Democratic presidential hopefuls flock to Facebook for campaign cash

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Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris are already spending large sums of money on Facebook. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Every major Democratic 2020 presidential campaign is following a simple strategy: spend money about rejecting money to make money.

Following President Donald Trump’s unprecedented success in using Facebook ads to attract small donors, Democratic 2020 hopefuls are spending large sums to advertise on the social media platform — and donors are the target audience.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) made a huge splash in his first two days as a presidential contender. Cory 2020 spent $99,476 through Feb. 2, according to Facebook’s ad archive, spending more money in two days than any other Democratic presidential committee has spent in a single week.

Like every other Democrat in the field, Booker stresses in his ads that he isn’t beholden to lobbyists and corporate PACs.

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Among Democrats running in 2020, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is the top overall spender so far, spending $241,976 to run a whopping 48,431 ads on Facebook.

Harris also spent to promote tweets during the week of her announcement. Of the current Democratic hopefuls, Harris spent the most money on both Twitter and Facebook. Her social media splurge may have worked, as Harris reported raising $1.5 million in her first day as a 2020 contender.

Like Booker, Harris took large sums of money from business-related PACs before denouncing them.

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Despite starting her campaign as an exploratory committee, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is right behind Harris in total Facebook spending, shelling out $179,559 on ads.

Her largest advertisements, which generated anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 impressions each, targeted women across much of the U.S. with a focus on California and Massachusetts.

Warren is expected to announce her official campaign for the presidency this week. Her platform diverts from the rest of the field by advocating for new taxes on the richest Americans, but she also runs on a message of rejecting corporations and lobbyists. In one ad, Warren’s campaign says it isn’t taking donations from super PACs, seemingly ignoring the fact that super PACs can’t make direct contributions to candidates.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) who is also still in the exploratory committee phase, has spent $105,247 on Facebook ads. Gillibrand’s focus is taking on Trump, proclaiming in ads she has the “strongest anti-Trump record of anyone in the Senate.”

The 2020 campaign for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) also uses Facebook, spending $66,858.

Among lesser known candidates, former Maryland Representative John Delaney has spent $26,580. Andrew Yang, a New York entrepreneur advocating for universal basic income, has spent just $6,818.

Meanwhile, Democratic groups have already begun opposing potential independent candidate and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Progressive group MoveOn sent out a flurry of ads urging supporters to sign a petition opposing Schultz, as did the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

A recent poll found that although Schultz is unpopular, he would take away significant numbers of votes from Democrats if he were to run.

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As the Democrats launch their bids for the White House, Trump’s reelection committee is reminding Facebook users about the successes of the current resident. Trump’s team spent $229,809 on Facebook over the last week.  

It’s unlikely any Democrat will be able to catch Trump, who has spent more than $9 million on Facebook since the site started tracking political ads in May 2018. Trump raises funds off of anything and everything — anyone can have their name displayed during the State of the Union Address by donating a minimum of $15.

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