The Senate FYI: Somebody call Thom

8 mins read

Welcome to the first issue of the Senate FYI! Each week, we’ll track how the battle to flip the Senate is playing out where voters get their information – online. We’ll monitor spending on digital advertising, as well as watch how the campaigns are engaging supporters and voters all over the internet. FYI, it’s been a long week.

In the news:

Democratic candidates and the DSCC are dominating the digital spend game – for now. Meanwhile, a network of Koch-related donors are supporting efforts for digital and TV ads boosting the likes of Cory Gardner and Thom Tillis. 

Senate Majority PAC announced they raised $61 million in 2019, and are now walking into 2020 with $47 million in the bank. On the Right, the Senate Leadership Fund is currently running ads on Facebook with outdated creative, still featuring a December 31st deadline.

Rep. Doug Collins announced a primary challenge against appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Georgia’s special election. We know that Trump is a fan of Collins, but Loeffler has her own supporters in the GOP. We’ll track how these candidates face off online when the race starts heating up.

By the numbers:

Note: We’re launching this newsletter tracking head-to-head spending between party-endorsed candidates or likely nominees in six battleground states. As the primaries conclude and spending increases, we’ll expand the races we’re tracking. Or, if primaries shift, we’ll expand to include other candidates. 

The Senate races in Arizona and Maine are quickly becoming two of the most expensive statewide elections in 2020, and the leading Democratic candidates in those states are vastly outspending their Republican opponents online.

The DSCC spent $62,970 on Facebook and Google advertising this past week, which is $6,340 more than the NRSC spent…and Democratic challengers outspent Republican incumbents in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina.

Here is how much each candidate spent on Google + Facebook last week:

Around the country:

Colorado 🏔️ 

On Facebook, Sen. Cory Gardner has been running acquisition ads attacking prominent Democrats running for President, instead of against his own likely opponent. These ads appear to follow a common pattern for Gardner, who frequently uses common right-wing culture war like “radical left” to describe the Democratic Party. The repeated use of this red-meat messaging in his campaign seems to suggest that rather than trying to appeal to more moderate Democrats in an ever-bluer state, Gardner is using his ads to move closer into Trump’s arms.

One of the biggest spenders attacking the senator is grassroots nonprofit Conservation Colorado. They’ve spent over $21k in the past seven days on Facebook adsalone, and their ads attack Gardner for protecting big polluters instead of conserving Colorado’s land. Many of their ads heavily target women, which as The New York Times recently highlighted, is a key demographic in deciding Gardner’s fate this November. 

On the other side, Gardner’s most likely opponent in the general election capitalized on the recent anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper ran Facebook ads this week touting his accomplishments for reproductive healthcare while he was in office. 

Iowa

At the beginning of January, Sen. Joni Ernst was part of a group of 39 senators who asked SCOTUS to reconsider Roe V. Wade. Ever since, Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield has run multiple ads on Facebook criticizing Ernst’s stance on reproductive healthcare and building her email list.

Ernst has made some waves on impeachment this week, but Greenfield has run limited advertising on the issue – she’s mainly running survey ads on what Iowans think about the trial. She has, however, been using fundraising ads highlighting President Trump’s trip to the Hawkeye state.

Maine

Democrat Sara Gideon has already invested enormous sums of money into beating Sen. Susan Collins in November. Recently, her campaign has been running fundraising ads attacking Collins for siding with Trump and not giving Mainers a fair impeachment trial: 

However, the Gideon campaign is not the only one attacking Collins on impeachment. Multiple outside organizations are also running ads against the senator. The Maine Democratic Party, The Women’s March, and the Maine’s People Alliance are all running ads against her on this issue.

Clearly, Collins is under a lot of pressure from the left, and she may be listening: the senator released a statement on Monday stating that she would likely support subpoenaing witness. We’ll believe it when we see it. 🙄

Michigan

It seems that Sen. Gary Peters is still not advertising much on Facebook or Google. He appears to only have very few ads running on Facebook , and they’re acquisition-focused discussing big money in politics. 

However, the Michigan Democratic Party is attempting to fill the gap by pushing attack ads with pictures of Republican candidate John James and Lev Parnas, a character central to Trump’s impeachment, and that direct people to their website, John James Revealed.

Similar to Peters, though, James has very few ads up on Facebook or Google for the time being. The ads that the Republican candidate does have focus on impeachment.

North Carolina

This week, Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham spent major cash on digital advertising. His campaign spent $49,040 on Facebook compared to Sen. Thom Tillis, who spent nothing. 

Cunningham, a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, Is using Facebook to highlight his record of service with well-produced biographical video ads:

He’s also running ads against Tillis’ stance on impeachment. Like many other Democratic candidates, Cunningham calls upon Tillis to give voters a fair impeachment Trial. Tillis has so far been outspoken on the issue, calling the trial a “hollywood production.”

That’s it for this week! Have races or candidates you think we should watch? See ads or digital strategies that we should note? Send us an email! Forward this email to a few friends, or follow @anotheracronym on Twitter!

– The team at ACRONYM

Originally posted on Another Acronym. Re-posted with permission.


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ACRONYM is a nonprofit organization committed to building power and digital infrastructure for the progressive movement.

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