FWIW: Campaign announcement season 

A look at the most - and least - digitally savvy U.S. Senate campaign launches

It’s that time of year - with the first quarter of 2021 behind us, candidates for statewide and federal office are kicking off the cycle and launching their campaigns with the hopes of raising boatloads of cash early on. The campaign launch process itself is critical to get right, because  a successful digital launch can generate incredible enthusiasm even outside of the state a candidate is running in - resulting in millions of $$ in early donations and a huge email list right out of the gate, which will pay dividends for the duration of the cycle.

For this week’s FWIW, we’re going to unofficially and somewhat subjectively 😂 score the digital launches of some of the 2022 U.S. Senate campaigns that have recently kicked off based on how well they seem to know how the internet works, but first…

By the numbers

Here are the top political spenders on Google advertising last week:

One of the newer top spenders on Google + YouTube ads is the End Citizens United + Let America Vote Action Fund partnership, which had already been running Snapchat ads supporting the For the People Act. Over the past few weeks, they’ve extended their digital ad campaign to YouTube, targeting similar states and their senators (e.g. Mark Kelly in Arizona, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, and a few others).

...And FWIW, here are the top spenders on political ads on Facebook from the past week:

Among the top Facebook ad spenders this week is Community Change Action, which has spent $94,229 on ads targeting mostly women over 65. The group doesn’t typically spend this much on Facebook advertising, but are leveraging digital ads to advocate for permanent + recurring federal benefits and raise awareness of oppressive voting laws.

Finally, here are the top spenders on political ads on Snapchat so far this year. We are not seeing any new or notable spending to report on the platform. 

It’s campaign announcement season

It seems like every few days a new contender is throwing their hat in the ring to run for U.S. Senate from North Carolina to Alaska. As launch days are some of the most important moments of a candidate’s campaign (especially for fundraising and making an early splash in the press), we thought we’d rate some of the biggest announcements we’ve seen so far based on, well, how digital savvy your trusted FWIW writers think they’ve been. Let’s dig in:

Charles Booker (KY) 🐎

Booker, who came within 16,000 votes of pulling an upset in Kentucky’s Democratic Senate primary last year, has launched an exploratory committee to run against Sen. Rand Paul. If he does end up running and wins the primary this go-round, his odds of flipping the seat are very, very low given Mitch McConnell won re-election last year by nearly 20 percentage points. In any case, check out his campaign launch video (complete with a tracked ActBlue url, of course) here:

If nothing else, Booker and his team clearly have a high level of digital competency. The organization he founded, Hood to the Holler, is working to raise money and create pipelines in order to build the political infrastructure that will be required to make such heavily GOP states viable for progressive candidates up and down the ballot. 

Launch date: April 12th

Launch video views:

On Facebook: 65.8k

On Twitter: 436.7k

On YT: 833

On Insta: 47.9k

Digital ad dollars spent so far? ~$25k

Knows how to use the internet? Definitely

Sarah Godlewski (WI) 🧀

Democrats are eager to rid the U.S. Senate Sen. Ron Johnson, to put it mildly. While the Wisconsin Democratic Party has become a powerful force, leading to an upset win for Democrats in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, winning the state for Joe Biden, and most recently, holding Tony Evers’ former statewide office by a landslide,Wisconsin is still an evenly split state politically. Ron Johnson has won statewide elections there twice already, and who knows what malarkey the state’s GOP legislators will get up to in order to cling to power.

Enter State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, one of the Democrats’ top recruits so far. She just launched her campaign this week, so it’s hard to properly judge her team’s digital chops for now, but we can give them credit for running digital ads right out of the gate, and her Senate campaign website (those Packers colors!) is pretty solid too. 

Launch date: April 14th

Launch video views 

On Facebook: 63.9k

On Twitter: 270.5k

On YT: 22k

On Insta: 4k

Digital ad dollars spent so far? ~$8k

Knows how to use the internet? Definitely

Eric Greitens (MO) 🍻

Before we say anything about this man’s campaign chops, remember that this former governor was nearly impeached and resigned from his office in disgrace after it was revealed that he sexually assaulted and blackmailed a woman while still married to his wife. 

