November 5, 2019
Two can play that game: A progressive organization called Acronym is plunging into the presidential campaign—revealing plans to spend $75 million on digital advertising that will be used to counterbalance and neutralize President Donald Trump’s early spending advantage in key 2020 battleground states, The New York Times reported on November 4.
And such a rampart may well be needed: Trump has spent more than $26 million so far nationally just on Facebook and Google, the news outlet says. That’s more than the four top-polling Democrats—Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg—have spent in total on those platforms.
Since its creation as a nonprofit group dedicated to building power and digital infrastructure for the progressive movement in March 2017, Acronym claims to have “run dozens of targeted media programs to educate, inspire, register, and mobilize voters,” as well as to have “worked with dozens of partners to accelerate their advocacy programs and investments.”
In the 2018 cycle, Acronym developed new digital tools and strategies to encourage voters to register to vote and show up at the polls on Election Day. Through these programs, Acronym and its affiliated political action committee, Pacronym, claim to have helped elect 65 progressive candidates across the country.
Photo source: AcronymAnd in January 2019, the group launched Shadow, a technology company focused on building accessible, user-centered products to enable progressive organizers to run smarter campaigns
Political organizers and pundits agree that such an effort is necessary. “The gun on this general election does not start when we have a nominee; it started months ago,” said David Plouffe, who managed Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and was a key adviser to him in 2012, and who recently joined Acronym’s board. ”If the things that need to happen don’t happen in these battleground states between now and May or June, our nominee will never have time to catch up.“
In an interview with the Times, Plouffe and Tara McGowan, the founder and chief executive of Acronym, said their digital campaign would kick off immediately, with a heavy focus on shaping how the public views Trump and the Democratic Party during the primary season, well before a nominee emerges.
“Our nominee is going to be broke, tired, have to pull together the party; and turn around on a dime and run a completely different race for a completely different audience,” Plouffe said.
“There is an enormous amount of danger between now and then,” he added. “If the hole is too steep to dig out of, they’re not going to win.”
The campaign, which the organization is calling “Four is Enough,” will focus initially on key swing states: Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. One state that is historically a battleground was notably missing from the initial list: Florida.
The effort will feature advertisements across multiple digital platforms, including Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Hulu, and Pandora. There will be original content, such as videos and animations, as well as boosting local news coverage that portrays Trump, his administration,and his agenda in a harsh light.
McGowan told the news outlet that for months her group had been raising the alarm about the president’s early online spending advantage.
“It started to feel as though we were really screaming into the abyss,” she said. So
McGowan told the Times that the group had already raised approximately 40% of the planned $75 million budget. She noted that Plouffe has joined as both a political adviser and to help raise funds. The spending will be made across two groups, Acronym, which is a nonprofit that does not disclose its donors, and Pacronym, a political action committee, which does. (The group’s winking moniker is a poke at the frequent practice of settling on a meaningful series of words to form an acronym for a nonprofit; they have skipped that alphabet-soup step entirely.)
“We’re absolutely, as a party, not doing enough and I don’t know that $75 million is enough,” McGowan said. “We can’t afford to not do this work right now.” Of the fact that some of her group’s donors would remain undisclosed, she said, “We have to play on the field that exists,” noting that Trump is aided by such funds, as well.
Research contact: @nytimes