Two minutes after Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced an official impeachment inquiry, the Trump campaign placed a new ad on Facebook, dropping $12,000 on an “Impeachment Poll” for its supporters.
Days later, the Trump campaign poured $8 million into a national television and digital ad campaign, releasing a television ad spinning the impeachment inquiry on unfounded conspiracy theories about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden. (CNN refused to air the ad, citing inaccuracies.)
All told, more than $13.6 million has been invested in trying to change public opinion on impeachment since the inquiry was announced, according to an analysis by Advertising Analytics, an ad monitoring company. In those four weeks of a rapidly escalating ad war, the messaging that will likely dominate the early stages of the election is coming into focus.
“If anyone is a history buff — and the Spanish Civil War was the precursor to World War II, when all the tactics got tested — then this is the Spanish Civil War for the upcoming presidential election ad wars,” said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco.
For President Trump and his Republican allies, any effort that counters the president, including impeachment, is painted as evidence of a vast, far-left conspiracy. In ads from the campaign and from the Republican National Committee, the alleged far-left assault is illustrated largely through repetitive mentions and images of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, two freshman Democrats known for their outspoken progressive values and criticism of Mr. Trump, but not as leaders of the impeachment inquiry.
Additionally, Republicans are presenting the inquiry as a diversion: Support of the inquiry, the ads state, means breaking the 2018 midterm election promises of focusing on key issues like improving health care and lowering drug prices.
Democrats, at first largely loath to talk much about the impeachment inquiry for fear of appearing to politicize the issue, have quickly been put on the defensive. But in $1.5 million in ads from House Majority Forward, a Democratic-aligned super PAC, launched in defense of the freshman Democrats targeted by Republicans, there is nary a mention of impeachment. Instead, they are positive ads focused largely on local accomplishments.
“Forget the noise,” one ad from House Majority Forward said in favor of Haley Stevens, a freshman Democrat in Michigan, noting she was “focused on Michigan and getting the job done.”
The biggest advertiser surrounding impeachment, unsurprisingly, is the Trump campaign. With a $150 million-plus war chest, the president’s re-election campaign has dominated paid messaging on all platforms, most visibly on Facebook, raising concerns among Democratic operatives about its control over the digital conversation.
Indeed, Mr. Trump is vastly outspending Democrats on Facebook. He tripled his overall weekly buy of Facebook ads as soon as the impeachment inquiry was announced, and has spent $1.25 million on impeachment ads over the four weeks following the announcement of the inquiry, dwarfing even Tom Steyer, the billionaire candidate flooding airwaves and websites to raise his profile.
But Mr. Trump’s targeting in impeachment ads on Facebook reflects a similar strategy seen in his social media presence: Rather than focusing on persuading independents or voters in states crucial to his re-election, he has instead targeted areas where he has broad support, with advertising designed to fire up his base.
[Make sense of the people, issues and ideas shaping American politics with our newsletter.]
More than 50 percent of his Facebook impeachment advertising is in states not competitive in 2020, according to an analysis of Facebook ads by Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic consultancy group. Just 9 percent of his ads are in the critical swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Ten percent went to Texas alone.
“Impeachment is just the latest tool that Trump’s using to enrage and activate the voters already in his corner,” said Daniel Scarvalone, a senior director at Bully Pulpit.
Notably, the Trump campaign put barely any resources online behind attacks on Mr. Biden, with roughly $78,000 in Facebook ads invoking some mention of Mr. Biden and his son’s business dealings in Ukraine, according to Bully Pulpit.
“You used to have to make an ad and air it on TV to get the media to fall for it,” said Mr. Goldstein. “Now you spend a couple thousand bucks on Facebook and have a press conference.”
The focus on Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Omar is evident in nearly every ad aligned with the president. In four ads from the Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group, that similarly target freshman Democratic representatives, members of the so-called Squad — which includes Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Ms. Omar, and Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib — are front and center. Perhaps unsurprisingly, strategists say it is because criticizing and using images of the Squad also appeals to the Republican targets for impeachment ads.
“They consistently test well in both focus groups and polling,” said Tom Schultz, vice president of campaigns for the Club for Growth, referring to the four congresswomen.
Though the impeachment inquiry is centered on Mr. Trump, part of the Republican Party’s strategy has been to target a core of freshman Democrats in swing districts and erode enthusiasm for impeachment in those areas, pitching support of the inquiry as ignoring progress on other issues. From Oct. 2-9, the R.N.C. spent $1.3 million on versions of these ads targeting 14 different Democratic house freshmen.
“Instead of fixing health care and lowering drug prices,” an ad from the Republican National Committee blares, the House freshman Democrats all vote “with the radicals for endless investigations of President Trump.”
The Republican effort forced House Majority Forward on the air, launching positive spots for 11 of the targeted House Democrats that focus on how they have worked to lower drug prices through Ms. Pelosi’s newly passed bill and other health care efforts.
“That’s why he’s doing the hard work others won’t,” one ad says in support of Representative Antonio Delgado, a freshman Democrat from a district in New York that Mr. Trump won in 2016. The ad goes on to say Mr. Delgado “took on the big drug companies to bring down the cost of prescription drugs.”
Though the Democratic presidential candidates have all tried to avoid focusing on impeachment, for fear of appearing to politicize it, many of the leading campaigns have still used impeachment in advertisements on Facebook to either drum up support or work toward donor acquisition.
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right: In America, nobody is above the law,” wrote the campaign of Senator Kamala Harris, which spent $36,000 on Facebook impeachment ads, according to Bully Pulpit. “Sign our card to thank Speaker Pelosi for taking up the cause of impeachment.”
“It’s time for Congress to step up and begin impeachment proceedings,” the campaign of Senator Elizabeth Warren posted in an ad. “Add your name if you agree with Elizabeth.” The Warren campaign spent about $70,000 on Facebook ads targeting impeachment, according to Bully Pulpit.
These ads, known in political operative speak as acquisition ads, are designed to help candidates gather data on potential supporters or donors and continue to target messages toward them.
But as a sign of just how vast the impeachment ad wars have become, one of the top spenders on Facebook wasn’t even a political entity. Instead, it was a spice company based in Wisconsin, Penzeys Spices, that dropped nearly $100,000 in just a week on ads calling for Mr. Trump’s impeachment.
“The political landscape of America is in for the type of sudden shift we haven’t seen in close to 50 years,” the company’s owner, Bill Penzey, wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday, outlining the next phase of its impeachment advertising plan. “You might want to buckle up.”
Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com