Bang-for-the-Buck Index: House Edition

Time for the thrilling conclusion to the Bang-for-the-Buck Index, begun yesterday with the Senate installment. Follow the link for full methodological nitty-gritty, but the main thing that you need to know is that this index shows which races are the cheapest media-wise (and thus where one netroots dollar gets stretched the furthest). This list covers all House races that Swing State Project projects as Dem pickup opportunities.

The middle column lists every media market that needs to be utilized in order to blanket the district, and the number next to each market is the number of thousands of TV households in that market. The more TV households, the more expensive the market. (When a market only grazes a small part of the district where there’s no major population center, I’ve deemed the market negligible, assuming that a smart media buyer wouldn’t use that market.) The number in the right column is the sum total of the thousands of TV households in all markets in the district, which provides a relative number that indicates how expensive a media campaign in that district is.

As you’ll see, there’s a huge amount of variation, depending on the number of ‘wasted eyeballs.’ The wasted eyeballs problem becomes huge in suburban districts in major metropolitan districts, where you may be paying to advertise to people in the adjacent 10 or 20 districts as well.

Let’s start with the cheap races:

District Markets Score
WY-AL Cheyenne (54)

Casper (52)

Denver (1,415 *)

Salt Lake City (811 *)

Rapid City (91 *)

Billings (103 *)

Idaho Falls (115 *)
106 *
AK-AL Anchorage (141)

Fairbanks (32)

Juneau (24)
LA-05 Monroe (174)

Alexandria (93)

Lake Charles (negligible)

Lafayette (negligible)
LA-07 Lafayette (220)

Lake Charles (94)
NE-02 Omaha (400) 400
AL-02 Montgomery (245)

Columbus GA (205)

Dothan (98)
SC-01 Charleston SC (284)

Myrtle Beach (266)
IA-04 Des Moines (414)

Rochester MN (143)

Cedar Rapids (negligible)

Sioux City (negligible)
LA-04 Shreveport (382)

Alexandria (93)

Lake Charles (94)
WV-02 Charleston WV (478)

Clarksburg (109)

Washington DC (2,253 *)
587 *
IN-03 South Bend (333)

Fort Wayne (271)
ID-01 Boise (230)

Spokane (390)
NV-03 Las Vegas (651) 651
NM-01 Albuquerque (654) 654
VA-02 Norfolk (705) 705
IL-18 Peoria (242)

Champaign (378)

Quincy (104)

Davenport (negligible)
NY-25 Rochester (385)

Syracuse (398)
OH-01 Cincinnati (880) 880
OH-02 Cincinnati (880)

Columbus OH (negligible)

Charleston WV (negligible)
OH-15 Columbus OH (891) 891
NV-02 Las Vegas (651)

Reno (255)

Salt Lake City (811 *)
906 *
SC-02 Columbia SC (373)

Augusta (246)

Savannah (296)
NM-02 Albuquerque (654)

El Paso (291)

Odessa (negligible)
KS-04 Wichita (447)

Tulsa (510)

The more expensive races are over the flip…

District Markets Score
KY-02 Louisville (643)

Evansville (289)

Bowling Green (75)
VA-05 Richmond (511)

Roanoke (440)

Charlottesville (70)

Raleigh (negligible)
CA-50 San Diego (1,026) 1,026
NY-26 Buffalo (644)

Rochester (385)
IN-04 Indianapolis (1,054)

Lafayette IN (63)
AL-03 Birmingham (717)

Montgomery (245)

Columbus GA (205)

Atlanta (negligible)
MO-06 Kansas City (904)

St. Joseph (46)

Columbia MO (168)

Ottumwa (51)

Omaha (negligible)
PA-18 Pittsburgh (1,170) 1,170
MD-01 Baltimore (1,089)

Salisbury (148)
FL-08 Orlando (1,346) 1,346
FL-24 Orlando (1,346) 1,346
OH-07 Columbus OH (891)

Dayton (514)
FL-18 Miami (1,523) 1,523
FL-21 Miami (1,523) 1,523
NY-29 Buffalo (644)

Rochester NY (385)

Syracuse (398)

Elmira (97)
OH-16 Cleveland (1,542) 1,542
MO-09 St. Louis (1,222)

Columbia MO (168)

Quincy (104)

Ottumwa (51)
PA-03 Pittsburgh (1,170)

Erie (159)

