See below for an interesting article by FWIW, “a weekly newsletter that breaks down digital spending, strategy, tactics, and trends in our politics + elections,” about “the online race for control of the Commonwealth.”
The online race for control of the Commonwealth
Today kicks off voting in the Democratic primary for Virginia’s gubernatorial race, giving the five candidates still in the running a little over a month to earn as many votes as possible. Considering the absolute mess that the VA GOP has become in recent years and the Democratic lean of the state’s electorate, whoever wins will be strongly favored to lead the Commonwealth – and so far, Terry McAuliffe seems best positioned online.
The popular former Governor is outspending all of his Democratic rivals combined, and has a strong financial lead over the top-spending Republican candidates, Youngkin and Snyder. A new poll out this week showed McAuliffe with a healthy lead over his Democratic primary opponents. The majority of his digital ads are (no suprise) fundraising ads, and their messaging varies between highlighting the extremism of the Virginia GOP, and how Democrats can’t take this year’s Virginia elections for granted.
He may not be wrong – the Republican gubernatorial campaigns are already spending as if this race will be competitive, and this fall’s general election will be a test of whether Trump voters will continue turning out for down-ballot Republicans with the former President out of the public eye.
On YouTube, McAuliffe’s team has invested nearly $90k in ads touting accomplishments from his first term and, more recently, Gov. Northam’s endorsement. These ads target a mix of age groups, and they seem to be targeting geographic areas where more Democratic-leaning voters live in the Commonwealth – on the left is their ad targeting, and on the right is the 2020 presidential election results in Virginia by county.
The next biggest investor in digital ads on the Democratic side after McAuliffe is former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, who would be the first woman governor of Virginia and the first black woman governor in America if elected. They’ll be getting an assist from EMILY’s List, which just endorsed and started fundraising for Carroll Foy yesterday.
Other major Democratic candidates for Governor include State Sen. Jennifer McClellan and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who would similarly make history as the first black woman governor and second black Virginia governor, respectively, and Del. Lee Carter. All three campaigns have yet to spend significantly on digital advertising, but that could change soon. Regardless, the digital race for the Governor’s mansion narrows when you compare their social media followings online.
Is Twitter real life? Del. Lee Carter sure hopes so:
On the Republican side, your guess is as good as ours as to what the heck is happening. The state party initially planned to hold some kind of drive-through nominating convention in a Liberty University parking lot, but those plans have since changed. What we do know is that the leading candidates (Snyder, Youngkin, Cox, and Chase) are falling over themselves to be seen as the Trumpiest candidate in the Commonwealth.
Following the tragic shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Cox and Snyder notably began running digital ads pointing their guns at the camera. Snyder has made a point to parrot Trump’s “election integrity” talking points as a signature issue. And Chase is just…next level.
There’s also this ad:
We’ll keep an eye on the developments in these races and report back when things change. In the meantime, we’re considering bringing back our weekly FWIW Virginia newsletter soon to track the state legislative + Gubernatorial elections in the Commonwealth. If you think that’s a great idea, go ahead and subscribe in advance here to be the first to know when we launch!