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EDITORIAL: Going green

The conventional wisdom took a big hit in the recent presidential election. But one area stands out, although few people are talking about it: the disparity in campaign spending by the two major candidates — and how it had no effect on the outcome.

Back in June, skeptics lampooned Donald Trump when he dismissed numerous predictions that he’d have to spend at least $1 billion to have a chance of winning the election. “There’s no reason to raise that,” Mr. Trump said at the time. “I just don’t think I need nearly as much money as other people need because I get so much publicity. I get so many invitations to be on television. I get so many interviews, if I want them.”

Turns out, Mr. Trump’s was exactly right.

The president-elect’s campaign price tag fell considerably short of a $1 billion, totaling roughly $600 million, according to reports. While Mr. Trump himself figured he’d have to spend $100 million of his own money on the campaign, that estimate, too, was excessive. He wound up contributing only $66 million.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton spent nearly twice as much as Mr. Trump — a record $1.2 billion — in her losing effort.

According to data compiled by the Center for Competitive Politics, the number of ads by Clinton and her supporters outnumbered the number of pro-Trump ads by 3-to-1. Meanwhile, outside groups raised and spent more than three times as much to tout Mrs. Clinton as to promote Mr. Trump.

Not only did the Clinton cash machine fail to deliver a win, the Democratic candidate actually did worse where her spending was highest. In the six states she directed the most financial resources — Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Iowa — Mrs. Clinton and her supporters her ran 3.3 ads for every one supporting Mr. Trump. Yet Mrs. Clinton wound up losing all of those states except Nevada.

Excessive, fruitless spending wasn’t limited to the Clinton campaign. Each of the three biggest-spending super PACs supported candidates who lost. PACs backing Mrs. Clinton, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio dropped $275 million on the race, with Mrs. Clinton the only one who made it to the general. In the election’s biggest waste of cash, Right to Rise, the PAC supporting Jeb Bush, spent more than $86 million without seeing Mrs. Bush win a single primary.

While the Trump campaign didn’t match Mrs. Clinton in spending, it didn’t have to. Mr. Trump was able to rack up an estimated $5 billion of free media attention, as well as reach millions via social media — things that Mrs. Clinton was simply not able to do.

Democrats love to complain about political spending. But they’ve shown time and again that they’re willing to shell out as much as it takes to guarantee victory. Trouble is, money is no guarantee of anything.

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