Youngstown (277)
MN-02 Minneapolis (1,653) 1,653
MN-03 Minneapolis (1,653) 1,653
MN-06 Minneapolis (1,653) 1,653
AZ-01 Phoenix (1,660)

Albuquerque (negligible)
AZ-03 Phoenix (1,660) 1,660
WA-08 Seattle (1,702) 1,702
FL-09 Tampa (1,710) 1,710
FL-10 Tampa (1,710) 1,710
CO-04 Denver (1,415)

Colorado Spgs. (315)
CA-04 Sacramento (1,346)

Chico (191)

Reno (255)
OH-14 Cleveland (1,542)

Youngstown (277)
NC-10 Charlotte (1,020)

Greenville SC (815)
MI-09 Detroit (1,936) 1,936
TX-07 Houston (1,939) 1,939
FL-25 Miami (1,523)

Ft. Myers (462)
FL-15 Orlando (1,346)

W. Palm Beach (752)
FL-13 Tampa (1,710)

Ft. Myers (462)
VA-10 Washington DC (2,253) 2,253
VA-11 Washington DC (2,253) 2,253
TX-10 Houston (1,939)

Austin (589)
NC-08 Charlotte (1,020)

Greensboro (652)

Raleigh (985)

Myrtle Beach (266)
PA-06 Philadelphia (2,926) 2,926
PA-15 Philadelphia (2,926) 2,926
MI-07 Detroit (1,936)

Toledo (427)

Lansing (257)

Grand Rapids (732)
IL-06 Chicago (3,431) 3,431
IL-10 Chicago (3,431) 3,431
IL-13 Chicago (3,431) 3,431
PA-05 Pittsburgh (1,170)

Buffalo (644)

Harrisburg (707)

Wilkes-Barre (589)

Erie (159)

Elmira (97)

Johnstown (295)
IL-11 Chicago (3,431)

Peoria (242)

Davenport (308)
CA-26 Los Angeles (5,536) 5,536
CA-46 Los Angeles (5,536) 5,536
CA-45 Los Angeles (5,536)

Palm Springs (143)
CT-04 New York (7,380)

Hartford (negligible)
NY-13 New York (7,380) 7,380
NJ-05 New York (7,380) 7,380
NJ-07 New York (7,380) 7,380
NJ-03 New York (7,380)

Philadelphia (2,926)
NJ-04 New York (7,380)

Philadelphia (2,926)

You may have noticed a few asterisked races; I’ll explain each one. WV-02 is partially covered by the Washington media market, which reaches into the tip of the panhandle (which is rapidly turning into DC exurbs). Advertising in DC is prohibitively expensive, so I’ve excluded it even though the panhandle is a populous part of the district. Like Manchester, New Hampshire (which we talked about yesteray), however, this is an unusual situation where there’s a single station nearby that’s considered to operate within the larger DC market, in this case in Hagerstown, Maryland. It’s likely that most of the WV-02 advertising targeting the panhandle would go through this one station.

NV-02 is partly covered by the Salt Lake City market (the easternmost three counties). This area contains fast-growing Elko, so it can’t be written off entirely, but again, it’s unlikely that any media strategy here would include SLC.

And finally, Wyoming is a particularly perplexing case. Using just the in-state markets in Cheyenne and Casper, it’s the cheapest district anywhere. However, these two markets cover only about 50% of the state’s population; the rest is out-of-state markets like Denver and SLC, so a comprehensive broadcast-TV strategy would shoot Wyoming into very expensive district territory. Most likely, the outlying portions of Wyoming are targeted purely through direct mail, AM radio, possibly cable systems, and as Gary Trauner adeptly showed last time, face-to-face contact.

You may have also noticed a number of predominantly rural districts that should theoretically be cheap but in fact are very expensive; MI-07 and NC-08 are key examples, each of which are kind of located between major cities and wind up biting a corner out of a bunch of different markets. Poor PA-05 is the perhaps the worst example; it doesn’t even have any TV stations in its boundaries, but it takes bites out of about 8 surrounding markets. Districts like these, again, are probably dealt with creatively, with buys in some TV markets and more focus on cable and other media.

The focus on cable, direct mail, and the like also probably becomes more important in the most expensive urban markets (New Jersey, anyone?) where even the best-financed House candidate isn’t going to be able to go on the air much. As I said yesterday, much of this is conjecture (and I certainly welcome comment from anyone with more experience with campaigning in any of these districts, or media buying in general); it’s just a rough guide to help netroots donors find races where their dollars might be used particularly efficiently.

