At under $5 each, Trump's votes came
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[November 09, 2016]
By Ginger Gibson and Grant Smith
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump pulled
off one of the biggest upsets in American political history when he
toppled Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election on Tuesday -
and he did it using far less cash than his rival.
Relying heavily on an unorthodox mix of social media, unfiltered
rhetoric, and a knack for winning free TV time, the New York real estate
magnate likely paid less than $5 per vote during his insurgent White
House bid, about half what Clinton paid, according to a Reuters analysis
of campaign finance records and voting data. Those figures assume the
candidates spent all the funds they raised.
Trump's cost-effective win has upended prevailing concepts about the
influence of money in American politics and raised the question of
whether a lean, media-savvy campaign can become the new model for
winning office in the United States.
Political strategists and academics tend to agree, however, that Trump's
performance would be tough to repeat. A household name for his luxury
brand resorts, reality TV stardom, and ability to surround himself with
non-stop controversy, Trump held advantages that many political
"I think this is a case where Trump had unique characteristics as a
candidate that allowed him to pursue a different type of strategy," said
Tony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College in Maine.
In total, Trump raised at least $270 million since launching his
campaign in June 2015, a little more than a third of the money that
Obama's re-election campaign spent in 2012, according to the most recent
filings with the Federal Elections Commission.
With vote counting wrapping up in the early hours of Wednesday, Trump
had won some 57 million votes nationwide in the general election. That
amounts to less than $5 per vote for the $270 million he spent.
According to data analytics firm mediaQuant, Trump garnered about $5
billion worth of free media coverage during the election campaign, more
than twice the amount earned by Clinton, a lifelong politician who
served as secretary of state, senator, and first lady at different times
in her career.
mediaQuant adds up all the unpaid coverage the candidates earn in
newspapers, magazines and social media and then compares the sum to what
a comparable amount of coverage, with the same kind of reach, would have
cost in advertising.
Trump has also frequently dominated news cycles with provocative
rhetoric that breaks taboos, including unabashed insults targeting women
he dislikes over Twitter, or unusual policy proscriptions like his call
to temporarily bang Muslims from entering the country to prevent
domestic attacks, or to force Mexico to pay for a multi-billion dollar
border wall to keep out immigrants.
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A man leans out of a Hummer shouting words in support of Donald
Trump while driving through Times Square in New York. REUTERS/Mark
Trump made his self-funding a selling point early in his campaign as
he fended off 16 Republican rivals for the party nomination, arguing
that by eschewing big donors he wasn’t beholden to special
But once he secured the nomination, Trump changed course and began
fundraising in earnest, replicating the small dollar fundraising
juggernaut of another insurgent candidate, Democrat Bernie Sanders,
along the way.
Clinton raised at least $521 million, according to filings.
The former secretary of state stuck to the more traditional
campaigning model of launching expensive television ads and funding
hundreds of staffers who fanned across the country to work to
increase voter turnout on Election Day.
She spent more than $237 million on television ads and more than $42
million on hundreds of staffers.
She also benefited from spending by the Super PACs supporting her
candidacy, which are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of
money but cannot coordinate directly with the campaign. More than a
dozen people, including hedge fund magnate Donald Sussman and global
financier George Soros, wrote multi-million checks to Priorities
USA, the primary PAC supporting her campaign, according to filings.
Michael Traugott, a political science professor at the University of
Michigan said the traditional U.S. model for picking presidents
might seem odd to people in other nations, where campaigns are
shorter and require less cash.
"The system is clearly broken,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Conlin; Editing by Richard
Valdmanis and Alistair Bell)
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