Where and When Do Candidates Raise Money? An Awesome Visualization

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Romney and Obama aren't just in a different league than other candidates when it comes to fundraising. They're effectively in a different, smaller, wealthier country.

From Mauro Martino at Northeastern University comes this intriguing infographic of fundraising by the presidential candidates from March 2011 to Feburary 2012.

There's a lot going on here, but the animated graphic shows how much each of the candidates raised each week and what states it came from, based on the amount of contribution per capita. The top half lists the states on a spectrum from most liberal to most conservative.

What's great about the graphic is it shows just how drastically Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are in a different monetary league than the other Republican candidates who battled Romney for the nomination. That's most obvious in the spikes -- Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum seldom did better than Romney even on their best days, but Romney's highest peaks are exponentially larger than theirs.

The disparity becomes clear in the geographic breakdown, too. Romney and Obama tend to raise the most money in the same set of states: D.C., Massachusetts, California, New York, Florida, Texas, Connecticut, and Colorado. Of those states, five are solid Democratic, one is solid Republican, and two are swing. But they're also the states with the highest concentrations of wealthy people. Meanwhile, the circles for Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul are fairly consistent across the map. At a time when the role of money and politics is fiercely debated, this visualization shows just how far out of proportion the relation between money and votes is. Obama has no chance of winning Texas, but it's a cash cow for him; the same goes for Romney and California. It's not hard to imagine how that distorts incentives for candidates. It's not just that Romney and Obama are playing in a different league. Until August or so, they might as well be playing in a different nation, one comprised of 10 states or so.

The time axis is a little more confusing. Back in March, we posted a (much less scientific) graph of candidate merchandise and noted how peaks and troughs corresponded with the changing political winds. That's tougher to do here. Romney has a major spoke in late May, but what caused it? That was around the time that Mitch Daniels announced he wasn't running; it was also around the time that Romney bashed Obama for comments about the boundaries of a future Palestinian state. Obama has a spike around June 24; it's not clear what caused that. Both candidates do well around early July and early October, presumably because those are the start of the third and fourth quarters. Any other theories?

Northeastern says Martino hopes to follow up on this with further graphics. It's worth keeping an eye on.

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David A. Graham

David Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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