19 thoughts on “Bang-for-the-Buck Index: House Edition”

  1.    Nobody who is not insanely rich would ever consider broadcast TV in the Los Angeles market for a Congressional race. The only one I can think of who did use it was Jane Harman (who is wealthy)when she first ran for Congress. There are just too many wasted eyeballs with something like twenty districts in the area. Cable TV is a possibility because it can be targetted by area and type of programming. Direct mail is big, too. Maybe you could use a Palm Springs station ( if there is one) for CA-45 but otherwise forget it.

  2. PA-15 also has no local stations.  I used to live there.  Viewers get a combination of NY City and Philly broadcast usually via cable.  In fact, cable tv was invented for this market in 1948 in an attempt to sell those newfangled Tvs.  Service Electric is still around but now has competition in the area in the form of RCN.

    Fwiw, Pat Toomey (nearly US Senate nominee, now head of Club For Growth) won his primary in PA-15 despite avoiding cable (or at least Service Electric).  I saw a lot of Toomey road signs that year.  His opponent was on cable all the time.  The local papers talked about Toomey with respect but my read is that neither the Allentown Morning Call nor the Easton Express had much idea what was going on.  I would guess that districts like this tend to provoke unconventional campaign methods in part because the conventional methods are just so expensive and wasteful.

  3. I don’t think a candidate in this district needs to use the Tulsa market.  The two counties closer to Tulsa than Wichita are Montgomery (36,000). In Montgomery County. Independence (9,317) is closer to Wichita and Coffeyville (10,387) is closer to Tulsa.

    I grew up in Winfield (Cowley County) which borders Oklahoma. We couldn’t get Tulsa stations in the pre-cable days and they aren’t on cable there.  

  4. Delaware’s covered by Philadelphia (only state without its own TV station), and I think Salisbury (and possibly Baltimore). Hugely expensive state. Which is why we’re perpetually stuck with Mike “Let’s Put Stuff On Our Coins” Castle.

  5. Does the Hartford media market cover New Haven? If so, then the Hartford numbers will be more than negligible, as CT’s ABC (and CW) affiliate is located in New Haven. The NBC and CBS affiliates are in Hartford and are more Hartford-centric, while WTNH (ABC) in New Haven tends to focus more on southern CT, and I believe that it gets fairly decent ratings in Fairfield County, especially in Bridgeport and its surrounding suburbs.

    It’s a bit of a problem; all of CT-04 gets the CT broadcast stations while also getting the major New York stations.

    I guess I should also mention that Cablevision-owned Channel 12 has a station based in Bridgeport that caters exclusively to Fairfield County, making it even more difficult to reach voters.

    The DCCC would do better to just buy up some billboards on I-95 (CT-04 residents are always waiting in traffic anyway) and buy some advertising on the train platforms, and better have some people on the train platforms in Stamford and Grand Central handing out literature.  

  6. 1.  To what extent can a candidate target using cable?  That is very possible here in the SF Bay Area, though it’s still expensive.

    2.  If a cnadidate were strong (had a base) in one part of a mixed media market, could s/he save moeny and do most of the advertising ion the other part(s), especially bio ads?

    3.  TV isn’t everything, so we shouldn’t assume that money sent to some of these candidates won;t be effective in reaching vpoters through other means, especially with a vogorous campaign using ground, radio etc.

    4.  (Bonus questions)  How come small town/rural voters are both conservative and in cheap media markets?  Why does it have to cost so much to reach voters in mome liberal areas?  Is this part of the GOP’s secret?

  7. I live in Pennsylvania 5.  The local TV news stations are terrible – just a police blotter of the latest robbery, murder, fire, etc.

    Local politicians win with the old fashion methods – phone banks, lawn signs, mailers, word of mouth.

    The one media market that might be effective is the local radio stations — they are cheap and everyone listens to them.  Also local newspapers will carry ads and they are relatively cheap as well.

    This year we are hoping that the 50 state strategy will have an effect and also the enthusiasm from Obama.

    Several counties in 5 now have more Democrats registered than Republicans for the first time. Penn State students have been very active as well and are in PA 5.

    Anyone wants to contribute – send money to  The Repub cnadidate is not particularly well funded and can be beat.

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