Before that incident, Missouri voters elected him twice, so maybe that’s why Greitens thinks he can snake his way back into power by running for Senate. His budget campaign launch video is dripping with conspiracy theories and dog whistles, and indicates that he’s trying to ride Donald Trump’s coattails amongst the state’s GOP base to the nomination and the Senate. Across social media channels, however, his launch video came in the form of a Fox News clip with “straight news” anchor Bret Baier. So far, it doesn’t seem like what he’s doing is working very well.

Launch date: March 22nd

Launch video views 

On Facebook: 57.1k

On Twitter: 193k

On YT: 3.9k

On Insta: 2.9k

Digital ad dollars spent so far? $0

Knows how to use the internet? Maybe

Pat McCrory (NC) 🍳

Remember North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,”which required trans people to use public bathrooms that align with the gender they were assigned at birth? This guy signed it into law, and now he’s running for the open U.S. Senate seat there. Judging by his campaign launch video, it looks like he’ll mostly be focusing his campaign as a run against Vice President Harris since she currently presides over the Senate. 

This will likely be one of the most competitive Senate races in the country next year. In the GOP primary alone, he’s running against former Rep. Mark Walker, and may also have to run against Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara, Rep. Ted Budd, and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. The Democrats, meanwhile, have a deep bench of declared and potential candidates, including State Rep. Jeff Jackson, who has already raised nearly $1.3 million.

Launch date: April 14th

Launch video views 

On Facebook: 17.5k

On Twitter: 43.9k

On YT: 1,299

On Insta: N/A (he doesn’t have a campaign IG)

Digital ad dollars spent so far? $0

Knows how to use the internet? That’s a no from us, Pat

Kelly Tshibaka (AK) 🏔

Lisa Murkowski is the only Republican senator up for re-election this cycle who voted to convict Donald Trump after his second impeachment trial, which some would have you believe makes her a vulnerable incumbent. We’ll never forget how Murkowski got over 100,000 Alaskans to write-in “L-I-S-A M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I” in 2010, so her current vulnerability remains to be seen, but her vote has already made her a target for the vindictive former president and his lackeys and followers, like former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner Kelly Tshibaka.

At a crawling 5 minutes 8 seconds, her launch video is a little on the long side, but we’re gonna give her credit for her honestly pretty slick campaign website and the fact that her Facebook page has a Messenger bot.

Launch date: March 29th

Launch video views 

On Facebook: 37.4k

On Twitter: 204.7k

On YT: 226 views

On Insta: 0 (she didn’t post it to her campaign IG)

Digital ad dollars spent so far? $6,379

Knows how to use the internet? Sort of

Chuck Schumer (NY) 🗽

OK, this isn’t really a campaign launch, but we’ve got to mention the Senate Majority Leader’s first re-election video ad of the cycle. Maybe he’s worried about a primary challenger, maybe his team is running a full-fledged campaign regardless - but his campaign launched these video ads last friday on Snapchat and Google.

So far, Schumer’s campaign has spent $5,473 running this ad on Snapchat targeting folks under 40 and at least $3,700 running this ad on YouTube, all targeting NYC (but excluding Staten Island) on both platforms.

Schumer’s campaign has also been actively fundraising and collecting emails on Facebook, spending $41,510 on traditional fundraising ads since March 25th.

Knows how to use the internet? Definitely

Honorable mentions

We recognize that these are hardly the only candidates who’ve recently launched campaigns in competitive Senate races. John Fetterman in Pennsylvania raised nearly $4 MILLION in Q1, his primary opponent Malcolm Kenyatta is running an A++ campaign, and Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly, Raphael Warnock, Catherine Cortez-Masto, and Maggie Hassan each pulled seven-figure fundraising hauls last quarter. 💣

Now, with the FEC’s Q1 fundraising deadline behind us, we’ll soon see how other campaigns’ digital launches went for them. We’d love to hear your thoughts - let us know on Twitter @fwiwnews!