Politics Pays: Early voting states enjoying economic boom

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It doesn’t matter what your politics are – politics pays.

Every four years, presidential candidates and their entourages; hordes of journalists and political nerds; and even political tourists  descend upon the early primary and caucus states – thoroughly disrupting day-to-day life for the people who live there. But with the surge often comes a windfall for local businesses.

And 2016 is no different.

“This year was especially crazy,” Krista Bennett, owner of Smokey Row Coffee in Pleasantville, Iowa, told FoxNews.com. “A lot of coffee houses, restaurants and bars were especially hit, that seemed to be where I noticed it.”

Bennett said her shop saw roughly a 20 percent surge in business in the weeks leading up to the caucuses.

"This year was especially crazy."

— Krista Bennett, owner of Smokey Row Coffee

Several experts have noted that estimating the effect of the caucuses on the Iowa economy is difficult. The closest thing to a comprehensive study comes from Iowa State University professor and economist David Swenson, who looked at the effects of the 2008 contest.

Swenson crunched the numbers on campaign spending for the final two quarters of 2007, during which candidates spent $15.5 million. That spending added roughly $11 million and 230 jobs to the Iowa economy when the state’s gross domestic product was $130 billion, Swenson found.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership, a local commerce group, estimated the 2008 caucuses brought 2,500 members of the media, and $25 million in visitor spending, to Des Moines alone.

There are signs that the Hawkeye State is by far the biggest beneficiary, with states hosting subsequent contests seeing diminishing returns.

The Boston Globe reports that in New Hampshire, the impact of the first-in-the-nation primary may be minimal. While the Globe cites experts who say car rentals and hotels see a solid increase, the actual impact to the local economy is “a drop in the bucket of the 1.3 million person state.”

Still, states like New Hampshire and others tend to see a bump in hotel stays and other areas, according to industry estimates and accounts on the ground.

"I am sure this is typical of the primary season, but we did see a spike in business and it has stuck around for a little while after," Alexandra Horton, owner of Cafe La Reine in Manchester, N.H., told FoxNews.com.

"I would say that overall the primary season is good for downtown Manchester and all of the local businesses to gain national exposure," she said.

Dan LaBerge, manager at Billy’s Sports Bar & Grill in Manchester, told FoxNews.com they saw between a 5-10 percent increase in business, though businesses in downtown Manchester had a bigger boost.

"We get a lot of people from Washington D.C. here,” LaBerge said. “It often ends up being actual campaign workers -- we did a buffet for the Hillary campaign, so it’s really a mix. You get a lot of people from out of town, people they ship in.”

LaBerge said the boost has gotten smaller in recent election cycles, which he attributes to the shorter time between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primaries as parties condense the primary season.

Another big factor in boosting state economies is ad spending, which pours money into local, often cash-strapped, news outlets.

Candidates and super PACs spent a total of $111.9 million on New Hampshire broadcast cable and radio advertising, and $66.9 million in Iowa, according to numbers provided to the Morning Consult.

In South Carolina, the impact on local businesses seems more muted, though it's still too early to get the full picture.

Patrick Johnston, who owns the Simply J Boutique, in Charleston’s popular King Street shopping district, said last week that he and other local merchants have yet to see an increase in business since the start of the election season.

They had hoped to see a boost in mid-January when a GOP presidential debate was held up the road in North Charleston, and then when the campaigns left New Hampshire.

“We have not seen an uptick,” Johnston said Thursday. “We’d certainly be happy for more business because spending this time of year – after the holidays -- is slow.”

Dolly Awkar, owner of the downtown Charleston restaurant Leyla Fine Lebanese Cuisine, said she hasn’t seen an election bump yet, either.

And she argued that the reason appears in part to be that the entire political apparatus -- including event organizers and the political parties -- are not promoting local businesses.

“You’re always hoping your business will get more traffic,” Awkar said. “But they direct people to the same names -- the more established places, which hotel to go to. … I would like to ask organizers how they could chose so that it would benefit everybody.”

FoxNews.com's Joseph Weber contributed to this report.