Welcome to FWIW Virginia, where we analyze digital spending trends on both sides of the aisle in advance of the 2019 Virginia legislative elections. Each week, we look at whose digital spending is up, whose is down, and whose is non-existent across the Commonwealth.
For what it’s worth, some of it might surprise you.
Earlier this month the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee released a list of 17 Spotlight Endorsements in Virginia ahead of the 2019 General Assembly elections. This is just the most recent development in their effort to flip Virginia blue. But how have the Spotlight candidates invested in digital communications compared to their GOP opponents? We take a look in this week’s FWIW Virginia.
2019 by the numbers
We’re tracking digital investment by party committees, statehouse leadership and candidates in some of the top competitive state house and senate races in Virginia in advance of the 2019 state legislative elections. Here is how investment by Republicans and Democrats compare since the 2018 midterm elections.
Here is a list of top Virginia political spenders on Facebook the week of April 14-20. You may have noticed over the past several weeks that Democratic-aligned groups tend to spend more than Republican ones, but individual GOP campaigns consistently outspend their Democratic opponents each week, which is why the Republicans continue to lead in the chart above.
Deep Dive: Spotlight on the Commonwealth
After flipping 15 House of Delegates seats in 2017, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is gearing up to take back the Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate this November. They already committed to investing $1 million into the 2019 elections in the Commonwealth – the largest early investment they have ever made – and are now putting their weight behind 17 incumbents and challengers through its Spotlight program to turn Virginia blue.
With so much attention turned towards the 2020 elections, state legislative campaigns have been sidelined by many national political groups and activists. Virginia campaigns can’t expect to receive the kind of national support they experienced two years ago when the Commonwealth’s elections were viewed as the first big electoral test of the Democrats’ resistance to the Trump administration. This makes the DLCC’s commitment to Virginia all the more important this year.
The million dollar investment and endorsement of over a dozen candidates marks a departure from 2017 when flipping the House of Delegates blue seemed like a pipedream and the Senate wasn’t up for election. The DLCC’s Spotlight program wasn’t even as laser-focused on Virginia back then, but now, Democrats only need to flip two seats in both chambers to take them back and complete a Democratic trifecta in Virginia.
The DLCC’s Virginia Facebook ads are not just targeting the Commonwealth either. Hopefully, their efforts will help attract attention from Democratic activists across the country to focus on the 140 Virginia state legislative seats up for election this November.
How have the DLCC’s Spotlight candidates invested in digital advertising and communication? We took a look at how much the 17 endorsed campaigns spent on Facebook advertising so far, and… it’s not a lot. These are races without a competitive primary, so the campaigns may be in less of a rush to spend big money on paid digital advertising than those that still need to clear the June primary. However that hasn’t stopped their GOP opponents – most of whom are also not facing a primary – from outspending the Spotlight Democrat in nearly every single district.
Investing early in a campaign’s digital infrastructure can boost name ID, build a list of supporters and create a network of small-dollar donors. And with the controversies from earlier in the year still lingering over Virginia Democrats, using digital advertising to draw attention to the Democrats’ legislative successes, like Medicaid expansion, and define their GOP opponents before they can define themselves could go a long way towards flipping Virginia blue.
With 2020 sucking up national attention, the DLCC is going all in to flip Virginia blue this year. With a large financial investment and an aggressive endorsement list, their efforts could help put the Commonwealth’s elections back on Democrats’ radars. And it could also help Democrats start to put money behind a digital program – since they have trailed their Republican opponents on that front.
If you (like us) want to do more to make sure Democrats take control of the Virginia House and Senate in 2019, reach out to us at [email protected] to learn more about what we’re planning for the 2019 state legislative elections.