“This really fucks the other ’24 contenders,” said a high-level GOP strategist, who predicted that all of the high-level Republicans, except a few, with Facebook presences and networks of established fundraiser, would have a harder time fundraising online if Trump exploited this flow again. .
Not everyone in GOP circles was prepared to admit that a Facebook-freed Trump would suck most of the money from grassroots conservative donors. Others have argued that Trump’s return to the platform would force donors to donate money not only to Trump, but to several different political groups he was aligned or affiliated with. This could include official Republican entities.
But there was a broad consensus that being able to advertise on the platform again would give it more power specifically in the increasingly important online campaign arena. “A massive and massive deal”, that’s how one of the leading Democratic digital operators put it. “Extraordinary.”
Online fundraising has become an increasingly important component of politics in recent cycles. And few politicians have benefited more than Trump, who raised more than $ 378 million in small donations over the 2020 cycle. The 45th president has relied heavily on small donors to propel his campaigns, even though he has touted his ability to be self-financing. He promoted this community mainly through Facebook. During the 2020 campaign cycle, Trump for President and Make America Great Again Committee jointly spent about $ 140 million on Facebook ads, according to figures compiled by Facebook. Part of it was to persuade voters. But digital campaign assistants and experts say the main goal was to cultivate grassroots donor networks.
“He’s got the best fundraising list in the Republican Party, but there’s a half-life to that – people switch email, they switch text messaging, whatever, you have to have access to voters through ads.” Facebook to continue to reach them and encourage them to sign petitions. and stay on your list, ”said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist who runs Startup Caucus, an incubator for campaign technology. “It is important for them to maintain this.”
Trump having been away from the platform for four months, neither he nor any affiliated entity uses Facebook to raise funds or, more importantly, to ensure that it grows or has up-to-date information on its network of small donors. Trump’s Save America PAC, the entity he launched after the election, had more than $ 85 million in cash at the start of April, according to reports. These funds came mostly from direct emails and grassroots fundraising calls outside of Facebook or DonaldTrump.com.
That could change on Wednesday. If the Facebook Oversight Board reinstates Trump, it would instantly allow GOP’s largest online fundraiser to gain access to one of the most important fundraising vehicles in politics at one of the most important times. fertile for online fundraising.
The start of a new administration has proven to be a gold rush for politicians of the opposing party in the past. In the first three months of 2017, then Senator Kamala Harris (D-Cali.) spent nearly $ 300,000 on Facebook Ads even though she had just won the job The rate of return was just too good to be left out – from her investment, she brought in $ 738,459 from donors giving less than $ 200.
“It will definitely help [Trump with] fundraising, ”said David Kochel, a longtime Republican agent from Iowa who led Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign and was a critic of Trump. “Obviously, they have a long history of engagement. I think this will also be one of those things that to the media – every Tweet was catnip – engagement numbers on Facebook will be insane, so it will be hard to look away from the media obsessed with Trump. .
Facebook is also a key organizing ground for Republicans in particular. Although the conservatives have declared war on “Big Tech,” including Facebook, the social media platform remains the most influential site for the right. Kevin Roose, a New York Times technical columnist, compiles a daily list of 10 best performers Facebook messages. Links shared by conservative commentators like Dan Bongino and Ben Shapiro or Fox News are still the top performers on the site.
“On Facebook, every day the right has two to three times the engagement and reach of the left or the news,” said Angelo Carusone, chairman of Media Matters, a liberal group that monitors and studies conservative media. According to a study Led by the organization, right pages accounted for 45% of total policy page interactions, compared to left pages with 25% of total interactions.
Facebook has played a disproportionate role in Trump’s rise as a candidate – from targeted campaign spending to running ads by Russian troll farms boosting Trump. During the 2016 campaign, nearly half of the Trump campaign’s nearly $ 200 million advertising budget was spent on Facebook. And the platform has served as a conduit for donations throughout Trump’s presidency.
But while the site has boosted Trump’s fundraising efforts, it has not been the primary focus of Trump’s own outreach to his supporters. One rarely gets the impression, for example, that Trump himself operates Facebook posts or dictates them to assistants, while he calls himself Twitter’s “Hemingway” and brags about how Individual tweets have driven entire news cycles. As a result, posts on Trump’s Facebook page seem less immediate and genuine – they tended to be mostly his own tweets, or live videos of political rallies or White House events.
Since his expulsion from Facebook and Twitter, Trump has continued to get his point across through talks with friendly media like Fox News or statements he dictates to assistants and are shared via Save America PAC or press releases. of the presidential office. Several advisers, and Trump himself, said it was still an effective way to reach supporters even though it did not have the same reach.
“Every time I go out, it’s everywhere. It’s better than Twitter, much more elegant than Twitter. And Twitter is now very boring. A lot of people are leaving Twitter. Twitter is getting very, very boring, ”Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
Trump, Tuesday, launched a new website which closely resembled an old school blog where he could post his thoughts in reverse chronological order without users having a chance to comment. It was quickly criticized for its lack of the engagement features that define social media platforms. And even before his debut, Wilson said, a re-institution on Facebook would be immensely helpful for the former president, no matter what business he started.
“It’s important for his political future, whether it’s supporting the candidates or running for himself, that he has access to Facebook,” Wilson said. About 60% of voters use Facebook on a daily basis – that’s more than watching local TV news. “
(Disclosure: A journalist’s wife for this story, Sam Stein, is a Facebook employee)