My view is: perhaps they did. The argument is that the Koch Brothers and others of their ilk now think that they bought and paid for the Republican Party--and in the primaries they are largely right. But money is much less influential in presidential elections, and so the minus effect on candidate quality in the primaries outweighs the positive effects of more money in the general election.
We got way too excited over money in the 2012 elections: This time last year, I was working with three political scientists — John Sides, Lynn Vavreck, and Seth Hill — to build a really, really simple model for predicting the election…. The model kept telling us that President Obama was likely to win… under circumstances where I didn’t think he was likely to win. That model offended my gut. And so I spent a lot of time coming up with things the model might be missing.
The model was right. President Obama was the favorite in that election. His position was stronger than I thought, even though I had a lot more information than the model did. And one reason I think the model beat me was that I was reading a lot of stories about super PACs and campaign fundraising and my model wasn’t.
This is a panel about whether, and to what degree, money mattered in the 2012 election…. The simple fact is that if you had followed the election simply be reading stories about money in politics, then those stories — which included a lot of very alarming quotes from people in this room — would’ve led you far astray….
I did some reporting on this question back in the waning days of the election. And the smart, savvy, sophisticated take was that the money question was overblown on the presidential level but absolutely decisive in House and Senate races…. And I want to own up to this: That sounded completely right to me…. That didn’t happen either…. It was apportionment, not ads, that kept John Boehner in the Speaker’s chair….
It’s hard to look at the 2012 election, with its record fundraising and the flood of super PACs and all the rest of it, and come away really persuaded that money was a decisive player. And yet the way we talked about money in the run-up to the 2012 election, we really suggested it would be a decisive player…. So I think we have some explaining to do. And I think this panel is a good time to start.