Battleground Democrats’ advertising strategy: Trump who?

Battleground Democrats’ advertising strategy: Trump who?

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— Two battleground freshman Democrats released their first TV ads of the cycle, which highlight their bipartisan bona fides but barely make a mention of President Donald Trump.

— Joe Biden and the DNC outraised Trump and the RNC in June, the second straight month that Democrats’ fundraising outpaced Republicans’.

— Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s PAC raised $1.7 million in two months for his PAC, the latest sign the gladhanding Democrat is considering a comeback.

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Days until the New Jersey (presidential and downballot) and Delaware (presidential) primaries: 5

Days until the Maine primary and Alabama and Texas primary runoffs: 12

Days until the Democratic convention: 46

Days until the Republican convention: 54

Days until the 2020 election: 124

TRUMP WHO? — A pair of freshman in two of the toughest districts in the county are both out with their first general election ads, giving a pretty clean look into how the big freshman class of Democrats running for reelection want to hold their seats.

Both Reps. Kendra Horn in OK-05 and Joe Cunningham in SC-01 face incredibly tough reelection battles in two seats that are must-wins for Republicans if they want to have any hope to take back the House. In their ads, Cunningham and Horn are quick to mention when they broke with their own party — and barely mention who currently holds the White House.

“I stood up to my party on the misguided $3 trillion spending bill, because it didn’t help us address the real needs of our communities,” Horn says in her ad, a reference to the HEROES Act. Similarly, Cunningham highlights that he is “working with both parties to get better care for our veterans,” and that he bucked Democrats on raising congressional pay.

Basically entirely missing from the messaging? The president. Horn doesn’t mention Trump at all in her ad. And the commander in chief only makes a brief cameo in Cunningham’s ad — in the form of a headline highlighting the fact that Trump signed Cunningham’s aforementioned bill on veterans’ health.

The president’s popularity may have dipped nationally, but the most endangered Democrats, as of right now, are not running a campaign explicitly against him. That doesn’t mean he won’t pop up in campaign materials from time-to-time — Horn’s campaign used Trump’s Tulsa rally as a fundraising peg in an email captured last month in an archive from the Defending Democracy Together Institute, for example — but, if 2018 was precedent, their broadcast messages will steer clear of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

That hasn’t been true of their Republican opponents. Nancy Mace will face off with Cunningham, and Trump and his administration featured prominently in her advertising for the primary. Same holds true for both Terry Neese and Stephanie Bice, who have an August runoff for the right to face Horn.

THE CASH DASH — Biden and the DNC have outraised Trump and the RNC again. Trump, the RNC and their joint fundraising committees announced they raised $131 million in June, their best fundraising month ever. The Trump reelect effort had $295 million in the bank, after raising $266 million for the whole quarter.

Not to be outdone, Biden’s campaign announced late Wednesday night that the campaign, the DNC and associated JFCs have outpaced the president for the second straight month. Democrats raised a combined $141 million, good for $282 million in the quarter. But Democrats did not announce a cash on hand total. (Good news: Since it is the end of a quarter and not just the end of the month, all campaigns, party committees and JFCs will have to file reports in a couple weeks.) POLITICO’s Elena Schneider has more.

— A record $392 million flowed through the Democratic fundraising behemoth ActBlue in June, easily the biggest month on the platform, Elena reported.

ON THE AIRWAVES — Democratic admakers are all singing a similar tune. “As in 2016, ad-makers are focusing on Trump’s character,” POLITICO’s David Siders reports. “But unlike four years ago, they are no longer focusing on his character in isolation — rather they are pouring tens of millions of dollars into ads yoking his behavior to substantive policy issues surrounding the coronavirus, the economy and the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd.”

And a peek inside the growing consensus from Democrats on what is testing well: “The advertising elements that appear to work, according to interviews with more than a dozen Democrats involved in message research, vary from ad to ad. Using Trump’s own words against him often tests well, as do charts and other graphics, which serve to highlight Trump’s distaste for science. Voters who swung from President Barack Obama to Trump in 2016 — and who regret it — are good messengers. And so is Joe Biden, whose voice is widely considered preferable to that of a professional narrator.”

— America First Policies, the nonprofit arm of the pro-Trump outside group, said it was launching a $4 million national TV and digital campaign promoting the “Great American Comeback.” The ad says the country is “beginning to open up,” and Congress needs to work with Trump.

THE HIGH COURT — The Supreme Court will motivate voters to turn out to the polls. But which voters? We have a pair of dueling stories, saying that both progressives and conservatives will try to elevate the highest court in the nation as a rallying cry for supporters. First, the case for liberals, from The New York Times’ Carl Hulse. A new nonprofit called Supreme Court Voter “will start with $2 million in digital advertising in politically competitive states in attempts to mobilize voters around the idea that the long-term direction of the court — and the outcome of its rulings on hot-button policy and cultural issues — will be set for decades in the coming election.”

