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The 2020 Battleground Data Deep Dive

By Rebecca Rinkevich

As campaigns ramp up over the summer months, we took a deep dive into digital advertising data in competitive Senate races and Presidential battleground states to get a sense of the state of the race.

What did we find? Democrats are outspending their Republican counterparts across the board, and top GOP candidates are turning away from Trump to raise dollars and persuade voters.

Embattled and safe Republican candidates cut Trump from their ad campaigns.

After steady week over week spend on Facebook ads using Trump’s name, since June 27th, Cory Gardner, John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell have all cut their spend on ads featuring Trump in half. We’re seeing this trend play out across Senate battlegrounds, with incumbents in tight races taking down Trump ads in favor of ads featuring Senate leadership. Thom Tillis took down his ads featuring Donald Trump Jr and replaced with Majority Leader McConnell spots, Martha McSally paused ads featuring Trump, and Senator Collins continued to avoid associating herself with the president in digital ads, instead featuring Senator Cornyn. Cory Gardner released a slew of Senate leadership ads, including direct-to-cameras asks from Senators Blackburn, McConnell, Cruz, and Scott.

Democrats are outspending Republicans in every top tier Presidential and Senate battleground.

Over the last month (June 6-July 4), across the tightest races in the country, left-aligned groups and candidates are outpacing their right-leaning counterparts. In some cases by notable margins, such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Democrats have a $600k lead on Republicans in Facebook spend in each.

Biden is running a battleground persuasion program, Trump is not.

Joe Biden is running a full-throated battleground persuasion program while Trump’s operation hasn’t pivoted from the primary. While top-level spend shows Trump leading Biden in spend over this period across Facebook and Google ($21m to $17m from June 6-July 4) analyzing the substance of the ads provides greater insight into their impact. Over the last month, Biden has invested $8m on Facebook in anti-Trump ads, while Trump has spent only $3m on Facebook on anti-Biden ads. This indicates that Biden is investing heavily in anti-Trump persuasion, whereas Trump remains steadfast in his acquisition focus. This holds true across key swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, where Biden’s anti-Trump spend is often over double Trump’s opposition ads.

Republicans’ battleground persuasion lag is made even more stark when looking at spend across outside groups. Take for example, Pennsylvania, where the top four Democratic outside groups collectively outspend their only Republican counterpart, America First Action, 7:1 on Facebook from June 6 -July 4.

Democrats are spending a lot more money attacking Trump than the GOP spends attacking Biden.

From June 6-July 4, Democrat groups have vastly outspent GOP groups when it comes to attacking each other’s candidate. The top nine Democrat spenders on anti-Trump ads spent $5.8M on Facebook during this period, compared to $398,000 by the top nine Republican spenders attacking Biden.

Senate challengers continue to outspend Republican incumbents by wide margins.

Not only are Senate challengers reporting historic fundraising records, they are breaking records in digital investment as well. Democrats in every toss up race outspent their Republican counterparts, with Hickenlooper, Gideon, Kelly, and Cunningham all breaking $100k in weekly spend June 27-July 4.

For more data or to explore these points yourself, please visit our 2020 Campaign Tracker.

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