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How much money was spent on the 2008 Iowa Caucus?

After the final count of the Iowa Caucus on January 3rd, it appears that an estimated $51,593,849 was spent by candidates on the 2008 Iowa Caucus. This number would include TV, radio, and newspaper ads, along with campaign headquarter rentals, hotels, food, car rentals, and other transportation costs such as buses and flights. The aforementioned estimate is based on a formula that calculates the amount spent on advertising and couples that with 1/30 of the individual candidates total operational expenses obtained from FEC Filings for the year end on December 31, 2007.  This site had projected that the amount spent on the Iowa Caucuses would be around $30,132,000 total from both parties participating in the Iowa Caucus (See the Projections). Our projections were based on $1.00 to $1.50 spent per Iowa Voter, but the estimated amount is closer to $2.05 spent per Iowa Voter per candidate, therefore, our projections were off by $21,461,848.

The money raised and spent for just TV ads for the Iowa Caucuses was estimated at between $37,750,000 and 43,000,000 according to the sources quoted below. 

How much did the candidates spend in total before the Iowa Caucus?

The 16 candidates for the 2008 presidential election raised and spent a grand total of $457,802,866 by the end of 2007, although fundraising and expenditures for the presidential candidates did not stop after the Iowa Caucus.  The candidates who remained in the running after the Iowa Caucus continued to raise funds and spend more money for the succeeding primaries and caucuses throughout the United States in January. With this being such an aggressive campaign year by both parties, the amount spent in pre-caucus positioning was a record high, and with spending increasing steadily after the Iowa Caucus, this election to date will be one of the most expensive presidential elections in U.S. history.  

How much money did each candidate spend on the Iowa Caucus? 

The role of the Iowa Caucus was in essence an opportunity to clear out half of the political candidates who would not have been able to continue campaigning after Iowa. With that said, the amount of money raised before the Iowa Caucus does not necessarily represent the actual amount the candidate spent in Iowa. In fact, the numbers below show that just a small proportion of the total amount raised before the Iowa Caucus was actually spent in the state of Iowa. Most of the money raised and spent was allocated for campaign salaries and campaigning outside the state of Iowa. 

Democratic Spending for the Iowa Caucus: 

Candidate Ads (TV only) Iowa Campaign Net Operation Expenditures 12-31-07
Obama $9,000,000.00    $2,784,296.56*   $83,528,897.62
Edwards $3,200,000.00    $1,046,417.61    $33,355,944.61
Clinton $7,200,000.00    $2,587,983.20*   $77,639,495.81
Richardson $3,000,000.00*   $707,243.60*   $21,217,308.64
Biden $1,800,000.00#   $652,134.58    $9,391,046.00
Dodd $1,800,000.00#   $1,344,398.38    $14,005,522.80
Gravel  $0.00*   0.00*   $498,229.34
Kucinich $0.00*   0.00*   $3,637,059.87
Total $26,000,000.00    $9,122,473.93    $243,273,504.70

Republican Spending for the Iowa Caucus:

Candidate Ads ( TV only) Iowa Campaign Net Operation Expenditures 12-31-07
Huckabee $1,400,000.00    $236,368.46*   $7,091,054.15
Romney $7,000,000.00    $2,868,871.27*   $86,066,138.54
Thompson $1,100,000.00    $648,830.30*   $19,464,909.72
McCain $1,000,000.00*   $325,245.76    $30,174,365.86
Paul $1,000,000.00*   $303,876*   $20,262,083.95
Giuliani $250,000.00*   $237,000.00-   $48,150,435.37
Hunter 0.00*   $0.00*   $2,267,463.91
Cox 0.00*   $101,182.84    $1,052,909.98
Total $11,750,000.00    $4,721,374.63    $214,529,361.50


The total amount is unknown. 
#  The total amount of advertisement is based on findings. 
- The amount is based on the first three quarters only. 

Figures were based on TV ads only.  Data was gathered from the findings of the sources found below.

University of WI Ad Project
University of Wisconsin

Iowa Campaign:
The total amount spent in the candidates campaign up to December 31, 2007 was divided by 1/30  to produce the estimations. Campaign spending amounts that were available were verified on the FEC site.  The numbers in this field represent spending on transportation, staffing expenses, food, hotel, and other items for the candidate in Iowa as an estimation only.  Data was based on the sources found below. 

