Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 8 > Issue 1

The Vicious Cycle: Fundraising and Perceived Viability in US Presidential Primaries

James J. Feigenbaum, Department of Economics, Harvard University, jfeigenb@fas.harvard.edu , Cameron A. Shelton, Robert Day School of Economics and Finance, Claremont McKenna College, cshelton@cmc.edu
Suggested Citation
James J. Feigenbaum and Cameron A. Shelton (2013), "The Vicious Cycle: Fundraising and Perceived Viability in US Presidential Primaries", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 8: No. 1, pp 1-40. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00011094

Publication Date: 01 Jan 2013
© 2013 J. J. Feigenbaum and C. A. Shelton
Campaign finance
Campaign financeVicious cyclePresidential primaryFund-raising


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In this article:
1 Which Came First: The Money or the Voters? 
2 Unraveling the Causal Knot: Past Work on the Connection between Money and Electoral Success 
3 Data: sources and description 
4 The Battle for the Bucks 
5 Candidate Appearances 
6 Productivity of Campaign Expenditures 
7 Simulations 
8 Summary and Discussion 


Scholars of presidential primaries have long posited a dynamic positive feedback loop between fundraising and electoral success. Yet existing work on both directions of this feedback remains inconclusive and is often explicitly cross-sectional, ignoring the dynamic aspect of the hypothesis. Pairing high-frequency FEC data on contributions and expenditures with Iowa Electronic Markets data on perceived probability of victory, we examine the bidirectional feedback between contributions and viability. We find robust, significant positive feedback in both directions. This might suggest multiple equilibria: a candidate initially anointed as the front-runner able to sustain such status solely by the fundraising advantage conferred despite possessing no advantage in quality. However, simulations suggest the feedback loop cannot, by itself, sustain advantage. Given the observed durability of front-runners, it would thus seem there is either some other feedback at work and/or the process by which the initial front-runner is identified is informative of candidate quality.