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The Campaigns’ Closing Digital Arguments

In just a few days polls will close on the 2020 election, the largest digital election in history. Presidential candidates alone spent close to $400M on Facebook and $300M on Google platforms. We took a look at the final weeks and what voters were seeing online.

After Election Day we look forward to publishing what we learned from having this data transparency for the past 2 years. You can explore that data yourself at 2020CampaignTracker.com.

The Final Digital Battlegrounds

In the final weeks we’ve seen both campaigns and party committees focus in on a handful of states. Pennsylvania and Florida are the top two of everyone’s spend except the RNC. The Presidential campaigns combined spent almost $12M on Facebook in Florida from Sept. 27th — Oct 24th and $9M in Pennsylvania.

The other top states for Facebook spend changed as the RNC ramped up spend in Arizona and Trump’s campaign slowed its spend in North Carolina:

And in Michigan — which Trump narrowly won in 2016 — Biden and the DNC are outspending their GOP counterparts in the final weeks.

It Comes Down to Turnout.

It always does, but in a pandemic turnout took on a brand new meaning. Instead of relying on millions of Americans to vote in-person on the same day, campaigns had to inform voters about early voting and voting-by-mail alternatives.

While Trump decries vote-by-mail in person, his campaign spends millions promoting it: Trump’s campaign spent $4.4M on Facebook ads from Sept. 27th — Oct. 24th telling supporters to request and return their ballots by mail.

But the Biden campaign outspent him: From Sept. 27th — Oct. 24th Biden spent $5.5M on Facebook ads telling people how exactly to vote-by-mail in their state and directing them to early voting stations.

In the COVID election, Trump didn’t talk about the virus, until he had it.

From Feb. 23rd — Oct. 3rd, Trump spent $565,500 on Facebook ads that mentioned COVID. But from Oct 4th — 24th he spent over $3M. A lot of these ads are about him beating the virus as well as boasting that prior to COVID we had the best economy the country had ever seen (examples here, here, and here).

Trump’s final Facebook ads are for his base.

From Sept 27th — Oct. 24th on Facebook, Trump’s campaign spent:

This is consistent with his entire campaign’s strategy. As Sara Fischer reported in Axios, with our data, Trump’s Facebook ads have largely fluctuated in conjunction with the news and stayed focused on topics that rally his base while Biden’s have remained focused on issues affecting Americans:

Most Democratic Senate hopefuls are ending their campaigns with a spend advantage

Almost every Democratic challenger to a competitive Republican seat is far out spending the incumbent:

… and then there’s Lindsey Graham.

In the final weeks no single Senate candidate has spent as much on Facebook as Sen. Lindsey Graham…. he’s just not spending it in South Carolina. Forced to fundraise deep into the race to keep up with his opponent, Sen. Graham has spent just 7% or $180,000 of his Facebook ad spend in October talking to South Carolina voters compared to Jaime Harrison’s $1.1M. Here’s where Sen. Graham’s money went instead:

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