Go All In, Or Don't Go In at All

November 2006
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez is probably not going to beat Democrat Bill Ritter. Beauprez is anywhere from 12-19 points down in recent polls, and with less than one week until Election Day, he's not going to close that gap. Beauprez isn't going down without a fight, however. According to the Secretary of State's office, Beauprez has contributed $305,000 to his own campaign in the last 10 days. While it may be a valiant effort to spend so much of your own money at this point in the race, it's also a fool's errand because it isn't enough. If you're not going to go "all in," you shouldn't go in at all. For Beauprez to close the gap on Ritter, he's going to need a huge advertising push - and it's going to cost a lot more than $305,000 to get there. I don't know what the magic number is - it might be $1 million, it might be less - but I know that he can't do enough to change perceptions about his flailing campaign with $305,000 in a statewide race. If that money isn't enough to make a difference, then it is a wasted contribution. Beauprez can take the financial hit because he's independently wealthy, but I don't see the point in contributing a big chunk of money that isn't big enough to do the trick. Beauprez isn't alone in this regard. I've seen many candidates do this before, and I've always considered it a bad move from a personal standpoint. Late in a campaign, candidates like to rationalize spending a large chunk of money, even if it isn't big enough, by saying that maybe they can catch lightning in a bottle. They don't want to spend more, because they think, what if I lose? But if they don't spend more, they are definitely going to lose...so what's the point? If you're going to lose the race, you shouldn't compound the misery by losing a large chunk of your own money in a futile attempt to make up ground. That's why I say: If you're not going to go "all in," you shouldn't go in at all. It's an honorable move to spend your own money late in a campaign in an attempt to close the gap on your opponent, but if you are going to do it, you should pick an amount that is going to provide you with a reasonable chance of winning. Unless Beauprez's contributions were made to cover previous expenses, he should have kept his wallet closed if he wasn't prepared to spend more. Whether you lose by 15 points or 5 points, you still lost; there's no second prize for coming close.