Wednesday, December 2, 2015

EMILY'S List Pumps $1 Million Into Edwards Campaign // SuperPAC Ads To Target Women, African American Voters

Christmas came early for Representative Donna Edwards.

With dwindling resources and a new poll showing the Prince George’s Congresswoman behind by double digits, the Edwards campaign desperately needed a game changer. And they got one.

EMILY’s List - the influential Democratic organization that supports pro-choice women - announced that they will spend more than $1.2 million on television, radio and online ads for Edwards predominantly in the Baltimore region. As reported by John Fritze in The Baltimore Sun:
BALTIMORE SUN: The group will spend $875,000 on cable and broadcast ads alone, plus another $146,000 on radio and digital spots. The ads will run over six weeks and will target African American women. The ad campaign is paid for through WOMEN VOTE!, the group’s super PAC, which spent more than $12 million in the 2014 election cycle.
A MUCH NEEDED BOOST: EMILY's List ad buy - assuming the entire amount is spent - represents more than 3x the total amount of money the Edwards campaign has on hand, and allows her to finally respond to Representative Chris Van Hollen - who has been airing television ads unchallenged for the last month. Without this national bail out, it was likely Edwards’ path to victory could have become non-existent going into the homestretch.

DIGGING OUT OF A DEEP HOLE: Full crosstabs from the Baltimore Sun/University of Baltimore poll, shows the big hole that Edwards finds herself in, and why she needed EMILY's List to intervene now. She's losing women by 8 points (with 1 out 4 undecided), and doesn't even earn majority of African American support.

Men      Women
Van Hollen 51% 42%
Edwards 25% 34%
Other/Undecided      23% 25%

White      African American
Van Hollen
57%
28%
Edwards
21%
49%
Other/Undecided     
23%
22%

The impact of Edwards's lack of traction in Baltimore shows. She's only attracting a quarter of the vote in a region where more than 40% of Democratic electorate reside. 

Balt City    Balt Co    Balt Region    MoCo    PG      WestMD    SoMD    Shore
Van Hollen 44% 46% 49% 75% 23% 29% 49% 25%
Edwards 29% 24% 25% 12% 63% 16% 22% 24%
Other/Undecided    27% 29% 26% 13% 15% 55% 16% 42%

A POWERFUL PATRON: EMILY's List is a well resourced ally who has helped elect 19 Senators. In the first half of 2015, the organization raised $10.5 million from 60,000 donors - the most it has raised in an off-year. Jumping into the Maryland Senate primary is a signal that they are not abandoning Edwards -  a candidate they supported early and raised money for - in her time of need .

What may give some of EMILY's List supporters pause, are questions regarding whether they are spending their resources wisely with 2016 shaping up to be a historic year for women candidates. Putting aside Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign (which the group has said they will raise and spend $20 million for), there's New  Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, Rep. Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, former Nevada AG Catherine Cortez Masto, Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and former Pennsylvania Environmental Secretary Katie McGinty facing off in competitive Senate races critical to Democratic chances to retaking the upper chamber. Every dollar spent in Maryland, is one less attacking Donald Trump, Mark Kirk or Pat Toomey. 

HOW EFFECTIVE WILL IT BE? The positive biographical ad supporting Edwards touts her humble roots and pushes the progressive fighter image (though the bright flashes throughout the ad have been called "jarring"). But there's a few things to note.

First, it is cheaper for candidates to advertise on television than for super-PACs. The rate EMILY's List is paying could be 1.5 or 2 times (or even higher) what the Van Hollen campaign paid. This price differential will only become greater as we approach the primary. More money for fewer ads. 

Second, advertising over the next 6 weeks puts the flight in the middle of the shopping season, the holidays and when most broadcast channels are playing reruns. This likely means fewer people are paying attention. Van Hollen's ads meanwhile played during November sweeps. 

Third, there's no guarantee that super PAC ad spending will be effective. Just ask Jeb! Bush. His Right to Rise super PAC has spent $28.9 million on TV ads, with no recognizable change to his numbers. Add to that the inability to officially coordinate with the official campaign, sync messages or film the candidate - makes this a tricky and costly enterprise. 

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