It’s hard to be a moderate politicians. It’s also expensive

Moderate candidates pay a heavy “centrist premium” to win and keep their seats.

Via the Washington Post

It’s tough to make it as a moderate in Congress these days.

Across the country, competitive purple districts have been gerrymandered into oblivion, replaced by seats that are safely red or blue. Activists at both extremes show no mercy toward elected officials who venture to advocate compromise. Even former House majority leader Eric Cantor — hardly moderate — fell victim to a 2014 primary challenge from a tea-party-backed opponent after his immigration stance ran afoul of the GOP’s far right wing. But perhaps most prohibitive: Being a moderate costs far more than being extreme. And the increasing expense means most moderates can’t compete.

Consider the case of Democratic members of the House, where long-standing, self-defined coalitions — New Democrats and Blue Dogs on the one hand and the Progressive Caucus on the other — separate moderates and liberals with reasonable clarity. (Members must apply to join, attend regular meetings and remain in good standing.) In the past three election cycles, self-described moderate lawmakers spent roughly twice as much as their liberal counterparts to win or defend their seats.

In 2014, for example, direct spending by members of the moderate New Democrat and Blue Dog coalitions averaged $2.01 million per campaign, according to an analysis of data derived from, the site of the Center for Responsive Politics. In contrast, members of the liberal Progressive Caucus each spent an average of $1.07 million on their races.

This disparity is even more extreme — greater than 3 to 1 — when all campaign spending is included. Counting spending by opponents and outside groups, the average campaign in a New Democrat or Blue Dog district cost $5.2 million in 2014, compared with an average of $1.57 million in Progressive Caucus districts.

And as ideological partisanship increases, this centrist premium is growing. For every dollar that the average Progressive Caucus member directly spent to defend his or her seat in 2014, the average moderate lawmaker spent $1.93. By comparison, moderates shelled out $1.54 for every campaign dollar spent by liberals by 2012 and $1.65 in 2010.


Continue reading at the Washington Post.