The Price of Power

Happy Constitution Day!

How often does the top spending candidate win their race for the U.S. House of Representatives?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. In 2016, how often did the candidate running for congress who spent less than their opponent win?

  3. What is the big story this chart tells?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is the most important consequence of that story?

  6. Is this story good news for American democracy?

  7. For whom is this good news?

  8. Explain whether the information from the chart above makes it more or less likely that you would run for office in the U.S. Congress one day.

  9. Based on the data from the chart above, make a claim about money and politics in the U.S.

  10. What did the U.S. Constitution say about money in politics?

  11. Based on the data from this chart, when we say,”House of Representatives,” What is the House representative of?

  12. What question do you have about this data?

  13. Respond to this argument a student named Brett made. “The top speding canidate should win the race, because the best candidate will get the most money, so we are just electing the best candidate.”

  14. Respond to the argument made by A student named Bjork who said, “We have a government by the rich, for the rich, and of the rich.”

  15. Explain whether the data in the chart moves the United States more towards democracy or towards plutocracy?

  16. Let’s say that a group of Americans wanted to do something to make the highest spender less likely to win election. What is one action they could take?

  17. What would a typical American liberal say about this chart?

  18. Explain whether the U.S. Congress is likely to pass a law making the highest spender in an election less likely to win.

  19. In general, which costs more a U.S. House seat or a U.S. Senate seat?*

  20. Describe what has happened to the cost of seats in the U.S. congress over the past 40 years.*

  21. Why is that?*

  22. So????? *

Visual Extension*

Learning Extension

Read 10 Things Every Voter Should Know.

Action Extension

Register to vote before it’s too late. If you are already registered or ineligible to vote, help register someone who is eligible to vote.

Happy Constitution Day!

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These are the 10 largest media markets (metropolitan area) listed by Nielsen.

  • New York (#1)

  • Los Angeles (#2)

  • Chicago (#3)

  • Philadelphia (#4)

  • Dallas-Fort Worth (#5)

  • Washington, D.C. (#6)

  • Houston (#7)

  • San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose (#8)

  • Boston (#9)

  • Atlanta (#10)

What American media market had the most ads in the 2016 presidential election?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How surprising is this information?

  3. Were any of these top presidential ad media markets in the top ten biggest media markets in the United States?

  4. Based on the data in the chart make a claim about media markets and presidential campaigns.

  5. Explain why the biggest spending in the presidential campaign happened in media markets, none of which are among the top ten biggest media markets in America.

  6. What political science term do we use to describe American states that are very evenly split in terms of political party affiliation?

  7. What is a consequence of all this ad spending happening in these particular media markets?

  8. Imagine you were the campaign manager for the Donald Trump 2020 presidential election campaign make a claim about why spending in top markets like New York (#1), Los Angeles (#2), or Chicago (#3) would be a waste of money.

  9. In the 2016 elections, U.S. House campaigns spent $971,524,520, and U.S. Senate campaigns spent $674,985,540. Using your knowledge of American politics, explain why more money was spent on U.S. House races than on U.S. Senate races.

  10. Explain whether you think Senate or House campaigns are more likely to spend money in the top ten media markets?

  11. The other day, a GoPo student we shall call Rudolph said, “advertising doesn’t really help campaigns. Democrats vote for Democrats and Republicans vote for Republicans. Respond to Rudolph’s claim using your inside voice.

  12. In 2010, Citizens United v. FEC ruled that limits on political advertising were violations of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. How has that ruling impacted American politics?

  13. Let’s say you didn’t like the Citizens United ruling. What political action could you take to try to limit its impact?

  14. Many democratic countries limit the amount of spending, veracity of content, and timing of political ads. Make a claim about whether the U.S. should place more limits on political spending?

  15. How would banning political ads impact political campaigns and their results?

  16. In general, what do Americans think about political ads?*

  17. Of the following mediums (formats) which had the biggest spending in the 2016 election: newspaper, digital, broadcast TV, radio, cable TV, out of Home (whatever that means)?*

  18. What has happened to the rate of digital ad spending over the past 12 years?*

*Visual Extension

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Learning Extension

Read about the most expensive races in the 2018 election.

Action Extension

Make an advertisement (this could be a script, storyboard, digital image) for your favorite 2020 presidential candidate and share it in class or online.

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Build a Candidate

AP US Government and Politics

According to polls, which of the following traits would be the biggest liability for a US presidential candidate: past marijuana use, being gay or lesbian, Mormon, Muslim, or atheist?

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How surprising was the information in the chart?

  3. How will this information be different for the 2028 election?

  4. Explain whether this information is good news.

  5. Consider all the traits in the chart and evaluate whether each trait would make your vote for a candidate more likely, less likely, or wouldn't matter:

  6. How different was your evaluation of presidential traits from that of the average American's?

  7. What questions do you have about the chart?

  8. The 2016 election was certainly a surprise for a lot of people. How much did the outcome of the 2016 election deviate from what your would expect based on the data in the chart?

