The various tactics highlight the divide within the party on how to get the president’s agenda past the finish line. The $ 3.5 trillion spending plan, which calls for more resources for climate, preschool education and preschool programs, among other social spending initiatives, has been hailed as transformational by progressives, who also argue that ‘they have already compromised by reducing the desire to spend even more.
But so far it has sparked deep skepticism from House Democrats and frontline moderates who have urged Biden to first push forward a bipartisan infrastructure deal that has already passed in the Senate, and expressed concern that their districts would not support what were seen as progressive initiatives across broader social spending.
To move his agenda forward, Biden needs to negotiate a deal with both sides of his party and has acknowledged that overall spending will be well below his initial revenue of $ 3.5 trillion. And as the informal October 31 deadline for moving this bill and the infrastructure package approaches, the spending around them is piling up.
Since May 1, outside groups – left and right alike – have spent more than $ 54 million on TV advertising, either to promote Biden’s spending plan or to demolish it, according to AdImpact, an analytics firm. advertising.
“This is an opportunity to uplift or highlight for these members how essential it is that they seize the moment,” said Pete Maysmith, senior vice president of campaigns for the League of Conservation Voters, who has ran ads encouraging Democrats in swing districts to vote for the social spending package. “There will be no other opportunity to act on the scale demanded by science and justice.”
One of the biggest spenders is Build Back Together, which says it has invested $ 15 million in paid media supporting Biden’s global economic agenda, which began with the $ 1.9 trillion Covid relief funding program that was adopted in the spring. Despite nervous moderates who fear the size of the reconciliation package, BBT argues that its own poll shows voters are more likely to support lawmakers at the polls if they support the bill.
“We are bringing directly to the American people what is in these plans: to create millions of well-paying jobs, reduce household costs and force the ultra-rich to pay their fair share, while providing members with of Congress the support they need. need and urging them to keep fighting for and achieve their constituents, ”said Sharon Yang, national spokesperson for Building Back Together.
This message is in stark contrast to militant groups, like Our Revolution, who label moderates who did not support the $ 3.5 trillion program “corporate Democrats.”
Our Revolution notes that, like many supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), They have long been fired for supporting a fringe set of issues. Now their program is taken over by that of the president.
“What is shocking is that progressive and party leaders are more or less aligned – this is a new phenomenon,” Our Revolution executive director Joseph Geevarghese said in an interview.
Geevarghese described a much harsher line his group planned to take against moderates who did not sign Biden’s agenda.
“I think that involves keeping a list and seeing where people end up and being willing to help them out if necessary,” he said.
In the meantime, BBT has also increased its own ad spending to fight messages from Republican-aligned groups, which attack both Biden’s plan and Democrats at risk. An advertisement, paid for by Club for Growth, tells viewers to call Nevada Democratic Representative Susie Lee and oppose “further tax hikes, billions of dollars and more spending and another plan socialist health ”.
One of the main targets, Carolyn Bourdeaux, a Democrat from Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, has seen more than $ 2.7 million in TV ads spent since May, including one from the conservative Common Sense Leadership fund which encourages voters to ask Bourdeaux to stop what he characterizes as a liberal spending spree in Washington. BBT responded with an announcement saying CEOs and big drug companies were lying about Bourdeaux because they feared Biden would “finally give the wealthy their fair share.”
Other top ad spend targets include Democratic Reps Cindy Axne of Iowa, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Jared Golden of Maine, according to AdImpact.
In the Senate, Sinema and his centrist Democratic colleague Joe Manchin of West Virginia have been the main targets of anger from activists and moderate pressure from advocacy groups. BBT offered honey in the TV commercials it aired in August, giving the Arizona senator credit for helping pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan and saying she “provided for us “.
They then gave him and his colleague Senator Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) a helping hand.
“They have pulled our economy from the brink and now they are fighting to create millions of well-paying jobs and reduce the costs of health care, child care and prescription drugs,” the announcement, a clear reference to the White House spending bill. has not yet crossed the goal line.
For Democrat-aligned groups, it’s a delicate balance between arguing for an issue and being so hard on the incumbents that it puts them in a weakened position midway through 2022. The League of Conservation Voters, which currently runs a large number of ads in the Murphy district, managed to strike that balance, said a senior Democratic official close to the moderate wing of the party.
“They are doing it in a very smart way, praising her for what she stands for when it comes to the climate and encouraging her to keep fighting,” the aide said. “It’s like positive ads but kind of pushes her in their direction. It’s a very smart way to do it.
The strategy, said Lori Lodes, executive director of Climate Power, is to emphasize to moderates and their districts that tackling climate change is an issue voters support; not to demonize them because they do not yet support him themselves.
“Stephanie Murphy, Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Carolyn Bourdeaux – you hear all of these members who have made it clear that what they support is the climate,” Lodes said in an interview. “Not just progressives, but progressives and moderates as well, and everyone in between agrees that climate action can’t wait… Our ads only distill that part – which drives popular politics and unites the overwhelming majority of the party. “