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.
As Joe Biden looks to seal the deal on the Democratic primary, a global pandemic has been declared and has entirely disrupted our politics, the news cycle, and our day-to-day lives. How are campaigns having to adapt to the spread of coronavirus and recommendations of “social distancing?” What campaigns and political groups are talking about the issue online? What does it mean for next Tuesday’s primaries? We take a look below.
2020, by the numbers
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $46 million on Facebook and Google ads since the 2018 midterm elections. His campaign has yet to spend money on ads on either platform mentioning ‘coronavirus.’ Instead, his latest flight of ads on Facebook include familiar ‘build the wall’ language and also asks supporters to join a “campaign strategy call” – although details of the call aren’t provided to those who sign up. 🤦🏻♂️
After Tuesday night’s trouncing in Michigan and elsewhere, many have been quick to call the Democratic primary over and name Joe Biden the nominee. That said, there’s still a televised debate this weekend and a number of contests to go, including next Tuesday’s elections in delegate-rich states of Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Arizona. In Florida however, a new poll out yesterday showed Biden with a *44 point* lead over Sanders.
Since Super Tuesday, Joe Biden has more than tripled his spending on Facebook ads, trying to capitalize on his momentum, fundraise, and secure an insurmountable delegate lead. On nearly every day in the past week, his campaign has been the top political ad spender on Facebook nationwide.
The majority of that spending increase has been on fundraising ads like these below, touting his “decisive” victories on Super Tuesday and featuring his former rivals:
Here’s what that spend looks like over time:
Meanwhile, doubling down on reaching their most engaged voting bloc, Bernie Sanders’ campaign has officially joined TikTok. They’re asking for supporters to make their own content and submit them through a Google form in order to be featured on the campaign’s official account.
Here are the top political advertisers on Facebook and Google last week. Note: This data captures the final days before Super Tuesday, and many top advertisers like Mike Bloomberg and Warren for President have since ceased advertising.
How to campaign in a pandemic…
Successful political campaigns have always had to be nimble and adapt to a rapidly changing media and political landscape…and that’s never been more clear than this week, with a pandemic sweeping the globe. In the past few days, elected officials, campaigns, and organizations have made swift changes to the way they’re campaigning – from canceling rallies to holding virtual town halls. On Wednesday, Biden’s campaign announced they’d hold “virtual events,” and staffers have been told to work from home.
Pete for America’s former online engagement director highlighted on Twitter how this new dynamic will further drive campaigns to think about how they organize online:
Virtual town halls, peer-to-peer text messaging conversations, and other forms of relational outreach could be a good place to start. We’ve seen a number of resources put out advising campaigns on how to approach the situation, including this guide from the Tuesday Company. As the situation worsens, campaigns are going to have to adapt one way or another – because for the time being, nobody’s gonna open their door to a squad of canvassers. 🛎♀️
This is a political issue.
Our nation’s public health is directly tied to public policy, and this administration’s policies to cut funding to health organizations have had a disastrous impact on our national response to coronavirus. As Tom Nichols wrote recently in the Washington Post, this issue is a political one because “…every government is and should be measured by its ability to protect their own citizens from threats.”
That said, there’s been little political advertising on Facebook and Google around the issue thus far. Here are the top spending Facebook advertisers on ads mentioning the coronavirus in the past seven days:
National Nurses United: $23,050
Unite the Country: $12,100
Millennial Majority: $10,050
Ben Shapiro: $7,300
Left Is Right: $6,550
Our own affiliated political action committee, PACRONYM, is currently the only major advertiser directly holding the administration accountable on this issue – publishing videos like this one and boosting recent news articles from sites like the Associated Press and LA Times to voters in MI, PA, WI, NC, and AZ about how Trump’s [lack of] response and preparedness has made the country less safe.
MoveOn.org is pushing a petition for universal access to the yet-to-be-created coronavirus vaccine, while other groups, like the pro-Sanders National Nurses United and pro-Biden Unite the Country have tried to tie the issue to the debate over Medicare and fixing our broken healthcare system.
On the Right, Ben Shapiro and the Daily Wire have run a few dozen ads stating that fears of the coronavirus are overblown, and tying it back to Democrats. 🤮
Stay safe out there!
That’s all for FWIW this week! Stay safe out there, and if you need some extra reading material while you’re WFH next week, we’ve got you covered. We’re tracking the digital battle for control of the U.S. Senate via our new newsletter, The Senate FYI. Check out the latest issues here, and click below to subscribe!