Lamar! Alexander managed to fend off a challenge from Joe Carr in Tennessee – largely by lying about his own stance on immigration. It should be noted that challengers Joe Carr and George Flinn both ran aggressively to the Alexander’s right on immigration, leading to a fatal split for the forces of patriotic immigration reform. [Live Election Results, Washington Post, August 7, 2014]
Of course, Alexander’s victory came at an astounding amount of dollars spent per vote. According to Open Secrets, Lamar Alexander’s campaign spent $6,204,267 as of July 18. Senator Alexander received 330,330 votes, meaning that he spent over $21 per vote. Of course, this massively underestimates the ratio, because it doesn’t including spending during the last weeks of the campaign. This also doesn’t count the more than $2 million he had in cash on hand as of July 18.
As of July 18, Carr had only spent $986,224, with just under $170,000 cash on hand. He received 269,287 votes. Even if we apply a more stringent standard to Carr than to Alexander and assume he spent all of the money raised, Carr only spent a little over five dollars per vote. Of course, this also understates the ratio somewhat, as it doesn’t include spending during the last weeks of the campaign.
Alexander may not have been the most inefficient campaigner in the race. George Flinn gave his own campaign $1.8 million dollars and only seems to have raised a few thousand from other people. He received only 34, 546 votes. As of July 18, Flinn had only spent a fraction of the money he donated to the campaign so let’s be overly fair. Even just taking the amount of money he spent by July 18, Flinn spent about $15.89 per vote – or more than three times what Carr did. If Flinn spent all of his money (which for his sake, we hope he didn’t), it would have meant spending about $52.46 per vote.
[TN Senate Race – Total Raised and Spent, Open Secrets, FEC Data August 8, 2014]
Even by the most charitable interpretation, the incumbent Senator had to spend more than four times the amount of money per vote than the almost unknown Joe Carr.
Unfortunately for Carr, the forces of patriotic immigration reform couldn’t overcome the split within their own ranks and the waste of resources.
Rule number one for taking out an incumbent – you have to unite behind just one challenger.