Incorrect Projections Cause Campaign Costs to Skyrocket

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Ballotpedia announces the real battlegrounds of 2014.

The 29 truly competitive Congressional districts

"Incumbency is king and gerrymandering has left only a handful of districts truly competitive." - Sarah Rosier

There is a gap between the projected competitiveness of congressional races and their actual competitiveness. To combat the phenomenon of overstated competitiveness, Ballotpedia recently published a list of the 29 Most Competitive Districts in 2014.

Ballotpedia, a project of the non-profit, non-partisan Lucy Burns Institute, found that 34% of the districts deemed competitive by The Cook Political Report in 2012 were not actually competitive. This was no surprise to Ballotpedia’s Congress Project Director, Sarah Rosier. “Incumbency is king and gerrymandering has left only a handful of districts truly competitive,” Rosier said.

An inflated sense of competitiveness is great for the news cycle. When pundits, political organizations, or analysts classify a district as competitive, other outlets add the classification to their own coverage of the race.

Unfortunately, this increased coverage leads to increased campaign spending, regardless of whether the race is actually competitive. That is exactly what happened in Maryland’s 6th district during the 2012 election season. Many pundits and political organizations such as the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Democratic Congressional Committee and the Cook Political Report had classified the district as competitive throughout the election cycle. A total of $5.7 million was spent by the candidates in this district.

At Ballotpedia, we call these incorrectly labeled districts “moneymakers.”

Fast Facts:

  • In 2012, the total difference between moneymaker district election costs and the average district election costs was $39.6 million, which is enough money to feed 3,223 families of four for a year.
  • In 2012, Cook classified 85 districts as competitive in their last projections before the election; however, only 30 races had a margin of victory of less than five percent.
  • In 2012, $3.6 billion was spent on congressional races, close to $1 billion more than on the presidential race.
  • Only three of the ten most expensive House races in 2012 were decided by a margin of victory of five percentage points or less.
  • In 2014, Ballotpedia projects that 29 districts in 16 states will see competitive congressional elections. That means only 6% of 2014’s congressional elections will be competitive.

About Ballotpedia: Ballotpedia is sponsored by the Lucy Burns Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan, organization that connects people to politics. Ballotpedia is an online almanac of state elections and election law, as well as state and local ballot measures, state executives, school boards, and Congress.

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Amanda Grimmett
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