© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Presidential Campaigns Spend $40 Per Vote In 1 Arizona County


Voters in swing states are used to being inundated by political ads, but it is not just the usual suspects this year. Stacey Vanek Smith from our Planet Money podcast followed the money to find the most expensive voter in America.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, BYLINE: The presidential candidates spend most of their ad money the way you'd expect - television. In fact, about a quarter of the money Trump and Clinton will spend this election will go through this guy.

TIM KAY: Hello. My name is Tim Kay. I'm director of political strategy for NCC Media.

SMITH: NCC media sells ads on behalf of cable companies, like Comcast. They've sold hundreds of millions in ads so far, mostly concentrated in a handful of states.

KAY: The top three states for Donald Trump, I think, are Nevada, Colorado and Florida.

SMITH: And for Hillary?

KAY: Hillary - I think Florida, Ohio and Nevada.

SMITH: In the top spot, says Tim, is Florida, specifically Orlando. That is where the candidates will spend most of their money. But if you're looking at per-voter spending, Florida voters are not the most expensive. Kip Cassino is with Borrell Associates, which tracks political spending. He says Florida is dense. You can reach a lot of people with one television ad. It's the voters in less populated states that get really expensive to reach - places like...

KIP CASSINO: Colorado and Nevada and even New Hampshire.

SMITH: And Kip says, this year, it hasn't been all about TV. Although most of the money still goes there, more and more is going to online ads and the so-called ground game. That's local offices and staff. Taking all of that into account, says Kip, the most expensive voter in the country is in...

CASSINO: It would be Arizona.

SMITH: Really?

CASSINO: Mm-hmm.

SMITH: Where is this concentrated? Do we know?

CASSINO: Greenlee County, which is a very rural county in Arizona, will probably have the highest spending per eligible voter.

SMITH: Greenlee County is right on the border with New Mexico. It's about 2,000 square miles of desert, and it's home to some of the largest copper mines in the country. To get the vote of one resident there, the candidates are spending...

CASSINO: Forty bucks.

SMITH: ...$40 dollars per voter. There are about 9,000 people in Greenlee County. One of them is Stacey Scott. She owns GiMees Restaurant with her husband. It's just off Highway 70 - little brick building.

What color's the sign?

STACEY SCOTT: Black and yellow, and it's got a cheeseburger in a little Mexican hat on top of it.

SMITH: (Laughter). A cheeseburger wearing a Mexican hat?

SCOTT: Yeah (laughter).

SMITH: So I told Stacey that she and all of her customers are the most expensive voters in America.

SCOTT: Oh, wow.

SMITH: Stacey hasn't really noticed that many political ads, but she says she's not really looking. She knows who she's voting for.

SCOTT: I'm voting for Trump.

SMITH: And do most of the people who come into your restaurant feel the same way?

SCOTT: Yes, ma'am. They're kind of skeptical with Hillary.

SMITH: Stacey's worried Hillary Clinton would interfere with gun rights. And there's a lot of talk that she would be bad for the mining industry. I asked Kip Cassino why Stacey wasn't being inundated with ads. Where is the $40 a person going? And Kip said it's all about remoteness. The candidates are having to buy ads from stations in Phoenix and Tucson to reach voters out in Greenlee County. So dollars-to-eyeballs, those are expensive ads. And, he said, the Clinton campaign has gotten really aggressive in Arizona, giving the hard sell to people like Stacey. Stacey says, as far as she's concerned, both candidates should save their money. Stacey Vanek Smith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; she's traveled to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and she's spoken with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.