FWIW: It’s the final countdown 🌽

10 mins read

Welcome to FWIW, ACRONYM’s weekly newsletter breaking down digital strategy and investments across the political spectrum. Each week, we look at how campaigns are – or aren’t – leveraging smart digital strategies to drive narratives and win elections.

For what it’s worth, some of it might surprise you. 

It’s finally game time. The Iowa caucuses take place Monday night, in all their chaotic, deep-fried glory. We’ve been tracking the Democratic campaigns’ digital investment and strategy in the state for months, and in this final Iowa-heavy issue of FWIW, we’ll give you a deep dive into their closing arguments.

But first…

New #FWIWPod 🎙

A new episode of the FWIW Podcast is available for download! ACRONYM Founder + CEO Tara McGowan sat down with Shomik Dutta of Higher Ground Labs to chat about the welcome and necessary disruption + innovation happening in political technology on the Left. Give it a listen here.

2020, by the numbers

Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $37.4 million on Facebook and Google advertising since the 2018 midterm elections. This week, his campaign launched a line of branded-baby apparel, including this onesie featuring the line “Baby Lives Matter.”

Last week, Michael Bloomberg’s campaign surpassed the Trump campaign’s total spend on Facebook and Google, now having spent over $45 million since announcing his bid. 🤷‍♂️ He spent an absurd $11 million just last week. While Bloomberg’s spending strategy relies more heavily on Google and YouTube, the Trump campaign spends the majority of their dollars on Facebook. 

John Delaney dropped out of the race this morning – just days before the caucus and after being the first candidate to traverse Iowa over a year ago. We’ll never forget how his campaign spent money promoting his wife’s Instagram account, or that near knock-out blow Elizabeth Warren landed on him in the July debate. 🕯

…and here are the top political spenders on Facebook + Google last week.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a leading manager of the Senate’s impeachment trial, was one of the top 10 spenders last week on Facebook (outspending the Warren, Biden, and Buttigieg campaigns). He’s using his relatively newfound fame to boost his campaign coffers, sell merch, and build his list. The congressman has become an American MVP in more ways than one by our book. 🥇

Deep Dive: It’s the final countdown

There are only three days until Iowans kickstart Democrats’ six-month long slog to the nomination, and the official start of election season (our favorite season ). We wish we could accurately predict who has the best chance of winning on Monday night, but at this point, your guess is as good as ours. All of the leading candidates have launched dozens of new TV and digital ads this week, and in the coming days, we’ll be sharing what we’re seeing on Twitter, so give us a follow! A LOT can change in the next 72 hours. In the mean-time, here’s what we’ve been seeing.

Issue #1: A Common Enemy

After all the debate over Medicare for All or Medicare for All-Who-Want-It and spats around Wine Caves, one issue remains at the forefront of Iowa voters’ minds: beating Donald Trump. 

In video ad after video ad, on Facebook and YouTube, Joe Biden is making his case to Iowa voters that he’s the only candidate in the race who can actually beat Donald Trump. Several ads state this directly: “I’m worried about beating Donald Trump, and Joe is the only one who can get it done.”

Other candidates have narrowed in on this messaging too in recent days. Pete’s messaging has also focused on electability, and Warren’s latest pitch to potential caucusgoers also touts her ability to unite the party and win over Trump voters – with a not-so-subtle “women can win” message on top.

Betting it all on Iowa

Perhaps more than any other candidate, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign has centered Iowa as key to their path for winning the nomination. If his team can pull out a win next week, it will have been in no small part due to their hyper-local digital-first strategy that has wowed us for months. 

They’ve blanketed nearly every platform with local content, and invested in the state earlier than most. Earlier this week, they launched this wave of county-specific ads touting Pete’s ability to flip Obama-Trump counties and make Iowa a battleground in the general election.

They’ve also run fun, creative content on Snapchat and Instagram for months, trying to scoop up supporters wherever they can find them. Oh, and because why not, their team bought a takeover of the Des Moines Register homepage all week.

Como se dice ‘caucus’

In a crowded field and a chaotic process like the Iowa caucuses, successful campaigns reach out to as many possible slices of the electorate to maximize their support. To that end, both Bernie Sanders’ and Pete Buttigieg’s campaigns have been running Spanish-language ads on Facebook targeting Latinx audiences across the state. 

One of Bernie’s ads is narrated by a DACA recipient who’s educating viewers on the caucus process and offers a Spanish-language hotline for supporters to call with questions. Others feature Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking to why she supports Bernie – because he’s fought for people like her. 

Pete Buttigieg’s Spanish-language advertising in the state features a man asking the question: “Why should Latinos vote for Mayor Pete?

Outside interference

Until recently, outside spending organizations largely stayed away from online advertising for or against the Democratic candidates in Iowa. This week though, a number of groups launched last-minute efforts to sway Iowans for or against candidates like Biden or Bernie. 

Unite the Country, a Super PAC backing Joe Biden, has unleashed a wave of positive pro-Biden content into the news feeds of voters across Iowa. They’re the #6 top spender in the state on Facebook in the past week, running pretty generic ads focused on Joe’s record + electability.

On the other side, a Justice Democrats-affiliated organization is pushing anti-Biden and anti-Pete ads to Iowans via a Facebook page named “Watercooler Politics.” They’ve spent around $10,000 in the past week on the platform

That’s not all – a Pro-Israel Democratic SuperPAC, “Democratic Majority for Israel,” has been hammering Bernie Sanders on TV in the state. 

…and lastly, our attention-hungry President has spent around $12,000 on Facebook ads in Iowa over the past 7 days. He’s mostly been promoting last night’s Des Moines rally, but on Tuesday, his campaign launched several hundred ads on the platform asking Iowans to caucus for him. We think he’s probably more than a little nervous to be missing out on all the attention, as Democrats are more energized than ever to turn out and caucus on Monday.

His team even dispatched 80 top surrogates to the state with the hopes of taking some of the Democrats’ limelight, but let’s be honest… Wilbur Ross doing local TV probably won’t help him much, but you do you, Donny.

One more thing…sign up for The Senate FYI!

That’s all for FWIW this week! But before you go, we have one more ask of you! We’re tracking the digital battle for control of the U.S. Senate via our new newsletter, The Senate FYI. Check out the first issue here, and click below to subscribe!

P.S. You can find this and other issues of FWIW here.

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

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

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

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