UpRise client and grassroots Congressional candidate Peter Jacob brings in 20,000 more votes at 1/30th of the cost-per-vote, compared with a nearby top tier campaign.

It’s no secret that the 2016 election results were pretty bad for most Democratic candidates, but there is an interesting story to be found in comparing the Congressional campaign of Peter Jacob in the 7th CD in New Jersey, with one of the most expensive Democratic Congressional campaigns in the country.

Both candidates were terrific, but their campaigns were nearly opposites. Peter’s was all about local grassroots mobilization with little attention from national party or outside orgs. The other was one of the Democrats’ top nationally targeted races, with everything advantage money can buy.

Both lost, but…

Peter Jacob was a first time candidate with no name recognition, running against a 4 term incumbent in a R+6 District (which means that a hypothetical Republican would expect to beat a hypothetical Democrat by 6 points in this district, all other things being equal.) Peter lost by 11%, which is like coming in 5 points behind on “equal” turf. This is a stellar performance for a first time candidate running against a 4 term incumbent in any year. In 2016, it is practically miraculous.

In our other campaign, the candidate was competing for an open seat in a District with a D+1 Democratic advantage. This candidate had name recognition equal to or better than the opponent, but still lost by more than 9%, which is like coming in more than 10 points down on “equal” turf.

Now look at how much was spent:

Peter Jacob raised and spent just over $300,000. His opponent spent 1.25 million, outspending him by more than 4 to 1.

The other candidate raised and spent almost $5 million with outside spending of around $3 million in attack ads, for a total of around $8 million. The opponent spent about 10% more.

The other candidate’s total votes: around 125,000. Cost per vote: just over $60.00.

Peter’s total votes: around 145,000. Cost per vote: just over $2.00.

What can we learn from this? One lesson is that spending more doesn’t necessarily get you more. With a good grassroots campaign, you can do a lot better with a whole lot less. For candidates facing tough races, it might be worth your while to refuse the offers of outside help, especially if it comes in the form of attack ads, and spend more time face to face with voters than on the phone with donors.

Credit must be given to Peter Jacob, his campaign manager Josh Levin and their whole team for running a really impressive campaign. Let’s hope Peter runs again soon!  

We’ll be looking into many more campaigns in the coming months and interviewing candidates where we can, to learn more about how people spent their money and what they got for it. We’ll let you know what we learn.