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.
In one of the most significant moments in American history, Joe Biden has tapped Kamala Harris to be his running mate, making her the first Black woman, the first HBCU alumnus, and the first Indian-American woman to ever run for vice president for a major political party.
It’s probable that both Democratic and Republican Senate campaigns were anticipating the choice. Almost as soon as it was announced – via SMS, no less! – candidates were out with their congratulations + statements online. In this week’s Senate FYI, we take a look at how some of the candidates are starting to talk to their supporters online about this historic moment.
Among a drought of good public polls in Maine, a new poll from Bangor Daily News found that Sara Gideon leads Susan Collins among likely voters in the state by five points – about in-line with previous public polling in the state.
We’ve criticized Republican campaigns for being in disarray in this newsletter, but the Roger Marshall campaign went above and beyond to prove us wrong by practically just copying and pasting Kelly Loeffler’s economic plan onto their own website.
Speaking of Kansas – many political prognosticators predicted that the Senate race there would be a lock for Republicans if they avoided nominating Kris Kobach. However, a SurveyUSA poll of likely voters in the state found that Marshall was only leading Barbara Bollier by two points.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen some stability in digital spending trends among key Senate campaigns, with one notable exception that we’ll touch on shortly. While Mark Kelly remains a big-dollar outlier here, more campaigns are really spending some major $$ as the remaining days until E-Day fly by.
Last week, the DSCC spent over $627k on Google ads, which is almost a 6,000 percent increase in spending over the previous week, when they only spent about $10k. Almost all of this new spending went toward promoting variations of this fundraising ask from Chuck Schumer featuring Stacey Abrams on YouTube. And just as well, too, since the DSCC apparently had their best online fundraising day in committee history after Harris was announced for VP.
Like we said, it would appear that quite a few of these Senate campaigns have settled into a steady spending pattern on FB + Google ads. Some, like Steve Bullock, have been sitting pretty at spending about $50k each week on the platforms. Steve Daines, however, has started spending even more there. Last week, the Daines campaign spent about $190k on digital ads, and they spent $134k and $95k in the previous two weeks.
Kamala Harris’ official re-entry into the presidential race is likely to reshape the dynamics of this election cycle in the 80 or so days until Election Day, but for now, let’s take a look at how candidates for Senate races are reacting to the development in their online channels.
First, let’s look at the Democrats. Quite a few campaigns seemed to have let the news speak for itself and said nothing the day of the announcement, but those who did choose to remark on it online were universal in their praise.
On candidates’ Twitter + Facebook organic feeds, the praise took all forms. MJ Hegar called her a badass when she quote-tweeted that iconic clip of Harris taking down John Cornyn on the Senate floor. Jaime Harrison brought back a tweet from the 2012 DNC, when she was still the attorney general of California. Gary Peters even put out a new merch shirt! On Instagram, campaigns that chose to applaud the choice dug up and posted pictures of their candidates with Harris.
Reactions from Republican Senate candidates were predictably vitriolic, and most apparently stuck with the ever-tried-and-true tactic of calling Harris an extreme liberal socialist, but it’s pretty clear the party hasn’t figured out their angle on her yet. If their digital teams were shooting for engagement on their responses, they certainly got it – check out those sweet, sweet ratios.
However, the campaigns’ reactions to Harris’ elevation wasn’t limited to social; a good few are using it to fundraise off their email lists. Martha McSally, Gary Peters, Jeanne Shaheen, and Jon Ossoff are among those who have already tapped into their lists in the first days since the announcement.
Some of those, like Ossoff, are trying to tap into the energy around the pick: “feel the excitement. This is happening. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is a dream ticket.” Peters, on the other hand, used similar generic language to maintain his list: “Folks, I’m proud to share the ballot this November with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as they work to unite our country.”
Unsurprisingly, the McSally campaign went straight for the red meat in their fundraising email: “Kamala Harris orchestrated the vicious personal attacks against Justice Kavanaugh and is as radical and liberal as they come. Joe Biden is surrounding himself with far-left Democrats, and if Arizona turns blue, they will have complete control! We need to fight back NOW. Can you make an immediate donation to defend the Senate and stop a far-left takeover?”
On a final note, it would appear that the Ernst campaign is trying to go through the press to attack Theresa Greenfield, who has yet to comment on the pick. However, we imagine Greenfield hasn’t done so yet because her campaign is probably focused on addressing the catastrophic derecho that devastated the state practically overnight on Tuesday.
That’s it for this week! In the meantime – see any interesting posts, emails, or texts about Kamala Harris from Senate candidates that we missed? 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.