Welcome to The Senate FYI, where we track the digital battle for the U.S. Senate. Each week, we take a look at who’s up and who’s down in competitive Senate races across the county, and how it’s playing online.
Welcome to the SenateFYI! Each week, we’ll track how the battle to flip the Senate is playing out where voters get their information – online. We’ll monitor spending on digital advertising, as well as watch how the campaigns are engaging supporters and voters all over the internet.
In the news:
Pro-Trump PAC, America First Policies, spent over $80k on Facebook ads this week. For the most part, the ads either attack Democrats for “socialism” or thank vulnerable GOP Senators for supporting Trump during the impeachment trial.
In Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner walked into 2020 with $7.8 million in the bank, while former Gov. John Hickenlooper trailed with $3.2 million. In Maine, Democratic candidate Sara Gideon raised $3.2 million while incumbent Sen. Susan Collins only brought in $2.3 million in Q4.
By the numbers:
Democrats in almost every battleground state continue to lead their opponents in digital spending, especially Mark Kelly in Arizona and Sara Gideon in Maine.
This week, the NRSC spent $47,150 on Facebook and Google ads while the DSCC spent $143,831.
Here is how much each candidate spent on Google + Facebook last week:
Around the country:
With all eyes on Iowa, both Theresa Greenfield and Sen. Joni Ernst took advantage of the first caucuses. However, Greenfield deployed a tactic we haven’t seen. In a lighthearted bid to collect phone numbers, she invited folks to play Iowa-themed trivia on caucus night.
This is a brilliant move to draw attention to her candidacy on caucus night, all the while collecting valuable cell phone numbers and other data from supporters.
On the other hand, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the trip to Iowa for the Republican caucuses as part of the Trump team’s broader effort to flood the state with his surrogates. Ernst used the moment as an opportunity to have one of Trump’s most visible allies advocate for her campaign.
All eyes were on Sen. Susan Collins as President Trump’s impeachment trial made its way through the Senate. While Collins ultimately voted “Yay” to bring witnesses, Democratic frontrunner Sara Gideon used her Facebook ads to push that Collins only did so because she got “permission” from Mitch McConnell.
Collins fought against these claims, saying that she doesn’t run her votes by anyone. However, there are outside groups like MaineMomentum, who state that the majority of Mainers believe that Sen. Collins sides with big corporations.
Late last month, Sen. Martha McSally called a CNN reporter a “liberal hack.” Rather than toning it down, she’s cashing in on the moment with a new line of t-shirts in her campaign’s merch store.
McSally is likely using the merch to appeal to hardcore Trump supporters in Arizona and turn them into walking billboards for her campaign. Still, one anti-Trump Republican group, The Lincoln Project, appears to be deeply ashamed of McSally’s representation of the Republican Party. In a recent Facebook ad, they turned around McSally’s comments and labeled her a “Trump Hack.” Liberal group Arizona Progressives is even promoting The Lincoln Project’s campaign. How ‘bout that for bipartisanship 🤟
Meanwhile, Kelly keeps bringing in those stacks on stacks on stacks. The former astronaut raised close to $19.8 million with $13.6 million cash-on-hand in 2019, while Sen. McSally raised $11.8 million with close to $7.7 million on hand. Kelly has had a lot of help from outside groups too, several of which have been running fundraising ads for him on Facebook for months.
Reverend Raphael Warnock just entered the ring in Georgia’s special election against the appointed Republican, Sen. Kelly Loeffler. In this election’s nonpartisan primary, he’ll be fighting former Sen. Joe Lieberman’s son, Matt Lieberman, for a spot in the general election. The reverend has only been in the race for a week, and he’s already spent over $95k on Facebook and Google ads () while Lieberman spent just $6,619 this week between the two platforms. The two are playing nice as both of them only seem to be running ads attacking Republicans…for now.
Loeffler, who is in the rather bizarre position of having to introduce herself to voters after taking office, is running biographical ads that connect her business experience to Trump’s. Despite the thinking that she would bring suburban voters back to the GOP, Loeffler has been mirroring Trump’s incendiary brand from day one, in what seems to be an attempt to resonate with the president’s base in the state.
After finally deciding to jump in the race, Rep. Doug Collins’ initial digital ad creative looks pretty mundane to us. His Facebook ads are mainly a kick-off for his Trump lovin’ Senate campaign.
That’s it for this week! Have races or candidates you think we should watch? See ads or digital strategies that we should note? Send us an email! Forward this email to a few friends, or follow @anotheracronym on Twitter!