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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 all over the internet.
In 2018, a record number of women were sworn into Congress. After a century of women’s suffrage in America, female representation in Congress is now at an extraordinary…23 percent in the House of Representatives and 26 percent in the Senate. This week, to honor Women’s History Month, we’ll be looking at the digital campaigns of the women running for the U.S. Senate this cycle – of which there are quite a few.
Steve Bullock officially entered the Senate race in Montana this week with an absolutely campaign kickoff video (and a Bullock family TikTok brought to us by Bullock’s daughter). Shortly after news of Bullock’s decision broke, Steve Daines’ campaign quickly deployed red meat attack ads against the governor on Facebook.
When President Trump visited the CDC for what turned out to be an insane press conference on COVID-19, he was joined by David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and Doug Collins, giving us a photo that’s worth a thousand words.
And speaking of Collins and the coronavirus, the congressman self-quarantined after he learned he may have been exposed to it at CPAC this year. However, that doesn’t seem to have stopped him from campaigning: while under quarantine, Collins live-streamed a Q+A featuring questions he gathered from supporters on Facebook. Credit where credit’s due, this was a pretty smart way to make the most of a bad situation by staying engaged with voters online.
In Colorado, Andrew Romanoff won the Democratic Senate preference caucuses by more than 20 points over John Hickenlooper. However, the caucuses may not end up having any impact on the primary overall, and Romanoff has only spent $1,538 on FB + Google in the past month compared to Hickenlooper’s $136,385 in the same time period.
Now that Steve Bullock has made the Montana Senate race to unseat Steve Daines competitive, we’ll be regularly tracking digital spending in that race in the charts below. For now, Ernst and Daines are the only Republicans in competitive races who are outspending their Democratic challengers. But we’ll see if that holds when we get Bullock’s initial spending data next week.
Here’s how much each party’s Senate committees and Senate PACs have spent on digital ads so far this year.
Here’s how much each candidate in six competitive Senate races spent on Google + Facebook last week:
This week, it looks like all the Democrats in competitive races outspent their Republican opponents (except for Steve Bullock, whose data isn’t quite ready yet). Notably, Theresa Greenfield outspent Joni Ernst, so we may see Greenfield’s total spend catch up to Ernst’s in the coming weeks. Also of note: Corey Gardner seems to be ramping down his spending for the time being, and Thom Tillis continues to be all but absent from digital ads.
This cycle, eight women senators are running for re-election, and seven women are running to unseat incumbents. In Iowa and Maine, the state’s next senator will be a woman regardless of the outcome of the general election. Here’s a quick look at how much the women in competitive Senate races have spent on digital ads so far this year:
Amy McGrath – $808,920
Sara Gideon – $590,885
Barbara Bollier – $94,740
MJ Hegar – $45,240
Theresa Greenfield – $39,227
Tina Smith – $14,206
Jeanne Shaheen – $9,092
Teresa Tomlinson – $6,979
Sarah Riggs Amico – $2,472
Kelly Loeffler – $186,836
Martha McSally – $159,762
Susan Collins – $73,123
Joni Ernst – $59,595
Teresa Tomlinson, the former mayor of Columbus, Ga., has spent most of her digital budget on Facebook. Tomlinson’s campaign isn’t currently running any digital ads as of this writing, but her most recent ads there promote her endorsement from Democracy for America. Before that, she used her ads to promote her campaign’s new slogan: #GeorgiaGumption.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Amy McGrath is one of the biggest online spenders among all Senate candidates, and good thing, too – Mitch McConnell’s campaign is also a top spender online, having already spent nearly $500k on FB + Google so far this year.
Most recently, McGrath’s campaign has been running list building ads nationwide using Mitch McConnell to motivate supporters to sign up, and her campaign is ramping up their google spend for the first time this year with a YouTube ad featuring McGrath’s former superior officer in the U.S. Marines.
Judging by Barbara Bollier’s digital ads, you’d think that she’s already in a general election against Kris Kobach – which makes sense, considering Kobach lost statewide in Kansas last cycle. Most recently, her campaign has been using Facebook ads to fundraise off of him nationwide.
They have also targeted some ads exclusively to Kansas that compare Kobach to former Gov. Sam Brownback, whose extreme tax cuts all but cratered the state’s economy, education system, and infrastructure funding.
The Bollier campaign also rebuilt their website just this week. Their new site is a huge step up from the old one – instead of a one-page introduction to Bollier, voters who are trying to learn about her online can now read where she stands on the issues, get involved in the campaign, and score some merch.
In one of only two Senate races where the two candidates are both women, Theresa Greenfield in Iowa seems to be trying some new things in her digital strategy. First, her campaign (rather smartly) just started boosting a Des Moines Register story about their recent poll that showed Joni Ernst’s approval rating slipping. Second, their campaign is one of the first Senate campaigns we’ve seen that’s using Barack Obama’s image to gather emails.
Joni Ernst doesn’t seem to invest much money online, but she is quite active on social media organically. Her channels don’t seem to be particularly unique in their approach, as they primarily showcase Ernst on the trail. However, we’d like to note that almost every single one of her tweets gets ratio’d.
In the country’s other woman-led Senate race, Sara Gideon continues to blow almost everyone out of the water with her digital spending. Most recently, her campaign started testing dozens of fundraising ads that promote a recent poll that shows Gideon up four points over Susan Collins. And on top of her campaign continuing to promote positive footage from Gideon’s recent #SupperWithSara campaign, they’re also fundraising off a recent attack ad from the Susan Collins camp.
For her part, Susan Collins’ campaign isn’t investing much in digital ads, but recently they seem to be testing out a new messaging track. Previously her campaign incorporated Collins’ dog into their digital advertising (maybe to make her seem #relatable?), but they’ve now put out a handful of persuasion + list building ads that specifically highlight her work to support Mainers with Type I diabetes.
In Georgia, Kelly Loeffler’s brand is a Trump-loving, conservative businesswoman, and she’s holding steady to that in her digital advertising. Recently, her campaign started using Trump’s image for the first time. Previously, when it looked like Bernie Sanders had a very solid shot at the Democratic nomination, she ran red-meat list building video ads warning voters of ~socialism~ coming to Georgia.
In Arizona, Martha McSally, the other appointed Republican senator running to keep her seat, is one of the top spenders on Facebook + Google among Republican Senate candidates. But even still, McSally’s campaign is getting left in the dust by Mark Kelly’s digital spending + fundraising, and they’ve now incorporated that reality into their recent Facebook ads.
MJ Hegar is currently in a primary runoff to take on John Cornyn in Texas. She seems to be one of the only candidates that explicitly call for greater female representation in the Senate in her Facebook ads. Her campaign tested dozens of ads on that track, and they’re now testing a handful of ads promoting her endorsement from Emily’s List.
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! You can also check out our previous issues on our website, and be sure to click below to follow us on Twitter.