If running for president were a business, Donald Trump, Inc. would have the biggest profits and the lowest costs.
Trump is rewriting the rules for how to mount a compelling bid for president, and part of the disruption involves the amount of money required to win. Under the old rules, a successful presidential campaign required hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from rich donors, much of it going to super PACs.
Trump is winning with far less, proving that money doesn’t necessarily win elections.
It’s no secret that Trump’s entertaining bluster earns him hour upon hour of free airtime, which most other candidates would have to pay for. But with the primary election season now 80% over, it’s also possible to quantify the Trump Effect and determine what his unique blend of fame and notoriety is really worth.
So Yahoo Finance tallied the campaign spending for each candidate, along with the delegates and votes each has won, to see who’s spending their money most effectively. Here are the numbers for each candidate who has won at least one delegate:
In business terms, Trump is the most efficient candidate by far, with a marginal cost, if you will, of about $50,000 per delegate. All that airtime gives him massive scale, allowing him to spread his costs over a huge marketplace and push down the dollar-to-delegate ratio.
The cost per delegate is four times higher for Ted Cruz and 237 times higher for John Kasich. As for Jeb Bush and the other candidates who won a single-digit number of candidates, they’re like startups that raised a lot of money for research and development but only managed to build a prototype or two before going out of business—making their dollar-to-delegate ratio stratospherically high.
You can’t compare dollar-to-delegate ratios between Republicans and Democrats, because each party requires a different number of delegates to win the presidential nomination. But comparing Bernie Sanders with Hillary Clinton shows that both campaigns are at least in the same ballpark when it comes to the cost per delegate. If there’s any surprise, it’s that the Sanders campaign isn’t really the shoestring operation some supporters might think it is.
Trump’s fiscal efficiency would be welcome relief in the White House.
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