China dominates early midterm ads
Democratic candidates dip their toes in anti-China messaging, as Republicans go absolutely wild
Donald Trump may not be on the ballot in this year’s midterm elections, but one of his favorite political attack lines is flooding the airwaves from North Carolina to Ohio. Across the country, candidates are increasingly using “soft on China” attacks to slander their rivals or curry favor with presumably working-class voters.
While China has been a popular foil for Republican candidates for the past few years, we’ve recently noticed Democratic candidates dipping their toes in anti-China messaging in a few places. In this week’s FWIW, we’ll take a look at what we’re seeing + more. But first…
By the numbers:
FWIW, here were the top-spending political advertisers on Meta platforms (Facebook + Instagram) last week:
Yesterday was the end-of-quarter FEC fundraising deadline for campaigns - a time when candidates flood inboxes and social media feeds with last-minute appeals for cash. You wouldn’t know that from Pennsylvania’s hotly-contested Democratic Senate primary though. While we saw Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s campaign up with the usual deadline-driven ads, State Rep Malcolm Kenyatta and Rep. Conor Lamb’s campaigns were radio-silent. A closer look reveals that both of Fetterman's rivals haven’t spent anything on digital advertising in weeks. We’re the first to say that digital advertising ain’t everything - but grassroots fundraising at this stage of the game is critical, and those two campaigns look like they’re either throwing in the towel, or counting on outside help to get them across the finish line.
We have long highlighted the power of right-wing media sites like Prager U and the Daily Wire when it comes to Facebook advertising and engagement. This week, Axios reported that the Daily Wire is expanding its operations to launch Daily Wire Kids, a $100 million dollar effort to produce entertaining, “counter-cultural” children's content to compete with what they call “Woke Disney.” In announcing their expansion, the company’s co-CEO gave a town hall-style address where he laid out the company’s business model and vision. It’s (unfortunately) worth a watch.
Meanwhile, here were the top-spending political advertisers on Google platforms last week, including YouTube:
Democrats continued their blue sweep of Google & YouTube advertising last week, with the top spender for the second week in a row being liberal Super PAC Priorities USA. The bulk of their YouTube spending went to attacking Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and his primary challenger, David Perdue, in an attempt to soften the ground for Stacey Abrams’ candidacy this fall. The ads highlight GOP opposition to affordable healthcare, voting rights, and David Perdue’s corruption.
…Lastly, here are the top political ad spenders on Snapchat so far this year:
Midterm spending takeaways:
The midterms are here, and we’ve been keeping a close eye on digital ad spending in key Senate, House, and Gubernatorial contests. For full access to the most comprehensive dataset of midterm digital spending, become a paying subscriber here. >>
Raphael Warnock was the top-spending battleground Senate candidate on digital ads last week (view Senate data).
Stacey Abrams was the top spending battleground Gubernatorial candidate on digital ads last week (view Gov data).
OR-6 was the most expensive swing U.S. House district race online last week.
Tracking the online climate conversation
How are climate groups + polluters advertising online? What are the top trending social media posts about climate change each week? How are climate and energy issues playing in the midterm elections? Every Thursday, we partner with the Digital Climate Coalition to answer those questions and more in a weekly newsletter called Climate Monitor. Read this week’s issue + subscribe for free >>
New from Campaigner:
What’s it like transitioning from being a digital staffer and team leader to a campaign manager? How are the roles and pressures different between larger and smaller campaigns? In this week’s Q&A, we asked Alaina Haworth for her thoughts on those questions and more. Haworth is currently Campaign Manager for a DC Attorney General campaign, and last year served as Digital Director for former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Read the interview here>>
A rising China dominates early midterm ads
In 2020, the NRSC put out 57-page memo telling candidates to “blame China” as a way to divert attention from then-President Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. Ever since then, attacking China has been a feature of dozens, if not hundreds of Republican campaigns up and down the ballot.
A cursory search this week revealed at least 77 Republican politicians and outside groups running Facebook ads mentioning China in just the last month alone.