage points. And it had everything to do with that grassroots precinct-based organization... We have the most dramatic example of the effectiveness of this right here in the Commonwealth because of what happened last fall."
(Keller also commits an Internet faux pas by not identifying where he found the Dukakis video -- I assume he found it through BMG, and not by trolling around YouTube looking for former Massachusetts Governors)

Keller then goes into the numbers from the Office of Campaign and Political Finance and shows that Patrick spent $8.9 million and Kerry Healey spent $13.2 million, but when you take independent expenditures into account, the difference between the two was not "huge" and therefore you can't say for sure that grassroots organizing makes more of a difference than spending.

Here's the problem, while Keller adds the amount that the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Service Employees International unit 1199 (a total of $3.418 million) to Deval Patrick's spending total, he neglects to add the amount the Republican Governor's Association spent on Kerry Healey's campaign (nearly $1 million). You could make the argument that you can ignore the RGA expenditures because they didn't make a difference, but if you do that you may as well ignore all of Healey's spending -- after all, she lost. Keller also omits the $8.5 million that Christy Mihos spent trying to become Governor. If the premise that "Patrick was outspent" is what Keller is disagreeing with -- remember, Dukakis never mentioned who he was outspent by -- then it seems like leaving out the massive amount Mihos spent in his own quest to become governor would mean you're getting an incomplete picture, particularly when Dukakis uses the word "overall".

I also think it's important to note that Patrick was significantly outspent on the airwaves. While Patrick may have achieved near parity in total spending, at least in Keller's eyes, the premise of Dukakis' speech was that grassroots organizing wins out over TV ads. Healey's camp spent $9.6 million on media buys, while Patrick spent a paltry $4.3 million in comparison. Even after adding in the third-party issue ads, Patrick still was outspent by nearly $3 million dollars in the media. That's not nothin', and when people talk about campaign spending, this is generally what they're talking about, not payroll or field events. Dukakis' point was that Patrick focused on field instead of media. Field isn't necessarily cheap, and Patrick's spending there made a huge difference overcoming his lack of TV presence.

In addition, I think that it's important to note that Patrick had two elections to win, while Healey (and Mihos) only had one. Patrick was massively outspent in the primary by Chris Gabrieli. If you count only the money spent before the primary, Gabrieli outspent Patrick two to one. It's not clear which election Dukakis is talking about when he says Patrick "won by twenty-one percentage points". While Patrick won the general by 20 points, he also won the primary by a similar margin -- 22 points. Everything Dukakis says is equally applicable to the primary as it is to the general election, and it would be laughable to say that Patrick was not outspent in the primary. When you take into account how much Patrick was outspent overall, it's clear that the primary should be part of the picture.