The race for Florida’s 22nd congressional district was one of the most expensive U.S. House races in 2010, and it could shape up to be a costly seat to win in 2012. Patrick Murphy, one of two Democratic candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring to unseat newly-elected tea party Republican Allen West, is already running online ads.
The goals are common for early online campaign advertising: to build awareness and a list of supporters to tap for donations.
Display ads for Murphy on Facebook targeting Democrats, liberals, and other left-leaning groups have been up for around two weeks, according to Brian Franklin, communications manager for Murphy for Congress. Yet, like many early campaign efforts – particularly ones with relevance to a national movement such as the tea party – the campaign is aiming the ads throughout the U.S. rather than sticking to Florida or the 22nd district.
“We certainly recognize that Allen West is a darling of the tea party across the country and certainly want to reach out to people who feel the polar opposite of that position,” said Franklin. A Google text ad from Murphy, titled “Stop Allen West,” that appears in results for Allen West-related searches backs up that statement.
“It’s more efficient to do it over a long period of time than trying to build a following in the last months of the campaign,” Franklin added. “Whoever winds up taking on Allen West in the general [election] is going to want and need the support of a lot of people across the nation.”
“Support” means money. After all, only Floridians living along the eastern coast can vote for or against West, but people throughout the country can donate.
West used his popularity on the national stage – in part bolstered by his anointment as one of National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” – to garner support from individual donors across the country during the 2010 midterms. In part driven by national direct mail efforts, he raised 96 percent of what he collected through individual contributions, according to The Center for Responsive Politics. His opponent, Democrat Ron Klein, earned 64 percent of his funds through individual donations; the remainder came through PAC contributions.
Klein collected only around half – $3.8 million – of the $6.5 million West raised for the 2010 election, but spent almost as much as West did. In all, both candidate campaigns spent $11.8 million combined, according to the Center, which pegged the 22nd district race as the second most expensive House race of 2010.
Murphy’s Facebook ad link to the Patrick Murphy for Congress Facebook page, which has around 2,220 likes. While Facebook “likes” can be a poor gauge of voter sentiment or voting likelihood, West has the clear upper hand in the category. West’s campaign page has around 52,300 likes and post-election page has nearly 10,000. That advantage could make a difference in national fundraising efforts.
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