MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This weekend, Sen. Amy Klobuchar is expected to join the 2020 race for president. And, if she does, she’ll have to raise millions of dollars money to make to the White House. So how much does a presidential campaign actually cost? Good Question.
“The first answer is a lot,” David Schultz, a campaign finance expert and professor of political science at Hamline University, said.
Schultz estimates that between now and Election Day 2020, a candidate who makes it all the way will have to raise $500 million. That translates in about $1 million a day.
“They’re are spending a lot of time dialing for dollars,” Schultz says. “This really filters out a lot candidates who are successful or unsuccessful.”
Schultz says the total amount of money spent of presidential campaign is hard to calculate because it comes from so many sources, including so-called “dark money” that doesn’t have strict FEC reporting requirements.
After the 2016 Presidential election, journalists at the Washington Post put together as much of a complete picture as possible of the money spent the Trump and Clinton campaigns. After including contributions to the candidate campaigns, their affiliated fundraising committees, the national parties, candidate super PACs, joint fundraising committees and convention host committees, they found $1.4 billion for Clinton and $957 million for Trump.
For 2016, those numbers were $563 million for Clinton and $333 million for Trump. That’s less than what Obama raised in 2008 ($730 million) and 2012 ($722 million), but much higher than the amounts raised since the early 1990s. For example, contributions to both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaigns were $92 million each. Even in 2018 dollars, that’s $162 million.
Schultz says the dramatic rise in the cost of Presidential campaigns is due to a number of factors.
“A couple of things changed, starting in the 1990s,” he says. “Our political system became more polarized and competitive.”
He also attributes the 2008 decision by Obama to not accept public funding, which took off the limits of what he could fund-raise and spend. Schultz also says the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case, which lifted restrictions on contributions from corporations, unleashed more money into the political system.
Even running in the primaries is expensive. The Washington Post found that in 2016, Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz and the groups affiliated with him raised $180 million. For Marco Rubio’s campaign, it was $128 million.