The NYTimes/Siena College poll was released today showing that likely New York City voters in the general election for mayor next month are splitting 68 percent for Bill de Blasio and 19 percent for Joe Lhota.
The two most recent previous polls showed de Blasio winning three to one. The odds have improved for de Blasio, doubtless in part because of distress in NYC at the shutdown in Washington, to better than 3.5 to one. What are the chances that Lhota can come from behind and with enough money and persuasive rhetoric win the election, a little more than four weeks from now?
Those who want to place a bet on the underdog in this case could benefit from some data.
Peter Minuit is credited with buying Manhattan from the Lenape or Canarsee Indians for $24. For the same dollar spending per voter, Bill de Blasio won the New York City Primary for Mayor.
De Blasio's $24 was the most efficient of all of the primary campaigns. Figures from the Campaign Finance Board, reported by Sam Roberts (p. A20 of Wednesday's New York Times), and supplemented by other data, show a wide range of dollars per vote in this and other elections. By the nature of the measure, the losers commonly spend the most because their spending is divided by a smaller number than the winners.
Ronald Lauder in 1989 spent $352 per vote, losing to Rudy Giuliani in the NYC mayoral primary. At the time it was described as the most expensive campaign per vote in U.S. history. The top spender in the NYC primary bypassed this figure, as John Catsimatidis spent $419 per vote -- but Lauder is still ahead if his spending is adjusted for inflation using the BLS inflation calculator to $664.
The high cost of Mayor Bloomberg's 2009 campaign is clear from the table -- $174 per vote, $102 million total -- 15 times the total amount that Bill de Blasio spent becoming the Democratic nominee for mayor this year.
The highest dollar figure ever spent on a statewide primary election may have been Linda McMahon's $454 per vote in 2010, winning her the Connecticut GOP nomination for the Senate. She went on to spend $95 per vote in the general election, and lost.
Because the expenditures are spread over a larger number of voters, national elections are much cheaper per vote. In 2012, Obama spent $10 per vote and Romney spent $7. But outside spending on behalf of the candidates boosted Romney to $20 per vote and Obama to $17.
Lhota's campaign consultants and independent campaigns will be up against de Blasio's good value-for-money campaigners:
- John de Cecato of AKPD Message and Media, founded by David Axelrod (de Cecato prepared the famed ad featuring Dante and his Afro).
- Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, which did the polling for the de Blasio campaign.
- Joe Rospars of Blue State Digital, the people who were brought together for the Howard Dean campaign in 2004, got behind Barack Obama in 2008 and signed up 13 million supporters for him online, raising $500 million via Quick Donate.
Of course, the campaign consultants should not get all the credit for the success of the candidate. Some of that should go to Mr. de Blasio himself and his impressive family - his Wellesley College-educated wife Chirlane McCray and their two much-loved children.
The de Blasio campaign is at work getting ready for the face-off with Lhota on November 5. This happens also to be the day in 1626 that the trade of Manhattan for $24 (60 guilders worth of goods) was consummated.