Several top GOP Senate campaigns aren't investing in email prospecting on Facebook, showing how many candidates in targeted races may need to rely on rented lists later in the cycle.
While these camps went dark in August, President Trump prospected email sign ups from Latinos and Latinas — in English and Spanish — and women for Trump. He also pushed merchandise, which provides both a contribution and contact information.
“The frustrating thing is that more Republicans aren’t taking a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook,” said Eric Wilson, a GOP digital consultant behind the newsletter service Learn Test Optimize. “There’s still this culture that we can buy lists.”
Last presidential cycle, Wilson recalled, candidates on the right could buy or rent the lists of the large White House field. In 2020, however, there isn’t that cohort to help bolster candidates who didn’t invest in growing their own lists organically.
“You don’t see any of the incumbents [other than Trump] seriously investing in building lists,” said Wilson, who was digital director for Marco Rubio’s presidential in 2016.
Now, Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ (R) campaign page hasn’t posted a paid Facebook ad soliciting emails in August. Her campaign's paid posts that ran during the month, according to the ad archive, refuted opposition ads or focused on issues.
Her page has spent on $8,497 on Facebook from May 2018 to Sept. 1, according to the ad archive. Her best-funded Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon, has invested $413,614.
Meanwhile, Trump’s page spent $17.2 million during that same period.
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) has done some email prospecting through surveys in August. Still, he’s not invested in Facebook significantly. From May 2018 to September, his page has spent only $19,421. A would-be Democratic challenger, former U.S. Attorney John Walsh, invested $80,770 alone during the same time frame.
Martha McSally, who is defending John McCain’s seat for the first time since her appointment in December 2018, faces a primary challenge in the form of businessman Daniel McCarthy, who announced at the end of August.
She's one of the few GOP Senate incumbents investing in list building. In August, for instance, she used paid survey posts to collect emails and phone numbers. In total, McSally’s page has spent $367,732 on the platform since May 2018. But she also spent $227,612.28 with Capitol Hill Lists in October 2018, according to her FEC report.
The Cook Political Report rates the Senate races in Arizona, Colorado, and Maine as GOP-held toss ups. But several Republicans in Cook’s likely-R seats also didn’t follow Trump’s August playbook.
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s has spent $73,866 during the archive-covered period, but nothing in August while Trump was aggressively prospecting for emails and phone numbers. Her best-funded would-be opponent, Democrat Theresa Greenfield, has spent $37,804 on Facebook during that same May 2018-September period.
Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R) was also dark in August. He’s spent $23,146 between May 2018-Sept. 2019, including a sponsored post for a “July issue survey” that had a contact information sign up
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R), who’s contracted with Precision Lists in the past, spent part of the summer prospecting for emails on Facebook using a video from a Trump rally in Greenville. The spot pushed for sign ups to the Presidential Battleground Alliance Club.
Still, Tillis was also dark on Facebook for most of August — except for a single issue ad launched Aug. 23, according to the archive.
He’s spent $26,183 during the May 2018-September 2019 period. His would-be Democratic opponent, Cal Cunningham’s page dropped $35,254, mainly on email prospecting during the same period.
Lindsay Jacobs, executive director of Majority Strategies’ Majority Money, is one of the consultants on the right working to wean her side off of renting or buying lists.
“When you rent a list … you don’t have the data to know why they gave to a specific client or cause,” she recently told C&E. “There’s no guarantee that they’re going to support our clients.”