October 19, 2021
A panicked question gripped Florida Democratic insiders this summer as Joe Biden’s approval numbers began to fade and eyes turned toward the midterm election horizon: Where’s Representative Val Demings?
For months, the Florida congresswoman challenging Senator Marco Rubio in 2022 seemed nowhere to be found—eschewing local press and small political events typical for this election off-year, and also avoiding the national media glare in Washington, reports Politico.
Now Demings has an answer for her whereabouts: She has been campaigning almost exclusively on Facebook, growing an army of small-dollar donors across the nation on her way to raising a staggering $8.5 million in the most recent fundraising quarter —$2.4 million more than Rubio reported, and more than any Senate challenger in the country between July and October.
Her fundraising haul provided a sudden burst of hope to Florida’s beleaguered Democrats, who reveled at the idea of a cash-flush Senate nominee whose star power sparked the imagination of Democrats across the country, Politico notes. The problem, however, is that the recent road to the Senate is littered with Democratic candidates whose talent for minting money from national online donors masked weakness back home.
To raise the record sum, Demings had to leave Florida—virtually, that is. She spent nearly 80% of her digital money targeting donors—especially middle-aged and older women—who live outside the state, according to an analysis from Bully Pulpit Interactive, a top Democratic digital firm.
Since entering the Senate race in early June, the analysis shows, Demings dropped $2.8 million on Facebook ads—more than any other candidate in the nation. Her spending made her the eighth-highest advertiser on the platform overall.
The payout from Demings’ all-in-on-Facebook campaign — the first of its kind for a major Florida candidate—did more than just surprise Republicans and Rubio allies. It also reassured national Democrats that the key swing stat —which has turned a deeper shade of red in recent years—can still command the kind of money that Democrats need to win here statewide.
Demings’ small-donor strategy—her average contribution was $28.45 from 172,000 contributor could entice institutional fundraisers and top donors back, according to Ben LaBolt, a founder of BPI.
“It’s just a very impressive top-line number,” LaBolt said, “and it’s clear donors across the nation have responded to her biography and message, making this a premier race—perhaps more of a premier race than was anticipated before these numbers came out.”
Research contact: @politico