Presidential Campaigns: The runners and the spoilers.

In this day and age, data is king. Data is objective, and if interpreted properly, it provides a truthful reflection reality.

ACRONYM has made a dashboard available to follow the expenditures of all the presidential campaigns across Facebook and Google. One can see Donald Trump has spend the most compared to any other candidate in the race by a very large margin.

2020 Digital spending for all candidates.

How can we separate those who are running in the race, from those who are only running to be spoilers? Very simple, we can see how they are targeting their expenditures.

A real presidential campaign would focus in areas where they protect their own turf, and focuses in areas that believe can win. A great example is how President Trump’s campaign has a very homogeneous distribution of their expenditures.

Geographical expenditure by President Trump’s campaign.

Notice how he is focusing in large states where he will need to get enough votes to win the presidency: Texas, Florida, California, Ohio. Distributing the expenses across the country, without only slight preferences to large and winnable states. Trump is a runner.

Democrats will have to follow a primary schedule:

Feb 3: Iowa
Feb 11: New Hampshire
Feb 22: Nevada
Feb 29: South Carolina
Mar 3: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Democrats abroad.
Mar 7: Louisiana
Mar 8: Maine
Mar 10: Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Washington
Mar 17: Arizona. Florida, Illinois
Apr 4: Alaska, Hawaii
Apr 7: Wisconsin
Apr 28: New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island
May 2: Kansas, Guam
May 5: Indiana
May 12: Nebraska, West Virginia
May 19: Kentucky, Oregon
Jun 2: Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota
Jun 7: Puerto Rico
Jun 16: Washington DC

Senator Sanders is focusing his expenditures in large states: California, New York, Texas, the number of delegates in those states is significant. With California providing 362 delegates, New York 195 delegates, and Texas 198 delegates. Only Florida with 190 delegates is significant, but it appears the Sanders campaign has decided not to spend too much effort in that state. In any case, Senator Sanders’ campaign is clearly spending to win, but focusing in the states they need to win, in order to win the nomination. Sanders is a runner.

Geographical expenditure by Senator Sander’s campaign.

Senator Warren, and Representative Gabbard have a more traditional primary strategy: Focusing on early states like Iowa, California, New Hampshire. Nevada, and South Carolina, in order to build momentum for their respective campaigns.

Disclaimer: I have donated to Representative Gabbard, and she is currently my candidate of choice, and as someone who has been active following her candidacy, understand the reliance in volunteers, and the very limited purchase of Facebook ads.

Geographical expenditure by Senator Warren’s campaign.
Geographical expenditure by Representative Gabbard’s campaign.

The data for both candidates reflects a strategy of incremental wins dictated by the primary schedule. Warren and Gabbard are runners.

Joe Biden, recently started his campaign, and he is focusing in California, Pennsylvania, New York and Florida. All states with a significant number of delegates 362, 133, 195, and 190 respectively, leaving many of the earlier states for the sake of looking to get enough of a foothold in the larger states. Given the relatively homogeneous distribution of Vice President Biden’s expenditures, we can consider that Biden is a runner.

Geographical expenditure by Vice President Biden’s campaign.

Michael Bennet, the senator from Colorado, is focusing in his home state and in California, spending close to 26% of all his Facebook budget, and this is how we start looking at the candidates who are mainly running to be spoilers. A real campaign would try to focus in those early winnable states, and rely on the home advantages to carry their own state. Instead, spoilers will focus in their own states, diverting resources from other states, and instead focus in preventing other candidates to make inroads in their own states. The goal of Senator Bennet, to retain as many of the 58 delegates as possible. Bennet is a spoiler.

Geographical expenditure by Senator Bennet’s campaign.

Governor of Montana, Steve Bullock, while also focusing in Iowa, he is spending a large percentage in his home state, not a great strategy for winning a national race. Bullock is a spoiler.

Geographical expenditure by Governor Bullock’s campaign.

Mayor of South Bend Indiana, Pete Buttigieg is focusing in South Carolina, Florida and California. It is specially interesting that as one of the veterans running in this primary, he also chose to spend money in South Carolina (With only 47 delegates), the same early state Representative Gabbard chose to target. He is a runner.

Geographical expenditure by Mayor Buttigieg’s campaign.

Julian Castro is focusing in his home state of Texas. Castro is a spoiler.

Geographical expenditure by Julian Castro’s campaign.

The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio and his narrow focus in his home state, suggests de Blasio is a spoiler.

The reader can go to the interactive tool to verify this information, which can be summarized in the following table.

Runners and spoilers per their presidential campaign strategies.

There are realistically nine democratic presidential candidates who are following a national strategy to win. While the large majority of democratic candidates is focusing in preventing other candidates to win delegates in their own home states. This is specially clear for candidates who are spending a majority of resources in late and low-delegate states, when that state gives them a home-court advantage.

Notice how Kamala Harris, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang are listed as runners while they are focusing their resources in their home states, and this is mainly because California’s primaries are early this election cycle AND it provides a very large number of delegates. Therefore focusing in their home state makes sense.

In a democratic contest, every candidate would face other candidates and try to win the presidency, this time around, many candidates are simply running to prevent other candidates for securing the necessary delegate votes in the first round of voting, thus opening the opportunity for super-delegates to select the candidate of their choice.

If you support a candidate that indeed is running to win, I applaud your decision. If you are supporting a local candidate that will only be a spoiler for another, I suggest you reconsider your decision.

I believe in the goodness of mankind even when the evidence proves the contrary. Engineer by day, Poet in my dreams, and 100% AMERICAN every waking moment.