Digital ads launch left and right in CA recall election

Gov. Gavin Newsom spent six-figures in the last week shoring up his base

As it appears more and more likely that California will soon face a (very expensive) gubernatorial recall election, campaigns on both sides have launched early efforts to get voters in their corner. Incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom has acknowledged that the recall is likely happening, and he isn’t going to sit on his hands in the meantime.

Starting March 15th, Newsom’s campaign, under the disclaimer “Stop the Republican Recall of Governor Newsom” has already spent $128,888 on 41 Facebook ads and over $20k on Google Search + YouTube ads. Some of these ads are running in Spanish, while others include direct asks (en Inglés) from Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, but all of them paint the recall effort as a radical partisan exercise. One ad even goes so far as to connect the effort to QAnon and the January 6th riots (which, judging by the direction of the GOP’s state parties, isn’t too far off!).

For now, many of these Facebook ads are being primarily targeted at California women aged 35 and up, while some of the fundraising ads are being targeted to supporters nationwide. 

On the other side is one of the leading Republican candidates, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has spent just shy of $13,000 on Facebook, and $1,600 on Google ads in the past two weeks trying to beef up his grassroots support.

The Republican Governors Association is also just beginning to run some ads related to the recall.The group has so far invested just under $2k in four (4) Facebook ads under the “Fire Gavin Newsom” page and $0 on Google ads. These email acquisition ads are also mostly targeting older Californians, and they look like this:

That said, Republicans have at least one advantage: Facebook’s algorithms. In the past week, the top 10 Facebook posts that mention Gavin Newsom come from the following pages (in order of engagement according to Crowdtangle):

  1. Ben Shapiro

  2. Sean Hannity

  3. Kayleigh McEnany

  4. Dan Bongino

  5. Terrence K Williams

  6. Benny Johnson

  7. Fox & Friends

  8. Newsmax

  9. Sean Hannity

  10. Gavin Newsom

The right-wing media industry seems to be particularly incensed - or more likely, they’re trying to make their followers feel incensed - by the governor’s suggestion that the recall effort is being driven by white nationalists and supporters of the Jan. 6 insurrection.