  9. How much do you think that the election of Donald Trump (outsider, non-religious, had financial troubles, had affairs, etc.) will impact  the type of future Democratic or Republican candidates who run for office?

  10. List two generalizations you can make about American presidential trait preferences from the information in the chart:

  11. Do you think that the fact that presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is a homosexual will hurt his chances to be president more than the fact that he is only 37?

  12. In the comments section, using the information from the chart, create an extremely unelectable presidential candidate:

Visual Extension


Action Extension

Do one of the following:

  1. Contact the Democratic National Party or the Republican National Party and give them five pieces of advice on nominating a presidential candidate based on the information in the chart:

  2. Write a letter to the American people telling them what they are wrong about regarding their desired traits for presidential candidates. Post it on social media or send it to your local newspaper (if you still have one).

  3. Make a poster or flyer or video advertisement for the unelectable presidential candidate you created in question 9 above.

Learning Extension

Read the entire Pew report on presidential candidate traits.

Our World In Data Extension


Our Animals in Drag Extension


Campaign Stops

AP US Government and Politics and Chickens

In the 2016 presidential elections, after the party nominating conventions, what four states had over half of all campaign events?

Post-Convention Campaign Stops per State


AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What was most surprising about this map?

  3. What is the take home story of this map?

  4. explain why the map looks this way.

  5. What is one consequence of this concentration of campaign activity?

  6. What is the political science term we use to describe these four states?

  7. Central to the concept of democracy is the the idea that all people are politically equal. The Declaration of IndEpendence contains these lines regarding the value of equality. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” Does this map resemble political equality?

  8. Why did California, the nation's most populous state, receive only one campaign stop?

  9. 28 states received no visits from presidential campaigns. Why is that?

  10. Explain whether the information from this map is good news.

  11. Imagine the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished the Electoral College (don’t hold your breath). How would that Constitutional change impact the data from the map?

  12. Explain how this concentrated campaign activity in those four states impacted voter turnout in those states.

  13. Explain how this concentrated campaign activity in those four states impacted voter turnout In the other states.

  14. At the time of the Constitutional Convention The Anti-Federalists were afraid of too much power being concentrated in a central national government. They prefered that power be centered at the state level. If an anti-federalist saw this map, after they stopped freaking out about how Big the U.S. had gotten, what claim would they make about this map and the power of states?

  15. What change in the US electoral system could make campaign events be spread more evenly throughout the US?

  16. What is a pirate’s Favorite place to eat lunch?*

Learning Extension

Analyze the map with the folks from NPVP and watch this video that explains how the NPVP works.

Action Extension

If states with a majority of electoral votes enacted the National Popular Vote Plan, US presidential campaigns would be very different and campaign stops would be more evenly distributed. Use this handy little link to contact your state representative (they decide where your state's electoral votes go) and let them know what you think about the National Popular Vote Plan.

Dog Meme Extension

AP US Government and Dogitics

AP US Government and Dogitics

Snow Map Extension

How Much Snow Does It Take To Cancel School?

How Much Snow Does It Take To Cancel School?    AP Government and Politics

How Much Snow Does It Take To Cancel School?

AP Government and Politics


Use Your Outside Spending Voice

What has happened to campaign spending by outside groups (not the candidates) since 1990?

  1. How accurate was your insouciant little prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this data?

  3. What has caused this change in outside spending over time?

  4. What is the most important consequence of this change in outside spending over time?

  5. If the trends illustrated in this chart continue, what will outside spending levels be like in another decade?

  6. Explain whether this is good news or bad news.

  7. Explain whether this increases or decreases the power of candidates.

  8. Explain the impact of increased outside spending on the level of American democracy.

  9. Describe the level of wealth of the kinds of groups, corporations, and people who spend most of this outside money.

  10. Explain whether this chart supports the claim that the United States political system is more of an elite democracy or more of a participatory democracy.

  11. On Jan. 21, 2010, in the landmark Citizens United v. FEC ruling, the Supreme Court overturned restrictions on independent expenditures from corporations and labor unions. This decision set a precedent that would spawn the creation of so-called super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and other groups. What happened to levels of outside spending after this 2010 ruling?

  12. What exactly does outside spending mean?

  13. What are Super PACs, anyway?

  14. Do you think Marvel will make a Super PAC comic?

  15. In Citizens United v. FEC the Supreme Court ruled that limits on outside spending were a violation of the free speech clause of the First Amendment. Do you agree with the Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment?

Visual Extension

Learning Extension

Action Extension

Super Heroes have superpowers that mere mortals do NOT possess. Super PACs have super powers, too. Learn a little more about the super powers of Super PACs and create your very own SUPER PAC! Be sure to name your Super PAC and include a list of your super powers. A drawing would be nice! Share your Super PAC in class or online. *Don’t forget to register your Super PAC with the Federal Election Commission.

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Drag Extension


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