One of 2022’s most-watched congressional races is already underway

A first look at the digital race to unseat Lauren Boebert in CO-03

The exact makeup of Colorado’s 3rd congressional district may change between now and Election Day 2022 now that an independent commission is now in charge of congressional redistricting in the state, but Facebook’s algorithms will probably still advantage the state’s gun-toting QAnon Caucus member. To flip Colorado’s 3rd congressional district from red to blue and make Lauren Boebert a one-term member of Congress, whoever challenges her will have to raise a ton of early money and run a robust digital program to cut through Boebert’s constant distractions and disinformation.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail)  may be poised to do just that. Her campaign raised more than $630,000 in less than 55 days, showing enormous grassroots energy to beat Boebert next year. 

How’d she raise that much? Well, Facebook advertising, for one. Here’s how much Donovan, Boebert, and less-hyped Dem challenger Rep. Donald Valdez have spent on Facebook ads this year:

Donovan’s viral campaign launch vid racked up over 900k views on Twitter, 14.6k on Facebook, and 2.2k on Instagram, and her team capitalized on that launch to run loads of fundraising ads over the past two months. Here’s what some of her first ads look like:

For now, it appears that the Donovan campaign’s ads have mostly been distributed to older folks. Their geotargeting also shows a slight preference for Coloradans, but they’re still mostly targeted to potential Democratic grassroots donors nationwide. Their Google Search ads are also targeted nationwide. For example, here’s the targeting info for the first Facebook ad above:

Donald Valdez, the only other Democrat running digital ads in this race, is running a similar, albeit smaller, campaign on Facebook. They’re also using Boebert and her conspiratorial tendencies to fundraise, but unlike Donovan (for now), Valdez himself is doing some direct to camera fundraising pleas in some of his ads. 

As for the QAnoner herself, she has also been trying to fundraise on Facebook, but along pretty predictable reactionary lines. One ad, targeted exclusively at men and especially older men, just reads, “Democrats are trying to fundamentally change America. Help me fight back!” Here’s a taste of some of her other recent fundraising ads, which are also overwhelmingly targeted nationwide at older men:

However, while Boebert hasn’t spent nearly as much on digital ads as Donovan so far, she doesn’t necessarily have to in order to reach tens of thousands of eyeballs on Facebook. According to the Facebook Ad Library, the Donovan campaign spent $4k - $4.5k on one set of four ads that got 100k - 125k impressions on the platform, while Boebert, with over 110,000 followers, can just post a selfie video asking for donations and it’ll get over 73,000 views in a matter of days.

Since Boebert is and will (unfortunately) continue to be a high-profile noise-maker, we fully expect her strength on social media to endure throughout the cycle. And regardless of whether Donovan, Valdez, or another Democrat wins the nomination to run against her, they’ll almost certainly have to run big paid digital campaigns like we’re already seeing to match Boebert’s built-in advantages on social media.

PS - want to help move the needle? You can click here to donate to Donovan, the CO Dem Party, or Valdez’s campaign.

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