Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

On Citizens United’s true impact in 2012

July 11th, 2012, 5:01pm by Sam Wang


The largest effect of the Citizens United ruling is probably not the Presidential race, which is sufficiently well-funded for messages to get out on both sides. And, for the moment, that race looks hard to flip.

However, Congressional and state races are another story. Imagine if you had $50 million to distribute to 5 critical Senate races and 20 critical House races. Each race could get $2 million to set up a mini-think tank, opposition research, and a viral campaign. That would buy a lot of local messaging and mudslinging. And a lot of robocalls. By modern standards, $50M is not a lot of money. By the same logic I’ve applied to leveraging your campaign donations, a Super PAC would be well advised to do the same thing. Indeed, Karl Rove’s groups are doing exactly this.

The same is doubly true for state politics. For some of these races, even $20,000 is a lot. New fluxes of money into local races are a major emerging story in Campaign 2012.

Tags: 2012 Election · House · Politics · Senate

3 Comments so far ↓

  • Gilbert

    And no matter who wins the election, those large donors are going to want the favor returned in the next 4 years.

  • Rachel Findley

    Glad you’re back! I’m wondering about various voter ID measures–is there any way to know how much of an effect they could have, given that about 10% of Americans currently lack government issued ID–and the percentage is higher among African Americans. Florida, Iowa, Virginia and Ohio have recently enacted requirements that will depress voting, , while other swing states may yet do so. Do you think pollsters are doing a good job of guessing the impact of voter ID rules when they qualify “likely voters?” Do you think it would be helpful to apply a voter suppression effect in particular states?
    – see http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/2012_summary_of_voting_law_changes/

    • Sam Wang

      Dear Rachel, greetings.

      That’s a good question. I have been wondering about the voter ID issue. My first thought is that pollsters will eventually take that into account in their likely-voter screen. They can ask questions such as “Do you have a government-issued picture ID?” At some level, it feels best to leave that to them.

      About 9% of Pennsylvania’s ~9 million registered voters lack a government ID. If they break 2-1 Democratic, then that would be a net 3-4% gain for Romney. The current margins for Pennsylvania are Obama +7%. If it drops below +5%, then Republicans have a chance to flip the outcome.

      One possible fix to give you a sense of it is the “+2% for Romney” tool in the right sidebar. It’s not ideal since it doesn’t add up the EV; perhaps I can put it in the main EV-over-time graph. Also, it’s not state-specific, Pennsylvania being an obvious place to focus.

      I’ll keep your question in mind as I think about improvements to the site.

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