Welcome to the Senate FYI! 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 online.
Democrats now have a wide path to flipping the Senate, with the most likely route going through Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina. As the cycle’s progressed, Democratic candidates have also become competitive in places like Iowa, Georgia, and Montana. With fewer than 20 days to go, the path might be wider still, with three more conservative-leaning states coming into play: Alaska, Kansas, and South Carolina!
Over the past few weeks, we’ve done a deep dive into the state of the digital race in both Alaska and Kansas. In this week’s Senate FYI, we’re taking a look at the newly red-hot race between Jaime Harrison and Lindsey Graham in the Palmetto State.
The Kentucky Senate debate went down on Monday. Dr. Evil himself, Mitch McConnell, laughed off (or did his best impression of a human laugh) his own party’s glaring inaction towards COVID-19 relief, but Amy McGrath didn’t come to play.
Gabby Giffords voiced a touching new ad about her husband Mark Kelly, their relationship, and Kelly’s commitment to service .
The Cook Political report moved the Alaska and Texas Senate races from Likely R to Lean R, and the Georgia special Senate race from Lean R to Toss Up. This shift is driving a change in their Senate projection to a net gain range of two to seven seats for the Democrats.
We’re in the final sprint with just 19 days to election day. Over the past week, Democrats have continued to outspend their Republican opponents on digital by big margins in every race.
In Iowa, Theresa Greenfield’s lead over Joni Ernst in digital spending keeps expanding, and Mark Kelly and Sarah Gideon are blowing their opponents out of the water. In North Carolina, the Cunningham campaign did decrease their digital spending by 47% last week, but given Tillis’ consistently low Facebook spends, we’re still not convinced that he knows what Facebook is 🤷.
Outside groups are dropping the hammer for Democrats in the home stretch, with the DSCC spending nearly doubling that of the NRSC. But, Senate Republicans aren’t going without a fight. McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund is reported to have dropped $22.5M in eight Senate races starting Tuesday. Just like last week, another $700k of that is being spent on digital against Cunningham.
Majority Forward, the 501(c)4 nonprofit affiliated with Senate Majority PAC, is also back on the board. Notably, they spent over $200k on FB ads last week, and almost all of it went to targeting Georgia with pro-Warnock, pro-Ossoff, and Spanish-language GOTV ads.
In-state Facebook targeting favors the Democrats across the board. In Montana, we are continuing to see Daines aim most of his money towards out-of-state digital spends, whereas Bullock, who’s spending more and more on FB with each passing week, invests for more in targeting Montanans.
Now that we’re well into GOTV with less than 20 days to go, Democrats are investing in their home states, with candidates like Mark Kelly and Jaime Harrison running a number of ads reminding people to submit their ballots by mail or vote in person.
South Carolina hasn’t gone blue in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter in 1976, and the last Democrat to be elected to the Senate there was in 1998. But recent polls are showing a much tighter than expected race in the Palmetto state, and the Cook Political Report rates SC-Sen as a Toss Up. Over the past few weeks, a Democratic victory in South Carolina has become increasingly plausible.
The changing demographics of South Carolina show an opening for Harrison to win. Non-white voters now make up nearly a third of the state’s eligible voters, and Joe Cunningham’s 2018 surprise win in South Carolina’s first congressional district suggests that the state may have an appetite for young, independent-minded Democrats who eschew partisan fighting.
Fueled by increased energy on the Left following Lindsey Graham’s SCOTUS hypocrisy, a knock-out debate performance, and a record-smashing quarterly fundraising total of $57 million, Harrison is turning up the heat on Graham. He’s launched a massive digital campaign, investing $8.8 million on Facebook and $4.1 million on Google/YouTube over the course of the race.
When it comes to Facebook, Harrison has the resources to make heavy investments in both out-of-state fundraising ads and in-state GOTV and persuasion ads, which is no surprise given his massive third quarter cash haul. Facebook targeting data shows us that Harrison likely sees his path to victory running through suburban women, like those in the suburbs of Charleston that were likely key to Cunningham’s win in 2018. Most of his recent persuasive ads, both pro-Harrison and anti-Graham, target middle-aged and older women.
Graham’s total spending on digital has trailed well behind Harrison’s on both Facebook and Google for almost the entire race so far. While he is running a significant amount of fundraising ads that criticize Harrison for receiving outside “liberal money,” Graham is using the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings in a number of persuasion ads targeting older South Carolinian women. In addition, he’s attacking Harrison for being “too liberal for South Carolina.”
Graham’s Google spending has skyrocketed since September.. There, Team Graham is targeting SC-01 with ads tying Harrison to Hillary Clinton 🙄 and a large swath of rural and suburban South Carolina with ads touting his military background.
And that’s it for this week! See any interesting posts or digital ads from Senate candidates that we missed? See ads or digital strategies that we should note? Send us an email! You can also check out our previous issues on our website, and be sure to check out our online dashboard for a detailed breakdown of candidates’ digital spending.