Why a flurry of social media ads may signal a possible DeSantis White House run

U.S. Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S., February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Octavio Jones

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July 7 (Reuters) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a rising Republican star, was careful not to fuel growing speculation that he would run for president in 2024. He brushed off questions about his political ambitions , while the presumed front of the party-runner, Donald Trump, repeatedly hints that he will run again.

But there are signs DeSantis could be gearing up for a run at the White House even as he campaigns for another gubernatorial term in November’s midterm elections.

A Reuters analysis of DeSantis’ social media ads shows he has significantly expanded his out-of-state ads in recent months, an indicator some political analysts say he could lay the groundwork for a national campaign.

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In the first three months of this year, political ads sent through DeSantis’ Facebook and Instagram pages were overwhelmingly focused in Florida, as one would expect of a man running for office in the state.

But between April and June, they were split roughly evenly between Florida and the rest of the country, according to a Reuters analysis of regional spending data for social media ads compiled by the University’s Cybersecurity for Democracy Project. from New York.

DeSantis’ increase in out-of-state ads suggests a move toward building a national network of supporters, said three Republican strategists, including Ron Bonjean, who was an adviser to the 2016 Presidential Transition Team of the State. former President Trump.

“It’s an important part of the campaign’s playbook and it can help him get support quickly if he ends up throwing his hat in the ring,” Bonjean said, adding that the timing is important because Trump could declare his candidacy “at any time” and potentially bump DeSantis’ momentum.

DeSantis, however, may simply be using his national profile to seek a broader donor base for his re-election campaign, said Travis Ridout, a campaign ad expert at Washington State University, though the Republican is a fundraising giant. fund which has already built a more than 100 million dollars.

Dave Abrams, senior adviser on DeSantis’ re-election campaign, did not comment on the announcements but said the governor was fully focused on “winning big” in Florida in November.

“We will let the self-proclaimed ‘experts’ do what they do best: pontificate endlessly,” he told Reuters.

Two sources close to DeSantis confirmed to Reuters that he was creating a national database of voter contact information.

Political campaigns in the United States use this data, collected from many sources, to create detailed voter profiles to inform their strategies and tactics. Collecting data through social media was a key tool for Trump’s presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020. Any challenger would have to compete with his formidable database of small donors.

Social media ads often invite supporters to give their names, email addresses and other information that campaigns can use for future fundraising and rally invitations.

SWING STATES

If DeSantis launches a White House bid, he would retrace the footsteps of former presidential candidates, including U.S. Senator Corey Booker, a Democrat who boosted out-of-state social media ads before. the 2018 midterm elections before running for president in 2020, Ridout said.

Many of DeSantis’ recent ads have been focused in swing states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, with viewers asked to take polls with questions like, ‘Do YOU ​​feel pain at the pump thanks to Joe Biden? ? »

Other ads ask for help in fighting the “rogue corporate media”, “woke corporations” and the left’s “socialist agenda”.

After clicking on an ad, users are directed to a DeSantis webpage that asks for their opinion on the issue and their contact information.

Compared to TV, social media ads are cheap for political campaigns. DeSantis only spent about $300,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads in the first half of 2022, according to NYU data.

“Small donors are worth more than the money at stake,” said Ohio-based Republican strategist Mark Weaver. “They can be volunteers and force multipliers of your message far beyond Florida’s borders.”

In contrast, the governors of the other largest states – Republican Greg Abbott of Texas and Democrats Gavin Newsom of California and Kathy Hochul of New York – have focused overwhelmingly on their home states in social media ads this year. .

To be sure, there are many more significant steps that U.S. presidential candidates must take before launching a White House campaign. Making a pilgrimage to early voting states in the nominating process, like Iowa, is one of them. Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, has already made the trip. DeSantis didn’t.

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Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington and Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco. Additional reporting by Katie Paul in San Francisco. Editing by Ross Colvin and Alistair Bell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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