|If you were to only look at the digital ads running in Virginia, you might think that Democrats have control of the state house (which they don’t), because nearly every ad run by either party’s campaign committee is focused on incumbent Democrats, rather than incumbent Republicans.
Republican campaigns and committees have been defining the narratives of each race on their own terms, which has forced Virginia Democrats to focus all their spending on protecting their vulnerable incumbents from these Republican attacks. As a result, Democrats haven’t run a single attack ad against any of the Republicans whose seats they’ll need to flip to win the majority.
And Democrats aren’t just playing defense in terms of defining the narratives of these races. They’re also being outspent online. In the most competitive House districts, Republicans have outspent Democrats over 2:1 on digital ads since November (Republicans’ $24,201 vs. Democrats’ $10,021), and individual Republican campaigns have been far more adept at leveraging paid digital than the Democrats. In addition to the $24,201 spent on Facebook ads, Republicans also spent money on a Youtube ad following the controversies in the executive branch, according to the Washington Post. But at the moment, Google only publishes spending from federal campaigns, so there is no way for us to know how much Virginia Republicans spent on Youtube advertising.
In the most competitive House districts, Republicans have spent $24,201 on Facebook ads since the midterms to date.
In the most competitive House districts, Democrats have spent $10,021 on Facebook ads since the midterms to date.
Republicans have spent $24,201 on Facebook advertising, while Democrats have only spent $10,021.
One seat that epitomizes the struggles facing House Democrats right now is House District 68. Del. Dawn Adams (D) first won this seat in 2017 by less than one point –– the smallest margin of any seat flipped that year –– and she’s already been a target of Republican attacks. In February, Adams was among the Democrats that Republican ads blasted around the choice debate during session.
On top of that, Republicans have recruited a strong challenger to run against Adams. Garrison Coward is a 28 year-old, African American Chief Operating Officer at a local analytics firm. Through organic social media posts and paid digital advertising, Coward’s campaign has steadily rolled out endorsements from key Republicans and attacked Adams as a partisan. He’s also quickly built up a strong following on his campaign’s Facebook page with over 4,400 followers compared to Adams’ 2,700.
Though Adams is facing one of the toughest re-election campaigns this cycle, her campaign has not spent any money on digital advertising to date. The Virginia House Democrats and outside progressive groups have not run a single ad supporting her re-election either.
Finally, to make matters harder on House Democrats, Debra Rodman and Cheryl Turpin, two Democrats who won seats in the House by slim margins in 2017, recently announced that they are running for state senate, which makes their seats even more of a challenge to defend.