What to do when it’s go time
As 2024 kicks into gear, veteran campaigners break down what makes a successful campaign launch
Believe it or not, we’re already in the middle of 2024’s campaign launch season - as Senate, House, gubernatorial, and presidential hopefuls are making splashy announcements of their candidacies in attempts to raise boatloads of money. Launches nowadays are mostly online affairs - where campaigns use every channel possible to reach supporters and inspire them to become donors.
In this week’s FWIW, I asked three leading Democratic strategists with experience launching campaigns for their thoughts on what makes a successful day one. But first…
By the numbers
FWIW, here were the top-spending political advertisers on Facebook + Instagram last week:
One of the top-spending political advertisers on Facebook in recent weeks has been a group called Our America, which has spent $160,000 in the past 90 days on seemingly innocuous ads calling for America to come together and “unite.”
A closer look at the group reveals political motives that are at odds with its current “unity” message. Our America’s first ad campaign in April 2022 stated “The Radical Left is overtly anti-American”, and on Wednesday, it launched new ads about election integrity, school choice, and against defunding the police. A press release from last summer says that it already had “over 125,000 email subscribers” and Its leadership consists of figures from “Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives” and the conservative Atlas Network. As a result of its ad campaigns, the Our America Facebook page has grown its following from zero to over 51,000 in just nine months.
Meanwhile, here were the top-spending political advertisers on Google and YouTube last week:
Google and YouTube spending was minimal last week, but I did find that Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign in waiting, Stand for America PAC, was among the top 10 political advertisers on these types of ads. Haley is rumored to be planning a campaign launch in February.
…and here’s a quick look at political ad spending on Snapchat, year-to-date.
Meanwhile, in Texas… #Sponsored
With a new legislative session officially underway, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is pushing hard for a voucher bill to gut an already understaffed and underfunded public school system. Watch, RT + follow @TexasHeritage_ to support the “genius” new video by our friends at Texas Public Heritage to expose what's really going on behind the pro-voucher camp's bland 'school choice' branding:
From around the internet
Google is ending its verified sender program, which allowed political fundraising emails to bypass spam filters. Read what it means via AXIOS>>
Franklin Graham, who runs a conservative Facebook mega-page with over 10 million followers, says he's going to stay out of the 2024 presidential primary
Speaking of conservative influencers, Donald Trump hosted the people behind Libs of TikTok and the Babylon Bee at his Mar-a-Lago estate this week. IMO, It’s a smart strategic move.
The Cook Political Report has released its initial race ratings for 2024 Senate races, and the picture is expectedly bleak for Democrats. Take a look here >>
He’s back…and he never left
Facebook parent company Meta announced on Wednesday that former President Trump will be allowed to return to its platforms in the coming weeks. In one important way, he never left - since his suspension, Trump’s political committee has still been allowed to run fundraising ads, spending over $2.2 million doing so.
While Meta’s announcement included news that the company will set guardrails for content moderation on his account, a spokesperson confirmed this week that the former President will be allowed to spread lies about the 2020 election with no consequences - as long as he doesn't cast doubt on the integrity of the next election. It’s an unbelievably stupid distinction from a company that certainly knows better.
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What to do when it’s go time
Believe it or not, we’re already in the middle of 2024’s campaign launch season - as Senate, House, gubernatorial, and presidential hopefuls are making splashy announcements of their candidacies in attempts to raise boatloads of money. Launches nowadays are mostly online affairs - where campaigns use every channel possible to reach supporters and build momentum.
I asked three leading Democratic strategists with experience launching campaigns for their thoughts on what makes a successful day one. Everyone agreed on one thing: success means posting big fundraising numbers.
“Fundraising should be the primary goal for a launch—social posts and texts should push to donation links, and you should have a foundational website that prominently features the way to donate.” says Emmy Bengston, partner at Wavelength Strategy who previously helped launch Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential bid.
“[It’s] just flipping a bunch of switches, and if you've done it right, the power turns on,” says Tim Hogan, a Democratic strategist who famously helped Amy Klobuchar launch her presidential campaign in a blizzard. “A good launch runs through a long list of questions about infrastructure and messaging and checks each box.
Every cycle, that box of things to check seemingly gets longer - from running fundraising ads to scheduled email appeals, a functioning website and merch store, a slick video announcement, texting infrastructure, national and local press, social media accounts populated… the list goes on and on. On top of that, campaigns should start early to maximize their fundraising potential. “You need to make the most of a full day of fundraising, earned and paid media — so don’t launch your campaign in the afternoon or evening,” says Liz Bennett, a partner at Dem digital firm Middle Seat. “The longer you’re in the national news conversation, starting when the news breaks, the better.”
What does this look like in practice? This week, Rep. Ruben Gallego kicked off his widely anticipated campaign to take on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona’s U.S. Senate race. From my perspective, it was a masterclass in checking all of those boxes.
In addition to raising money, Gallego had more to prove this week: he needed to assure national Democrats that he can build a strong grassroots campaign to win a statewide, three-way race. It seems like he passed that test, as his team announced Tuesday they had raised over $1 million in small-dollar donations in less than 24 hours.
“Looking strong tends to help campaigns actually be strong,” Bengtson told me.
Another solid launch this month came from Rep. Katie Porter, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in California. Similar to Gallego, Porter’s campaign quickly crossed the $1 million threshold by relying on an all-of-the-above strategy on launch day.
(Yesterday, Porter got her first opponent in Rep. Adam Schiff, who I suspect will also report big fundraising numbers from his own launch day.)
“It's important to note that being done on "Day 1" is not the end of the launch.” says Hogan. Campaigns should have a plan for keeping the momentum going after the initial 24 hours. “If you pour your heart and soul into getting this thing off the ground for a single day and then take a nap, you've missed a big opportunity.
As nearly a dozen Republicans consider throwing their hats in the ring to challenge Donald Trump for their party’s presidential nomination, they’d do well to follow these Democrats’ leads and start off on firm footing. Just this morning, AXIOS reported that the RNC is considering requiring campaigns to reach a small-dollar donor threshold in order to make the presidential debate stage - a throwback to Democrats’ wild 2020 primary which will inevitably make a successful launch day even more important.
That’s it for FWIW this week! If you enjoyed reading this issue, give it a share on Twitter.
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