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.
A candidate’s spouse or partner, if they are willing or able to be involved, can be one of the campaign’s biggest assets. In such a crowded and competitive primary, some 2020 Democratic campaigns are using their candidate’s partner to expand their reach online, fundraise, and engage voters through new channels. We take a deep dive in this week’s FWIW.
2020 by the numbers
Donald Trump has spent over $17 million on Facebook and Google ads since the 2018 midterm elections. Last week, the majority of his ads were for fundraising…and It seems like he’s been A/B testing his children again.
The Trump campaign ran hundreds of ads on Facebook featuring Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Lara Trump, as well as campaign staffers like Katrina Pierson – testing which surrogates resonate better for fundraising and engagement with both the same and different audiences. His daughter Tiffany was noticeably absent from the campaign.🧐
Tom Steyer’s campaign continues to dwarf the Democratic field in terms of digital spending – investing over $6 million on Facebook + Google advertising since July. He’s no longer just begging for money though, as many of his ads last week focused around climate policy and pushed viewers to a Facebook Livestream of his campaign’s climate forum.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s campaign spent less than 1/5th of what Marianne Williamson spent last week online. Maybe it had something to do with his campaigns’ recent slip in fundraising? 🤷♂️We’d like to also note that Bill de Blasio’s campaign is hanging in there, although they don’t exactly sound optimistic about his odds.
…Anyway, here are the top political ad spenders on Facebook + Google from August 25 – August 31.
Notable top spenders on Google last week were the Congressional Leadership Fund and the NRCC. The GOP groups are investing heavily in attack ads against Democrat Dan McCready ahead of North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District Special Election next Tuesday.
FWIW, McCready has been heavily outspending his Republican opponent Dan Bishop on Facebook ads by about 10-to-1 , but outside advertising dollars have been flooding into the race from both sides.
Deep Dive: A man’s place is in the… East Wing?
For as long as political campaigns have existed, candidate spouses who choose to play an active role have proven they can be hugely effective surrogates for campaigns, not only for dispatching to fundraisers and events, but also for building and engaging large audiences online. They can also provide value by softening their spouse’s hard edges or reaching different constituencies with their personal backgrounds and stories.
If the Democratic spouses were running their own digital campaigns in the 2020 primaries, it looks as though it would really just be a four-way race. Here are the top contenders:
Chasten Buttigieg has a bigger following online than many of the Democratic candidates, and has become something of a cult-icon among Mayor Pete’s *very online* supporters. When he’s not teaching, he spends a lot of time on Twitter or with his new celebrity friends (like Mandy Moore). As a 30-year old digital native, he clearly knows how to engage folks online.
The Buttigieg campaign regularly dispatches him to represent Pete at grassroots events and fundraisers, and allows them to have a high profile surrogate campaign in one place while the candidate is campaigning elsewhere.
…and the campaign has even used Chasten for list-building ads:
Another potential first First Man in the race is Kamala Harris’ chief cheerleader, Doug Emhoff, who’s becoming a bit of a meme himself. Refinery 29 recently named him “the ultimate Instagram spouse,” and noted that his entire social media persona is dedicated to promoting Harris’ campaign.
Doug regularly addresses the #KHive directly on Instagram and Twitter, and seems to be having a lot of fun in the process:
Bernie Sanders’ wife Jane built a reputation as an effective campaign advisor – and built an enormous Twitter following – in 2016 during Bernie’s first run for President. She’s an instrumental part of the Sanders campaign, and is active daily on Twitter reinforcing the campaign’s online narratives and engaging with supporters:
Dr. Jill Biden
Having campaigned alongside Vice President Biden multiple times already, the popular former Second Lady is no stranger to the life of a campaign surrogate. Dr. Biden, or Jilly, as the former Vice President affectionally calls her in his own social media posts, uses her personal accounts to regularly retweet or share the campaign’s content and feature her appearances as she criss-crosses the early states.
Honorable Mention …
Most other potential future First Spouses haven’t been as engaged online. The John Delaney campaign has definitely tried their best though(!), as they’ve run around 30 Facebook ads oddly promoting his wife April McClain Delaney’s personal Instagram or Facebook page :
As Beto O’Rourke’s wife Amy takes a more active role in the campaign, she also recently launched her own Insta account to record her campaign travels. Beto’s campaign is one of the few running ads featuring their spouse:
Meanwhile, Cory Booker’s famous “boo,” actress Rosario Dawson, hasn’t shared too much of the campaign’s content online, though she did recently clap back at critics who said she wasn’t doing enough campaigning on her socials:
BONUS: ~Personal News~
Yesterday, POLITICO reported that former Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe has joined ACRONYM’s Board of Directors and will advise our work. We are humbled, thrilled and proud to get to work alongside him in this critical election cycle . 🧨Give it a read and a share if you’re so willing:
One more thing… 🤳
That’s all for this week. But before you go, we have one more ask of you! If you enjoy reading FWIW each week, help us grow our following + spread the word! Forward this email to a few friends, or click below to follow @anotheracronym on Twitter!