Billionaire Tom Steyer led arguably the least financially efficient presidential campaign in history, spending over $250 million and earning only two delegates.

According to the Federal Election Committee, Steyer spent $253,718,074 through the end of January. All but $3,555,597 was his own money.

That $253 million failed to earn him a delegate in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada — where he spent $13.5 million on television. He had been confident going into the South Carolina primary, as polls gave him favorable odds, and he invested $18 million on television ads in South Carolina, according to the New York Times.

He dropped out of the race immediately after the results of South Carolina placed him in third. Former Vice President Joe Biden won South Carolina (48.4%), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) followed in a distant second (19.9%), earning 13 delegates.


The California Globe estimates Steyer spent an additional $30 million in February because “television buys were at their highest,” bringing his total campaign spending to approximately $280 million.

Here is how his campaign played out:

  • Finished seventh in Iowa, earning seven final-alignment votes and no delegates
  • Finished sixth in New Hampshire, earning 10,727 votes and no delegates
  • Finished fifth in Nevada, earning 682 final-alignment votes and no delegates
  • Finished third in South Carolina, earning 59,893 votes and two delegates

While this does not factor in the first-alignment caucus counts in which Steyer earned more votes, and the $30 million spent in February was only an estimate, Steyer’s $280 million came out to just over $3926 per vote.