WASHINGTON -- November 4 -- The winners of a handful of congressional races are still unknown, but one thing is certain: Money won big in the 2004 elections.
In 96 percent of House races and 91 percent of Senate races that had been decided by mid-day today, the candidate who spent the most money won, according to a post-election analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The findings are based on figures reported Oct. 13 to the Federal Election Commission.
The biggest spender was victorious in 413 of 432 decided House races and 31 of 34 decided Senate races. On Election Day 2002, top spenders won 95 percent of House races and 76 percent of Senate races.
The contests not yet decided include Louisiana's 3rd and 7th House districts and New York's 27th district.
In the race for the White House, President Bush spent a total of $306.3 million in private and government funds from January 2003. Sen. John Kerry, who faced a tough battle for the Democratic nomination, spent $241.7 million. These figures do not include spending by the political parties or advocacy groups on the presidential election.
Nearly a third of House races -- 127 in all -- involved a candidate with no financial opposition. In 30 of those races, the winning candidate had no opponent at all. Another 97 winning candidates faced challengers who either spent no money or filed no reports with the FEC. Federal rules require candidates to file detailed reports of their contributions and expenditures if their campaign costs exceed $5,000.
In all, only 13 Republican congressional candidates and nine Democratic candidates managed to win their seats despite being outspent. This cycle's most expensive congressional contest -- the South Dakota Senate race -- involved a winning candidate who spent less than the defeated candidate. In that race, incumbent Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader, spent $17.4 million in a losing effort against former Rep. John Thune (R). Thune spent $10.3 million to bring the total spending in the race to $27.7 million.
While the overwhelming majority of yesterday's races featured incumbents running for reelection, money was also decisive when two newcomers squared off in open seat races. The top spender in House open seat contests won 84 percent of the time. In the Senate, the candidate who spent the most in an open seat race did even better, winning 88 percent of the time.
The honor of spending the most money in a losing effort on Election Day went to Daschle. Rep. Martin Frost (D), who ran against Rep. Pete Sessions (R) in a district recently redrawn by the Republican-controlled Texas legislature, spent the most of any losing House candidate on Election Day. Frost spent $3.9 million, while Sessions spent $2.8 million.
Tuesday's elections did not go well for self-financed candidates. Only one candidate aided by $1 million or more in personal funds won. That was Michael McCaul (R), who put $1.9 million of his own money into his successful run for Texas' 10th district.
Twenty-one House and Senate candidates spent more than $1 million of their own money and lost at the polls. Only seven of them even made it to the general election. Those included Erskine Bowles (D), former chief of staff to President Clinton, who spent $1.5 million of his personal funds in losing the North Carolina Senate race to Rep. Richard Burr (R). Bowles spent $6.8 million of his own money in a losing effort versus Elizabeth Dole (R) two years ago.
The biggest spender, by far, of personal funds in this election cycle was Blair Hull (D), who invested $28.7 million into his Illinois Senate race. He lost in the primary to the eventual winner of the seat, Barack Obama.