Common sense is that while money matters in politics, it’s hard to just bury a viable candidate under a pile of cash because of diminishing returns. But Mark Schmitt brings us this interesting tale of Michael Bloomberg’s unsuccessful efforts to find a way around this problem:
As for diminishing returns, it’s easy to see why more money doesn’t matter — there’s only so much you can do. Once people have seen your TV ads or heard your radio ads a dozen times, another two dozen are only going to annoy them. Bloomberg seems to have engaged in a very creative experiment to see whether he could defeat the law of diminishing returns — rather than mere robo-calls, his campaign came up with a scheme of precisely targeted calls, so that you might get a recorded call from your own building manager, or a call precisely keyed to language — older immigrant voters might get a call in their language, younger voters in English with an accent!
It’s brilliant, and expensive, but robo-calls don’t work (another fact proven by Don Green!) and so it should come as no surprise that micro-targetted robo-calls don’t work either. The only thing Bloomberg’s $85 million campaign did was keep a lot of campaign consultants off the streets.
Back in the summer of 2001, I was interning for Bradley Tusk (at the time Chuck Schumer’s communications director) who managed Bloomberg’s campaign and he’s definitely a clever guy*. But the fact that robo-calls don’t work seems like something that professional political operatives are in denial about.
* Indeed, the last time I saw him was at the 2004 Democratic Convention. He was working for Ron Blagojevich and told me I needed to make sure I saw this one guy Barack Obama speak.