FEC Presidential Reports
FEC Summary Reports

Operation Expenditures up to 2008:
Figures are from  for the year up to the Iowa caucuses. Only a small portion of these amounts were spent in Iowa. 

FEC Presidential Reports
FEC Summary Reports
FEC Campaign Finance
Political Fundraising Map
USA Today
New Haven Advocate

How does a candidate do well in the Iowa Caucuses? 

It looks like the best way for a presidential candidate to do well in Iowa would be to focus on five major areas of their campaign. First, the earlier a candidate can get started in Iowa, the greater the impact of their publicity will be on the public. So if an individual decides they are going to run for President, they may want to announce it as soon as the pre-caucus year starts. Second, the more visits a presidential candidate makes to the state of Iowa, the better it helps to get that presidential candidates name out to the public in order to create word-of-mouth advertising. Third, take advantage of the local news and press in the state of Iowa. Appearing on Iowa Press, an Iowa PBS program, helped to garner several of the candidates free air time. In addition, participating in local newspaper articles in different cities throughout the state also helps to spread awareness about a candidate into different areas that will hold caucuses and help choose a winning candidate.  Fourth, and most importantly, invest in a budget to get volunteers and a good campaign committee set up in the state. In a caucus state such as Iowa, you need to have plenty of volunteers and foot soldiers to get your name, campaign slogan, and platform issues out to the local public. The Iowa Caucus is always about organization and finding individuals who have worked in the past with other successful Iowa Caucuses or individuals in the state who have helped get individuals elected in the state. Those candidates who have been able to organize a successful ground game can usually expect to take big leads on caucus night. Fifth, and finally, candidates need to keep their name on the minds of the Iowa public by using TV or Internet advertisements. This is important for individuals who may not make it out to one of your visits as you travel throughout the state, or individuals who have been to one of your visits but need more convincing. There may not be one clear cut way to win the Iowa Caucus, but these five tips should help put your name on the lips of the mainstream public in Iowa.     

How much money can one person contribute to a campaign? 

The Federal Election Commission is best suited to quote contribution amounts and limits on those amounts.  The agency has put together the guidelines for contribution rates per individual citizen and per committee. (See


What are some projections for the Iowa Caucus of 2012? 

Judging by the number of candidates in the 2008 race, which was a total of 16 for both political parties, the 2008 Iowa Caucus will probably be one of the most expensive in Iowa history and is doubtful to be repeated anytime soon. Especially considering the fact that if one of the parties nominates a sitting president, it may be another eight years before a vice president will be running.  Even in that case, it's doubtful the massive amounts spent in 2008 will be surpassed because the vice president usually ends up being the party favorite and nominee and, therefore, doesn't need to spend the money introducing himself as a candidate.  Furthermore, the public will already know the vice president and will have formed an opinion that will likely influence their vote at the Iowa Caucus.  It's most likely that the money spent on the next Iowa Caucus will not amount to $51,593,849. More likely, Iowa will see a total closer to $17,000,000.  In addition, Iowa may not be the first state to act as a political clearing field of future presidential candidates because there is a remote possibility that Iowa may have to share the First-in-the-Nation title with another state.  However, with Florida and Michigan being heavily sanctioned by the DNC and RNC and stripped of delegates for scheduling their caucuses and primaries before February 5th, most states wouldn't want to contend with a similar fate.  Considering neither the Democrats nor the Republicans were able to announce a nominee for their party until March 4th, and only after 39 states had cast their votes in the primary season, it seems even more important that the entire process be allowed to play out from beginning to end before a nominee is presumed.  Since Iowa did not predict either of the political parties' top nominee, future Iowa Caucuses may not be viewed as being as important as they have been and, therefore, the amount of money spent in any future Iowa Caucuses will be modest compared to the Iowa Caucus of 2008, and it's doubtful any other states would want to move their caucus up to fight over a shrinking campaign budget for the 2012 election. It seems that now many states are looking at being the final decision maker and the best way to do that is to be near the end of the primary season not the beginning. Therefore, the likelihood of Iowa remaining an early indicator of the top candidates, if not the top nominees, will be uninterrupted for 2012 and the idea of Iowa being a political clearing field before the gauntlet of the primary states will remain intact. 

