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Campaign by Numbers

by Laura Kirshner // Published June 22, 2007
Even though the presidential primaries do not begin for another six months, and even though the party conventions are not for another year, the campaign process is well underway for the major party candidates. The Washington Post provides a detailed campaign tracker to inform the politically concerned citizen exactly how often candidates visit each state, exactly what sort of attention they bestow upon such states, and how much money they take with them when they leave these states.

I've taken the liberty of compiling information provided by the generous watchdogs at The Washington Post, and I've come up with some interesting preliminary statistics.

This probably won't surprise many readers, but nearly 60% of all campaign visits are held in one of the first five primary states. The second half of all states that vote receive less than 1/5th of all campaign visits. So, in case you had any doubts about whether your state's primary schedule positioning indicated to what degree your state is ignored, these numbers ought to confirm your concerns.

Amongst the states that receive the most visits (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, California, Florida, Nevada, Texas, and New York), there are two potential indicators of what sort of visits those might be: calendar position and population size.

Since a fundraiser's aim is to gain money rather than votes, they get their own category next to all other types of conventional campaign visits, such as appearances, speeches, town halls, or debates.

My tentative conclusion is that primary scheduling and state size are the main indicators of frequency of visits. California, Florida, Texas, and New York are large states but are not in one of the first rounds of contests. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada are all amongst the first states to hold primary elections or caucuses.

    Total Visits Fundraisers % Fundraisers
Large states California 147 74 50.34
Florida 69 25 36.23
New York 60 27 45.00
Texas 64 40 62.50
Early primary states Iowa 415 16 3.86
New Hampshire 296 5 1.69
South Carolina 150 11 7.33
Nevada 62 4 6.45

Above is a sample of the data I gathered. The interesting thing to note is that, although other large states receive campaign attention without holding early primaries, this attention is overwhelmingly focused on soliciting money from citizens, not to earn their support. Compare New Hampshire and Texas: New Hampshire is much smaller than Texas, yes it is treated as more important in the primary election process, thus 98.31% of all campaign visits are actually to gain votes. On the other hand, Texas holds a relatively late primary on March 4, so only 38.50% of campaign visits are intended to gain support for a particular candidate; the rest of the visits serve to fill the candidates' ever-deepening pockets.

More intriguing stats will follow in the near future. For now, suffice it to say that the primary system is biased in favor of the first few states to vote, and something must be done to fix this primary system.