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.
This week, Mitch McConnell hinted at a willingness to accept a COVID-19 stimulus package hashed out between the White House and Democrats of both chambers of Congress. However, some vulnerable Senate Republicans, anxious not to go home and face their constituents empty-handed, are still pushing for results on the bill sooner rather than later.
As we get closer and closer to election day, campaigns are heating up their tactics in more ways than just pushing for results on relief. They’re using more and more opposition research against their opponents to attack them in digital ads and on social media to distract from the slim records most of them have to run on.
Rep. Roger Marshall handily defeated Kris Kobach to win the Senate GOP Primary in Kansas this week. Marshall will go up against Barbara Bollier. Bollier has significantly outraised Marshall so far though, which may explain why One Nation is reportedly going up with $4.2 million worth of ads starting tomorrow.
Players on the Atlanta Dream WNBA team showed support for Raphael Warnock in response to Kelly Loeffler, who co-owns the team and who has been relentlessly attacking the Black Lives Matter movement in her campaign.
After Sen. Joni Ernst criticized Theresa Greenfield for “hiding in the basement with her dog Ringo,” Greenfield’s campaign quickly fundraised off the remark and her adorable good good boy. As a result, the campaign had its best single fundraising day in July, raising $132,000.
It looks like across the board, most campaigns have increased their spending last week from the previous week. Here’s how much the candidates in seven key races have spent on Google + FB ads so far this year.
The NRSC has increased their spending pretty significantly as well, almost closing the gap between themselves and the DSCC by ramping up their spending on attack ads on YouTube.
The NRSC wasn’t the only one to do so, however. Majority Forward has started running ads against Thom Tillis, Joni Ernst, and Cory Gardner on YouTube, and the Senate Leadership Fund, which has been inactive in paid digital media since March, ran a slate of attack ads against Kris Kobach in the run-up to this week’s primary.
Democrats continue to outspend Republicans on digital in virtually every race besides Montana and Iowa, where Steve Daines and Joni Ernst continue to outspend their Democratic challengers.
Last week, we covered how some Senate Republicans have been attempting to run on their paper-thin records. This week, we take a look at the other side of that coin.
When you have a record you’re not proud to show off to voters, it’s much easier to use bad faith attacks against your opponent and just hope that you’ll look more appealing to voters by comparison. That seems to be the tactic that many Republican senators are using in their campaigns this cycle, both in digital ads and on social media.
First up, in Iowa, Joni Ernst has been accusing Theresa Greenfield of lying about not taking corporate donations. Ernst alleges that Greenfield has taken over $500K from “corporate lobbyists, executives, and CEOs from big oil and big pharma.”
In fact, Greenfield pledged to not take money from corporate PACs, not individuals who work for corporations, which is common practice these days. That said, it’s interesting that the Ernst campaign is using this angle, since they’ve received thousands of dollars from big oil CEOs.
In Arizona, Martha McSally has been running ads for weeks about Mark Kelly’s practically coincidental connections to China. The ads falsely allege that Kelly has “shady ties to China” and that the company he co-founded is funded by a Chinese company. McSally seems to be using this to cast doubt on Kelly’s ability to “hold China accountable” and fight for Arizonans and America as a whole.
McSally has had backing from Trump and the NRSC in this endeavor as well. One of McSally’s ads features a quote from Trump calling Kelly’s ties to China “shady.” Also, for about six weeks, the NRSC was running Facebook ads similar to McSally’s about Kelly’s “ties to China” on a Facebook page called “Big Money Mark Kelly.”
Cory Gardner is going after John Hickenlooper on social media for Hickenlooper’s alleged ethics violations. Gardner is urging Hickenlooper to pay back the money from his legal fees for the ethics hearing and is alleging that the money for his lawyer came from a 9/11 recovery fund.
That’s it for this week! In the meantime – see any interesting posts, emails, or texts about the pandemic 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.