What are some changes that we may see in the 2012 Iowa Caucus?

 In the next Iowa Caucus we will definitely see more Internet activity, everything from advertisements of banner ads and video clips to  grassroots campaign fundraising. All of the newly discovered and  innovative campaign strategies we've seen emerge in the 2008 race will be in play in 2012 and will in some way involve the Internet.  One of the most important features of the campaigns in the 2008 election was an aggressive use of the Internet for fundraising. Not since 2004 and Howard Dean's utilizing the Internet to achieve success have we seen such a dramatic increase in the number of candidates employing the Internet as a fundraising tool. Just as Howard Dean was successful in 2004, Obama was successful with his skilled use of the Internet as a campaign fundraising strategy in 2008.  The Internet will surely be deemed a necessity for all future Iowa Caucus participants faced with the challenge of fundraising.  A majority of the candidates in 2008 also participated in online social sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr, to make themselves available to a larger audience - the young and mobile. In addition to all of the above changes, the future presidential campaigns will see a much greater growth in the type of interaction political candidates have with potential voters. Future candidates will have websites with more interactivity with the possibility of videoconferencing on the future political horizon in 2012. This would in essence allow the political candidate an opportunity to connect with voters on a deeper and more meaningful level and will allow the candidate to basically be in two places at once.  Imagine future presidential candidates having an intimate chat with constituents in a coffee shop in Iowa, which is then broadcast live over the Internet on their website for all of America to view.  It's the possibility of reaching an incredibly unprecedented number of individuals that might not otherwise have been able to attend a meet-and-greet to get to know the candidate.  Future campaign websites may even offer volunteers the opportunity to build their own sub-websites within the main presidential candidate's website, allowing them to interact with elected officials in the local area sharing the valuable resource of voter information or gathering e-mail lists and even taking their own surveys on the individuals who live in a specific geographic region.  The Internet may very well mark the beginning of the end of the old dog who can't be taught new tricks. 

Is the Iowa Caucus important in this process? 

The caucuses are primarily for the Democratic and Republican parties. In the last 30+ years, starting in the 1970s when Iowa moved its' caucus to be the first caucus in the nation, Iowa has become a predictor in identifying the top three candidates from both parties.  Only those candidates who finish in the top half of their party typically move on to campaign strong in other states. In fact, in the past, the Iowa Caucuses have become more of a clearing field in determining which candidates will stay in the race and which candidates will throw in the towel. This would appear to be a more accurate depiction of Iowa's role in the presidential campaigns than in determining which candidate will be nominated by their respective party. Iowa does play a big part in allowing candidates a chance to showcase their political prowess to a fairly middle of the road state.  (See

Iowa appears to be picking up on the nation's mood as a whole because, for the last nine Iowa Caucuses, Iowa has identified the nation's two primary picks for the top runner from both the Democratic and Republican party in five out of nine caucuses.  However, as time goes on, the importance of Iowa may become more significant to the individual candidates running for president than to their individual party simply because it may be cheaper to campaign in Iowa than in many of the other states entertaining the notion of scheduling their primaries closer to the Iowa Caucus. A win in an early state that is cheaper to campaign in gives an advantage to those candidates who would normally not have the funds to campaign in a larger state. Larger states will cost the candidates a greater amount of upfront capital to campaign per registered voter. In addition, Iowa has its' population clustered into regions within the state, which makes it easier to reach potential audiences. Campaigning in a state like Iowa has advantages over larger states because their media outlets will focus on candidates as though they were celebrities, giving them free press and headline news, whereas other states would continue to cater to local celebrities, athletes, and business leaders, giving them the coverage and headline news, which would overshadow a political campaign candidate.

Iowa and other states of similar size are playing a larger role in close elections because of the electoral college. In 2000, the difference between the winner and loser was only five electoral votes, which means states like Arkansas,  Tennessee, and Iowa can change an election outcome drastically.    

We thank the following resources

National Archives
Federal Election Commission
U.S. Census Bureau
Wisconsin Advertising Project
C-SPAN Electoral College
e-JournalUSA 2004 Electoral College Article

Current Money Raised and Spent


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