$33 TO $1: Ed Royce’s Misleading Victory Over Jay Chen

Election results can be deceiving — none more so than the result in CA-39.  Ed Royce walloped Jay Chen last night by 25,000 votes, 65.7% to 30.5%.  Looks awful, right?

Ed Royce and Jay Chen

Candidate photos equated for size.

It may look that way, but it’s an illusion.  Royce wants people to think that Jay Chen’s challenge to him is finished, so for God’s sake please don’t waste your time and money on him! Royce’s campaign strategy depends on people falling for his trick — like buying an expensive new suit and renting a Maserati to show up for an interview — but when the trick is explained, I don’t think that they will be fooled.

Let’s take a closer look at how Ed Royce won.



At left, I provide a comparison of Ed Royce and Jay Chen, whose photos I’ve placed together at the same size, with the same sized faces, against a neutral background.

Ed Royce has raised $4,000,000 towards his re-election campaign in his new multicultural district.  Of that, he spent $2,000,000 on the primary.  (He actually spent $2.1 million, but let’s make the math easier by erring in Ed’s favor.)  He has about $2,000,000 left.  Royce was running scared against Chen — not without reason — and he spent money like a desperate fiend trying to make himself look like he commanded a battalion instead of a platoon.  Plenty of ads, plenty of mailers.  TWO freaking MILLION DOLLARS! He spend two million dollars in a primary where he was guaranteed to advance!

If people DON’T now conclude that Jay Chen is finished, then that’s $2,000,000 wasted.

But wait — isn’t Jay finished?  Well, that depends on whether the primary is a good predictor of the general election.  Let’s take a look at that.

Ed Royce 33 times Jay Chen's size

Royce may be thrilled to be this much bigger than someone else for once.

Jay Chen has raised $450,000 towards his election campaign in the district.  He spent only $60,000 on the primary.  He has $390,000 left and — as soon as potential donors absorb the insights presented in this article, of which Jay is already probably informing them — he has the potential to raise a whole lot more.

Want to know what a 33 to 1 spending advantage — and even in Wisconsin’s lopsided Governor’s recall the spending advantage was only 7 to 1! — looks like?  Let’s see what happens when we reduce the size of Jay Chen’s photo by the 33 to 1 margin by which Ed Royce outspent him leading up to yesterday’s primary.

Royce and Chen proportional to volume of spending

There, that's more easy to compare ... uh ... THAT'S the ratio by which Ed Royce outspent Jay Chen in the primary? Will he be able to do that in November?

Now it may be argued, with some force, that this comparative photo — while correctly depicting a 33 to 1 advantage in height — is misleading because it invites the reader to compare the volume of the two two-dimension figures rather than their respective height.  (That’s a technique of visual deception used for presenting survey results that is discussed in the classic How to Lie With Statistics. You, dear OJB readers, should always be on the lookout for it!)

So let me instead create a photo that equates the volume of each of their photos to make Ed, representing his primary spending, 33 times larger than Jay, representing his primary spending.

(OK, it’s a 2-3/4″ x 2″ photo, that’s 5-1/2 square inches, divided by 33 is 1/6 of a square inch, in a roughly 3×4 ratio —  1/2″ x 3/8″ is a little larger than Jay should be, but let’s go with that.)

Here we go, at left.

Now Ed Royce had every right to spend half of his money up front like this — and, if he’s going to be able to do the same in the November runoff, maybe that even tells you something worth knowing when evaluating his chances in  November.

The problem for Royce — and he knows this — is that there is no way he is going to be able to outspend Jay Chen by anything near this proportion in November.

If we round off and say that Chen has $400,000 in the bank, this would mean that Royce would have to spend $13.2 MILLION DOLLARS by November 6.  And that’s only if Jay stopped raising money right now!  If Jay raises another $600,000 by November, then to maintain his spending advantage in the primary Royce would have to spend $33 MILLION DOLLARS!

Ed Royce and Jay Chen, with coloring reduced by the size of their warchest they spent on the primary election

Having spent half of his warchest on a meaningless primary, the color drained from Rep. Royce's face.

But that’s not all.  Royce also spent half of his war chest to achieve his dominant showing in the primary; Chen spent about 13% of his.  Even as a proportion of their warchests, Chen was outspent 4 to 1!

Let me present this to you in graphic terms.  Ed Royce’s gas tank is 50% emptied based on his spending in the primary, while Jay Chen’s gas tank is 13% emptied.  Starting with the top of their head and draining away the color down to the point that they’ve spent out their reserves so far, Jay’s spending barely reaches below his hairline and Ed’s spending reaches almost all of the way down his chin.

This, too, is not going to be true of the general election in November.  Jay is going to spend his campaign account down to nothing.  Royce might do the same — in which event, without the huge head start in funding that he began this cycle with, Chen will just come back and beat him in 2014.  (Choose your poison, Ed.)

Royce’s big primary victory depended on a situation where Chen

  • didn’t spend on polling (beyond one initial pre-race poll)
  • didn’t spend on media
  • didn’t even spend on mailers, and
  • got by only with volunteers.

None of that is going to be true between now and November! Ed Royce wants you to assume that it will, but it won’t.  Jay will have enough money to fund a real campaign that gets his message out to voters, especially in Orange County, as well as to get out the message against “servant of the big banks” Ed Royce.  Ed Royce may spend a million or two more than Jay Chen, but each extra million means less and less.  At some point, you just start to irritate voters.  (My guess is that Royce will reach that point quickly — if he hasn’t already.)

So, anyone looking at CA-39 — don’t just look at the bottom line of the vote totals.  Ed Royce got that big victory my mortgaging his future to try to look powerful.  Jay Chen has survived — and come November it’s likely to be Ed Royce’s career that gets foreclosed.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)