Thursday, November 4, 2010

Money Was No Guarantee of Victory

At WaPo, "Whitman, Fiorina and McMahon: Spending Big, Failing Bigger":
LOS ANGELES - Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Linda McMahon had a lot in common.

All sharp, successful businesswomen who made millions as executives in the private sector, they identified 2010 as an apt historical moment for a Republican candidate with no political experience to break into politics. In pursuit of higher office, each committed considerable resources - more than $200 million combined - to challenge seemingly vulnerable Democrats.

Each risk taker came up far short of her goal.

Whitman, the 54-year-old former chief executive of eBay, burned through more than $140 million of her own money in a colossal loss in the California governor's race to a former governor, Attorney General Jerry Brown. Also in California, Fiorina, 56, the former Hewlett-Packard leader, spent about $7 million of her own funds in a bitter Senate loss to the incumbent, Barbara Boxer. And McMahon, 62, who with her husband built the smackdown empire called World Wrestling Entertainment in Connecticut, spent $50 million in seeking an open Senate seat, losing to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

The question isn't so much why three savvy businesswomen threw so much good money after bad in losing ventures to win political office. In a year when voters overwhelmingly registered their dissatisfaction with Democrats and the unemployment-riddled economy, the candidates had every reason to consider the millions a sound investment. Instead, the question is how they failed so resoundingly.

"It's in some ways like a highly underdeveloped country that suddenly strikes oil and they don't know what to do with the money and start spending it unwisely," said Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. Baker said that money is a threshold requirement in politics, "but above a certain amount you don't get a dividend for every extra dollar."

"And when it's your own money, you cast aside some of the restraints and keep spending, to the point where you cast aside certain other aspects of the campaign that might be deficient," he said.
More at the link.

I've already examined Whitman's liablities, and being a shitty candidate is probably just the best way to sum up her debacle. I've said less about Fiorina, although she was bit subdued for me, and I know nothing about McMahon.