As we look back on the 2012 election as the most expensive in history, we will see that there were some very, very expensive races. Overall, there were 40 House and Senate races in which at least $20 was spent per eligible voter, and two races (the North Dakota and the Montana Senate races), where at least $50 was spent per eligible voter.
The cocktail party tidbits are that in the Montana Senate race, campaigns and outside groups combined spent $64.41 per eligible voter; In the North Dakota Senate race, $56.17 per eligible voter. In the House, the most expensive district was FL-18, home to the controversial and losing Allen West (R). That district received $58.96 per eligible voter.
The table below visualizes the candidates who spent the most. It includes 20 candidates who spent at least $35 per vote, and two - West and Michele Bachman (R-Minn.) who spent more than $100 per vote.
* = winner
graphic by Alexander Furnas,
Notably, spending massive amounts of money does not correlate with victory in any consistent way. Half of the top-spending candidates won. Half lost.
Still, the high spending in some of these candidates is testament to the potential extraordinary costs of running for office. Candidates, particularly those in close races and/or expensive media markets, often have no choice but to spend impressive sums if they wish to be competitive. But spending that money requires raising it, and raising that money almost always requires relying on wealthy donors.