According to an analysis of Facebook’s digital ad archive, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaign spent nearly $370,000 on Facebook advertisements over the past 30 days in order to secure a spot in the very first Democratic presidential primary debate. The analysis shows that Gillibrand bought 910 ads that amounted to $369,354 since May 4. This makes her platform the seventh largest spender on political ads.
The ads, which are typically geared towards women, have helped to ensure that Gillibrand reaches the donor threshold needed to “lock up” a spot at the DNC’s first primary debate, which is scheduled for June 26-27 in Miami, Florida.
One ad from May 18 reads: “I didn’t get into this race expecting to coast, because I’ve always been discounted—and I’ve always been an underdog. But the DNC’s rules may keep me off the national debate stage. Give $1 today to guarantee my voice can be heard in this campaign.”
Gillibrand’s other ads have focused on cultural issues like abortion to bring in donations. In an ad from May 20, Gillibrand wrote: “We’re facing an all-out assault on women’s constitutional rights, explicitly aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade. Reproductive rights are non-negotiable, and we need to join together to defend them… “
She continued the ad by saying: “We have to make sure I’m on the debate stage in June so I can make sure reproductive rights get the attention they deserve. Can you donate $1 right now to help guarantee my spot?”
As 19 candidates have qualified for the debate, Gillibrand’s ads have grown in scale. On Sunday, Gillibrand’s campaign spent over $28,000 on 101 ads. One of the ads read: “The DNC could CUT candidates from the stage if they don’t have 65,000 individual donors. We haven’t hit that goal yet, and the debates are less than 30 days away. So take a second to answer this important question: Do you want to see Kirsten Gillibrand on the debate stage in June?”
The DNC, which was heavily criticized in 2016 for its attempt to “rig” the debates in Clinton’s favor, has put strict criteria for qualification in place. In order to secure a spot in the first two debates, candidates must hit one percent in four state or national DNC-approved polls. Candidates are also able to qualify if they raise 65,000 unique donations, with a minimum of 200 contributions from 20 different states. Only 20 candidates will be able to attend, with spots given to candidates meeting both thresholds first.
According to Real Clear Politics, even though Gillibrand represents a state with one of the largest media outlets in the country, she only registers at an average of 0.3 percent in national surveys. This ensures that she will be unable to qualify for the first debate through polling, which is why her campaign is trying to cross that 65,000 donor limit.
Gillibrand’s failure to qualify for the first debate emphasizes the problem that a lot of candidates are facing as they struggle to gain speed in the race. Unfortunately, the DNC’s decision to restrict access to the debates in the fall is likely to make the decision worse.
In order to get access to those debates, candidates will be polling at two percent in four state or national DNC-approved surveys. Those that are unable to meet the requirements would be eligible to attend if they receive 130,000 unique donations from at least 20 states.