Feature

Why rich candidates often lose

Their success in the business world leads them to launch their political careers by seeking plum, high-profile jobs like U.S. senator or governor, rather than something lower in the pecking order, said Joanna Weiss in The Boston Globe.

Joanna WeissThe Boston Globe

In every election cycle, several self-made multimillionaires “anoint themselves as saviors of the political system” and run for office, said Joanna Weiss. “And every cycle, most of them lose.” This year was no different, with former eBay CEO Meg Whitman attempting to buy the California governor’s race with a new American record of $142 million of her own money—and losing by 13 points to Jerry Brown. Several other rich candidates also lost, including former World Wrestling Entertainment chief Linda McMahon, who blew $46.6 million on a U.S. Senate race in Connecticut, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who squandered $5.5 million on a California Senate race.

Why do wealthy candidates often lose? Their success in the business world leads them to launch their political careers by seeking plum, high-profile jobs like U.S. senator or governor, rather than something lower in the pecking order. Then, facing experienced opponents and a lot of media scrutiny, the neophytes often perform badly. And many voters are turned off “at the prospect of rich people buying elections.” In running for high office in this country, lots of money is necessary—but it’s not sufficient.

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