Donald Trump’s re-election team is spending big bucks on Facebook ads to keep him in the White House, similar to the way his campaign tackled the 2016 presidential race. But in the last month, only one 2020 hopeful has outspent Trump, and it’s not even close: Tom Steyer.
“Who is that?” you might ask. The 62-year-old Steyer is a billionaire ex-hedge fund manager and liberal activist that’s looking to carve out his spot in the already-crowded Democratic field — so his name likely isn’t on most people’s radars. An ardent detractor of President Trump, Steyer is putting his money where his mouth is, spending $74 million last year to help Democrats win midterm races, along with millions more on an impeachment crusade, according to ABC News.
Now, he’s taken the top spot away from Trump as Facebook’s biggest spender on political ads. Since launching his campaign in early July, Steyer has spent more than twice as much as Trump on Facebook ads — $2.94 million compared to $1.3 million — according to the company’s ad library archive. Steyer has edged past Trump on Google spending in the last month as well, putting $661,000 into ads, compared to $616,000 from the commander-in-chief.
Steyer’s sudden flurry of ads come as he, like several other fringe candidates, is scrambling to make the next round of Democratic debates in September. To qualify, candidates need 130,000 donors and 2% support in four Democratic National Convention-approved polls. Steyer has 2% support in three polls but still falls short of the donor threshold, according to The Hill; many of his ads make this clear.
One ad recently offered supporters a limited edition “climate change is a crisis” sticker if they donated. Another ad, active on Facebook, warned “our democracy is not secure” after “Russia targeted the election systems in all 50 states,” before asking for a $1 donation.
Other ads simply rail against the president’s handling of the border crisis and call on supporters to sign a petition pushing Congress to end its recess and hold him accountable for “crimes, corruption, and racist policies and rhetoric.”
“Right now, Trump is putting people in cages on the border and ripping children from their families,” Steyer’s Facebook ad reads. “Add your name: Tell Congress to do something!”
Steyer’s ad blitz has momentarily thrown off what has mostly been a given to this point — that Trump would outspend his opponents on Facebook ads. Since the social network started openly tracking political donations in May 2018, Trump has spent more than $16 million on ads between the “Make America Great Again Committee” and the “Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.” committee. Democrat Beto O’Rourke has been the second-biggest spender in the last 14 months, with about $8 million put into Facebook ads.
A longtime advocate for liberal causes, Steyer’s campaign site lightly outlines some of his priorities, including limiting congressional terms to 12 years and making healthcare a universal right. If elected, Steyer’s site says he will declare climate change a national emergency.
Right now, nine candidates qualify for next month’s Democratic debate: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Candidates have until August 28 to hit the qualification requirements.