Presidential Tracker: Following the Money...For Now

by Katherine Sicienski, Presidential Tracker // Published June 28, 2011

This blog is one of a series which tracks the movements of the President using data from the Washington Post's ‘POTUS Tracker' to examine the effect of battleground status on presidential attention. If you are interested in examining the data, a copy of our compiled data (as of June 27th, 2011) can be downloaded here.


Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

On Thursday, June 23rd, President Obama visited both Fort Drum and New York City and held a total of five events. According to the Washington Post and their 'POTUS Tracker', the three events in New York City were all Democratic National Committee fundraisers. Since his election, the President has attended a total of 59 fundraisers, 12 of which have been in New York. In fact, 50 of the president's 59 fundraisers as president have been in the ten states that donated the most money to Presidential campaigns in 2008.


These ten states are: California (10 fundraising events/25 total events), New York (12/40), Illinois (7/21), Texas (4/11), Virginia (1/30), Florida (8/26), Massachusetts (5/13), Maryland (0/29), Washington (1/5), and Pennsylvania (2/18). They raised $538,059,969 during the 2008 election cycle, and are currently getting significant attention from the President in hopes that they will continue to be such strong donors. 217 Presidential events have been hosted in these ten states. That is 58.3% of President Obama's total events since his inauguration.

However, we can expect nearly all these states to lose the attention of both the President and the Republican nominee as the general election approaches. Historically, strongly partisan states, even those receiving multiple visits due to their monetary importance, are abandoned as the election approaches.

Between September 5th, 2008 and November 4th, 2008, California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Washington received a grand total of zero visits from the major party presidential nominees.

Only Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia received any candidate appearances during that two month period. Together, they received 109 visits in the same period due to their political importance: time spent (or not spent) in these areas could easily sway the election outcome.

Ad spending during this peak season of the 2008 general election underscores the same division. From September 24th to November 4th, 2008 total ad spending in 35 less contested states was only 2.10% of national spending. And in the seven previously mentioned states, ad spending accounted for only .05% of the national total.

On the other hand, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, due to their swing state status, received 44.0% of total ad spending during this period.

Until the National Popular Vote is instituted to replace the statewide winner-take-all rules that govern allocation of electoral votes in states, it is unlikely that candidates from either party will spend any time in California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland, or Washington during the last few months of the campaign period.

While these states get significant attention early on in campaigns as a source of campaign funds, the current system de-emphasizes their importance during the actual contest. This diminishes the importance of the millions of voters in these states and also in smaller states that often are not competitive in general elections, like Wyoming, Rhode Island, and Delaware.