Monday, October 26, 2020

New: Virginia Political Ads Newsletter

Week of October 23rd

US House of Representatives
A Super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the U.S. House has reallocated its TV budget in Virginia by shifting money out of the 2nd District and investing more heavily in GOP candidates seeking to win back the 7th District and protecting the reliably Republican 5th District.

The shift by the Congressional Leadership Fund has left former Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach) with a diminished TV presence heading into the final week before Election Day.

Weekly TV Spending by the Congressional Leadership Fund
Source: Kantar Media. Includes broadcast and cable TV
2nd District
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Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria launched her sharpest attack yet on Scott Taylor regarding a 2018 scheme that led two of Taylor's former campaign staffers to plead guilty to forging signatures on ballot petitions. The ad features ex-Democratic Del. Bobby Mathieson (identified as a "retired U.S. Marshal") who plays the role of a sleuth trying to get to the bottom of the "Scott Taylor fraud case." Mathieson cites the local newspaper to claim Taylor himself is still under investigation. The ad ends with Mathieson standing in front of the Virginia Beach courthouse. "Scott Taylor has a lot better chance of ending up here," Mathieson says, motioning over his shoulder, "than back in Congress."
Taylor turned to Facebook to a new ad accusing Luria of a being a tax-raising Democrat. The 30-second spot begins with a brief clip from a recent debate in which Luria hesitates before answering a question about taxes. The ad cuts to Taylor replying, "Yes, she wants to raise taxes."
5th District
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Among Virginia's three congressional seats in play this year, voters in the 5th Congressional District tend to be more rural, older and more conservative. And the messaging in TV ads reflects these differences.

For instance, Republicans running in the more suburban 2nd and 7th congressional districts avoid mention of President Trump in their TV ads. But 5th District Republican candidate Bob Good embraces the President and includes the President in two of the broadcast TV spots released by his campaign. 

Good and Republican groups running ads in the 5th District have also spent more time tapping into rural voters' fears about recent protests and looting in Richmond and other cities. Several ads seek to use the audio of Democrat Cameron Webb's own words against him. In an interview with a local TV station that aired in mid-June, just five days before the Democratic primary, Webb said "all of this extra spending on police is actually part of the problem." In an attack ad that began airing Oct. 17, the Congressional Leadership Fund includes that clip along with the calls to defund police from two "radical left" congresswomen: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. A female narrator says, "Cameron Webb -- he's with them, not with us."
Webb, a physician, has focused his messaging on seniors' fears about the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, the basic government safety net for older Americans. One Webb TV spot shows elderly residents anxiously checking their roadside mail boxes. "I know patients who are terrified of getting medical bills that break the bank," he says. In an ad launched Oct. 20, an outside group called 314 Action Fund shows a football coach in a locker room where he claims Good's "Playbook" will raise the retirement age and cut Social Security.
7th District
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Republicans struck at first-term U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger with two new ads last week claiming that she would raise taxes. The Congressional Leadership Fund launched a 30-second spot labelling a vote for Spanberger a "vote for Pelosi tax hikes." Nick Freitas launched a similar attack in his new ad, saying that Spanberger opposed a tax cut for individuals, and supports a payroll tax hike. The ad ends with a string of constituents and small business owners criticizing Spanberger, with a barber from Chesterfield County saying "Spanberger has left us out to dry."
In an ad released Oct. 20, the Democratic House Majority PAC took aim at Freitas with a new ad claiming he voted "No" on dozens of bills that had passed with bipartisan support in the Virginia House of Delegates, where Freitas has served since 2016. The ad says Freitas was the only member of either party to oppose expanding insurance coverage for children with autism. The ad claims these votes were tied to campaign donations Freitas accepted from special interests -- a "pattern of defending special interests to the extreme."
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US President
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Total Cable TV Spending
Source: Kantar Media
When it comes to TV ads, the presidential campaign and outside groups have invested more in local cable TV than in more expensive broadcast. The Lincoln Project, a Republican-led group opposed to President Trump, has accounted for nearly $3.5 million in cable ads -- more than the combined spending of all pro-Trump groups.
US Senate
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Weekly Radio Ad Spending
Source: Kantar Media
Senator Mark Warner has pressed his commanding financial position to include a last-minute push on radio. Warner's radio push will peak in the final week before the election, with nearly $60,000 worth of time reserved. This October radio push includes more than two dozen stations across Virginia and DC, mostly targeting urban-format stations, as well as several Spanish-language stations. Republican challenger Daniel Gade's campaign has been radio silent since the start of the month.
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Note: Ad spending data from  Kantar Media and the Facebook Ad Library

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