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.
No other issue was more prominent or contentious during this week’s Democratic presidential debates than that of health care. It has repeatedly ranked as voters’ most important priority – and the Democratic primary field clearly has some serious disagreements on how to fix our broken system. In this week’s FWIW, we take a look at how the 2020 presidential campaigns have been pushing out their positions on healthcare online – before, during, and after this week’s debates.
2020 by the numbers
Donald Trump’s campaign has now spent over $15.2 million on Facebook and Google advertising since the 2018 midterm elections. He spent the largest share of his Facebook budget last week on ads targeting Ohio and Kentucky supporters promoting his Cincinnati rally.
On the Democratic side, Tom Steyer’s campaign spent a jaw-dropping $658,000 on Facebook and Google last week, again outspending the Trump campaign. In order to make September’s debate, he’ll need to raise his name ID to meet the polling threshold AND raise funds from at least 130,000 donors. Perhaps because he’s a billionaire (or because he’s seen so many other candidates do it 🙄), most of his ads are only begging for a $1 donation. The cumulative spending chart below clearly shows his sharp spending increase since launching his campaign.
…And here are the top spenders on Facebook + Google from July 21 – 27:
Deep Dive: Who cares more … about healthcare
No other single issue received more attention during this week’s second round of Democratic Debates than that of healthcare reform, which makes sense given it is repeatedly named as one of the top issues, if not the top issue for voters nationwide. Also, when it comes to support for universal coverage, maintaining private insurance, or a single-payer Medicare for All system, the candidates represent a full spectrum of views- that can sometimes also reflect what side of the D-party spectrum candidates fall on. Debate moderators often try to use their time to highlight contrasts and pick fights between candidates, and this week it was 🧨.
Before the debates, many of the top tier campaigns had been promoting their healthcare plans for weeks – with Harris, Warren, Sanders, Yang, Booker, and Gillibrand running ads on Facebook around their support for Medicare for All.
Medicare for All (and whatever the candidates may think it means) has become a sort of new litmus test for progressive healthcare policy this cycle – and it clearly shows in the candidates’ messaging online. Even campaigns who may not support an immediate end to private health insurance now support *some type* of universally available public option. Considering how controversial a public option was just 10 years ago, this evolution alone feels like a pretty big win for progressives.
That said, as soon as the debates started on both nights, the moderators moved quickly to showcase the divide between all of the candidates on the issue. Notably, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders fended off (pretty harsh) attacks from nearly everyone else on stage, including former Rep. John Delaney, who according to Wikipedia was KO’d by Elizabeth Warren’s clap back. RIP John.
Within *minutes* of those attacks, Warren and Sanders both began running Twitter ads promoting their debate moments to cash in on the exchanges :
Meanwhile, John Delaney’s campaign advertising was pretty silent – the day after the debate, the only Facebook ad they were running was strangely promoting his wife’s Instagram page. 🤔 (Trying to land a spot on Real Housewives of Potomac, April?) Later, his campaign began running this fundraising ad mentioning his debate performance on, you guessed it, healthcare:
Without a doubt, there was no bigger contrast on the healthcare issue this week than that of two candidates who didn’t even share the same stage. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have taken opposite approaches to the issue, and both quickly dispatched emails after the debate selling stickers touting their own positions:
The ability to quickly sell merchandise (or swag) highlighting debate moments (remember Kamala’s shirts after the June debate?) is a new normal for candidates looking to maximize their debate moments. FWIW, our colleague sees room for improvement and wrote a blog post this week on why all campaigns should think harder about their merch strategy.
On a related note, Biden and Sanders weren’t the only campaigns to blast out emails hawking stickers this week – Booker’s team took advantage of a Biden gaffe, and then Kirsten Gillibrand’s team out-did them all with this sticker highlighting her most memorable debate line.
Justin, we’ll take 10 of those please.
…and lastly, several of the other candidates have been running ads highlighting video clips of their debate moments – and unsurprisingly, they also are focused on healthcare:
BONUS: Organizing the #OrbGang
We swear we tried but we just couldn’t let this FWIW go out without addressing author/candidate Marianne Williamson’s second wave of truly “meme-able moments” during this week’s debate, spurred this time around her applause-driving mention of “a dark psychic force” that Donald Trump has brought upon the country. Our friends at NextGen immediately ran with the moment, pushing out “Dark Psychic Force” buttons on Twitter in exchange for supporters opting-in to receive their text messages. All in all, this week demonstrated campaign digital rapid response teams are now in FULL EFFECT.
One more thing… 🤳
That’s all for this week. But before you go, we wanted to let you know that our team is hiring! Help us find the best and brightest at the intersection of politics, advertising, tech, and media here