Donald Trump pulled off one of the biggest upsets in American political history last night and he was able to do it after spending nearly half of what the Clinton campaign spent. According to Reuters, Hillary Clinton raised over $520 million for her campaign compared to only $270 million for Trump, much of which came out of his own pocket. Given the current popular vote count those spending figures equate to roughly $8.80 per Hillary vote versus $4.57 for Trump. Moreover, those spending figures don't even factor in the money spent by the various Super PACs where Hillary likely outspent Trump by a hefty margin as well.
Relying heavily on an unorthodox mix of social media, unfiltered rhetoric, and a knack for winning free TV time, the New York real estate magnate likely paid less than $5 per vote during his insurgent White House bid, about half what Clinton paid, according to a Reuters analysis of campaign finance records and voting data. Those figures assume the candidates spent all the funds they raised.
Trump's cost-effective win has upended prevailing concepts about the influence of money in American politics and raised the question of whether a lean, media-savvy campaign can become the new model for winning office in the United States.
Political strategists and academics tend to agree, however, that Trump's performance would be tough to repeat. A household name for his luxury brand resorts, reality TV stardom, and ability to surround himself with non-stop controversy, Trump held advantages that many political candidates lack.
"I think this is a case where Trump had unique characteristics as a candidate that allowed him to pursue a different type of strategy," said Tony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College in Maine.
While Trump pursued a lean financial strategy, Hillary went heavy of the traditional campaigning model that included $100s of millions spent on TV and radio ads across the country and over $40 million on high-priced strategists. There must be an awful lot of "millionaires, billionaires, private jet owners" this morning thinking about how they would like a redo on some of their contributions from the past year.
The former secretary of state stuck to the more traditional campaigning model of launching expensive television ads and funding hundreds of staffers who fanned across the country to work to increase voter turnout on Election Day.
She spent more than $237 million on television ads and more than $42 million on hundreds of staffers.
She also benefited from spending by the Super PACs supporting her candidacy, which are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money but cannot coordinate directly with the campaign. More than a dozen people, including hedge fund magnate Donald Sussman and global financier George Soros, wrote multi-million checks to Priorities USA, the primary PAC supporting her campaign, according to filings.
In addition to her huge advertising spend, Hillary also massively outspent Trump on "field operations." Trump was frequently criticized throughout the election cycle for not having a well developed "ground game" but it turns that his voters turned out in record numbers despite his relative lack of spending.
Meanwhile, here is a look at where the candidates spent their "field operations" budgets by state.
In addition to shocking the world with his victory, we suspect that Trump has forever changed how money is spent by future political campaigns.