And the White House’s efforts to try to use recent rulings to channel conservative anger, per The Washington Post’s Robert Costa: “The White House is trying to capitalize on conservative anger at Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. over his latest decisions by telling evangelical leaders and other activists that they need to turn out voters for President Trump so he can use a second term to continue nominating conservative judges to the nation’s highest court.”

THE CASH DASH — The Macker has a bank account full of cash. The Washington Post’s Laura Vozzella reported that McAuliffe raised $1.7 million for his PAC, Common Good VA, over the last two months, a big sign that he’s going to launch another gubernatorial bid in 2021. The Post reported that some of the cash will go toward backing the state party’s 2020 efforts.

Democratic state lawmaker Jennifer Caroll Foy, who is running for governor, announced she raised $776,000 on the quarter for her bid, POLITICO’s Maya King wrote (for Pros).

— Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is running against Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), announced that he raised $3.45 million for the quarter. The campaign did not announce a cash-on-hand total, but said he raised $2.35 million since he won the nomination on June 10.

— Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) raised $2.5 million for the quarter and had $6.6 million in cash on hand. Campaign Pro’s Ally Mutnick has more on Porter’s haul and how it strengthens the incumbent in her CA-45 swing district.

— The Republican State Leadership Committee, which is focused on legislative races, and an associated nonprofit announced that they collectively raised $10.5 million for the quarter.

THE PROCESS — A federal appeals court placed a hold on a lower court’s ruling dismantling a law that stopped former felons from voting in Florida until they paid off court debts, POLITICO Florida’s Gary Fineout reported. “The decision to place the ruling on hold could dissuade former felons from registering to vote,” Gary wrote.

LATE CALLS — Three New York City-area races were called on Wednesday, none of which had a particularly close in-person Election Day margin. Republican Nicole Malliotakis easily won her primary and will face freshman Democratic Rep. Max Rose in NY-11, another major House battleground. And Democratic Reps. Yvette Clarke and Jerry Nadler, in NY-09 and NY-10 respectively, both handily defeated primary challengers.

ON THE AIRWAVES — The NRSC released new ads in Arizona and Maine bashing Democratic Senate challengers in those races. In Maine, it launched another ad accusing state House Speaker Sara Gideon of not taking quick enough action against a state legislator accused of sexual misconduct with minors. In Arizona, the committee released a new ad continuing to hammer Democrat Mark Kelly on China, criticizing both Kelly and Biden.

— Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones released a new ad promoting the use of masks to help protect against coronavirus. “Wearing masks and social distancing is about protecting each other,” Jones said in the ad, in which he also puts on a mask.

— 314 Action Fund, the STEM-focused Democratic outside group, is going up with a six-figure TV buy ahead of the TX-10 Democratic primary runoff. The ad criticizes Democrat Mike Sigel because he “already lost” to incumbent GOP Rep. Michael McCaul and promotes Democrat Pritesh Gandhi.

— A nonprofit called Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions is launching ads backing Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for promoting a “free market policy” to “grow our economy while protecting the environment.” The group is spending $250,000 combined for ads backing Graham and Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who is not up for reelection.

— The United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) Vote! PAC announced it was prebooking $2.3 million worth of ads backing a handful of Democratic candidates: Reps. Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07) and Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02), along with MN-01 candidate Dan Feehan. They’re also backing a few Senate Democratic challengers: Steve Bullock (Montana), Theresa Greenfield (Iowa) and Gideon.

COUNTING HEADS — The Census Bureau will start with limited in-person followup to households that have not responded to the Census starting on July 16. Census takers will start interviews for areas managed by six offices, the agency announced.

COALITION BUILDING — The members of “The Squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) — are forming a joint fundraising committee, per BuzzFeed News’ Kadia Goba.

FIRST IN SCORE — ENDORSEMENT CORNER — Planned Parenthood Action Fund is out with a series of endorsements in battleground races. They’re backing three Senate nominees: Greenfield, John Hickenlooper in Colorado and Ossoff. The organization also threw its support behind six House candidates (some in reach districts): Pat Timmons-Goodson (NC-08), Christina Finello (PA-01), Kristy Gnibus (PA-16), Julie Oliver (TX-25), Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07), and Cameron Webb (VA-05).

— The Working Families Party, fresh off a strong run in New York, is backing Democrat Royce West in the Texas Senate runoff.

CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The optimist in me would say the odds of us getting a break in the future are greater because we’ve had such a run of bad luck,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to POLITICO on Senate Republicans’ past few weeks.

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