Transcription – Daron Shaw Interview

Q:              Writing about, sort of, major mistakes that both campaigns in 2004 made, let me ask you about some of those you discussed about.  One was, John Kerry leave 17 million dollars unspent.  How did that — how does happen, when honestly, this was still a time when both Kerry and Bush, for the fall campaign were taking the federal money, which means they only had 75 million apiece to spend as campaigns.  How does a candidate leave more than 20 percent of that unspent in a close election?  And would it have made a difference if Kerry had spent that money effectively?

SHAW:       Yeah, this — to me, and I try — you know, I have not just sympathy, but empathy for these presidential campaigns. [00:50:00] The leaving of the 17 million dollars on the table in 2004, I’ve never heard anybody tell me that that was incorrect, that in fact they had spent the money, or that they had allocated, so I think the facts are correct here.  I think they’re incontrovertible.  The generous interpretation would be that Senator Kerry had locked in his TV spending early on, that they had made advance purchases, with kind of a decent strategic assumption, saying that hey, everybody knows where the race is going to be decided.  So, let’s get the lowest unit rate in places like Florida, and in Ohio early on.  So they had essentially locked in advertising times back in late August, early September, for deep into October.  So they’d committed their resources.  And my understanding is, is that, you know, after that commitment, they still had 17 million dollars, you know, essentially from the advertising budget that was going to be used in reserve.  I have no clue why, [00:51:00] two, three weeks out, that money was not reallocated, either for the ground game, or for a national advertising purchase that could have supplemented what they did.

Now, I’ve talked with some Kerry people who’ve said that they have had some budget like that committed for an after-election contest.  But to me that makes no sense.  If you had another situation like in 2000 in which the election was deadlocked, or there was a controversy surrounding the vote in say, Ohio, or Florida, you could raise that money in 10 seconds from Democratic sources to fight all of the legal battles immediately.  It happened in 2000 — I’m positive it would have happened in 2004.  The idea that you’d save 17 million for that fight strikes me as absurd.

A more plausible but still puzzling argument is that there was no advertising to buy, that because the Kerry and Bush campaigns along with local candidates had essentially bought every available space in Ohio and in Florida for late October, [00:52:00] early November, there really wasn’t anything to buy.  OK, that tells me why you didn’t make an additional buy in Cleveland, but it doesn’t say anything about why you didn’t use the money for other purposes, you know, whether that — as a ground game investment, whether that’s a national cable or national broadcast buy, or expand the battlefield, you know, take a chance on, you know, an eight-to-ten point state where nobody’s really spending any money.  Seventeen million dollars is a ton of money.

Q:              By your analysis, if Kerry had taken that 17 million and spent in New Mexico, Iowa, and Ohio, he would have won the election.

SHAW:       Yeah, I think if you run the numbers and use the regression coefficient estimates that I derived and simply taken the extra money and allocated it across some of those states, the effects that I’m talking about that I document in the book are significant, but they’re not overwhelming. [00:53:00] They’re on the order of a point or two.  But if you pour the 17 million dollars and simply use the regression coefficients to estimate effects, you clearly would have influenced the outcome in those states which were very close.  He ended up with about 100,000 vote, 120,000 vote spread in Ohio, and that would have done the trick.

Now there’s a question about whether that time was there to be purchased, and my assumption is that it wasn’t.  But there were a lot of states that were close, as suggested.  There’s New Mexico; there’s Iowa.  There were a number of states where Kerry was within shouting distance.  And that’s not even considering the possibility that he would have invested the money in, you know, a ground game in some of those states, where he could have reached parity with Bush, say, in southern Ohio, whether he could have done a better job of turning out the vote in parts of Florida, 17 million dollars in reserve is unheard of.  And I think it’s the most glaring and obvious example of a campaign mistake, I think, in recent memory.