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The Future of Ads Is Digital — But Not Quite the Present
Some say campaigns are still slow to shift to digital-focused strategies

An iPhone captures then-presidential candidate Donald Trump after the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary debate in early 2016. (Meredith Dake-O’Connor/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There were plenty of signs that Democrats found success online this election cycle: catchy videos went viral; a burgeoning army of small-dollar donors produced eye-popping fundraising numbers; and voters targeted online showed up at the polls. 

But for some in the party, their digital efforts left much to be desired. Television ads still dominated campaigns, and Republican outside groups outpaced Democrats in digital ad spending. 

Party Leadership Duped Voters With Millions for ‘Dubious’ Midterm Ads, Report Finds
Congress, FEC could close loopholes so voters know who is paying for campaigns, group says

Members-elect from the 116th Congress pose for the freshman class photo on the East Front of the Capitol on Nov. 14. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Newly elected members of Congress benefited from millions of dollars indirectly tied to party leaders in Washington. But much of that money was spent on ads that appeared to be from local groups, according to a study released Thursday.

The tactic is legal, thanks to campaign finance laws that have not been updated since the dawn of the digital age and Supreme Court rulings that have struck down limits on money in politics. But such strategies, laid out in the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center’s “Dodging Disclosure” report, represent the acceleration of “big money trends” that have given deep-pocketed groups outsize influence over elections and made the 2018 midterms the most expensive in American history, the report said.

Top Trump PAC to Flood Mississippi Airwaves Ahead of Senate Runoff
Cindy Hyde-Smith faces Mike Espy in last undecided Senate race of the cycle

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., is in a Nov. 27 special election runoff with Democrat Mike Espy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A top super PAC aligned with President Donald Trump is infusing the Mississippi Senate special election runoff with nearly $300,000 to help Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

Hyde-Smith will face former Democratic Rep. Mike Espy, who also served as Agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration, in the Nov. 27 runoff. Neither cleared 50 percent in the Nov. 6 jungle primary, which saw two Republicans and two Democrats run together on the same ballot.

Trump Campaign Tests Out Nickname Game for 2020
NRSC, outside groups leaned into tactic to vanquish Heitkamp, Donnelly in midterms

Expect a batch of new nicknames for President Donald Trump's political opponents as the 2020 campaign heats up. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump’s campaign team is experimenting in its laboratory with potential nicknames for his potential opponents in the 2020 presidential election.

The president’s trademark campaign tactic from 2016 — the birth year of “Crooked” Hillary Clinton, “Little” Marco Rubio, and “Lyin’” Ted Cruz — became so ubiquitous in his speeches and campaign literature that it spawned an exhaustive Wikipedia list of everyone whose name Trump has manipulated for political gain.

The Best and Worst Campaign Ads of 2018
House and Senate ads that made us laugh, cry and cringe

West Virginia’s Don Blankenship lost his bid for the Republican Senate nomination. (Screenshot/Blankenship for Congress/YouTube)

The best (or worst) part of following campaigns — depending on your perspective — is watching all the ads. TV spots from campaigns and outside groups have flooded the airwaves this year, beginning with the primaries this spring. 

We’re not judging which ones have been most effective, which were most inaccurate or most offensive. And we’re excluding the biopic viral videos that have raised so much money for Democratic candidates. (For the most part, these lengthy videos didn’t run on TV in full.)

You Don’t Know Them, But You May Know Their Voices
Political voiceover actors are on call right up to Election Day

Kathryn Klvana has recorded voiceovers for Democratic independent expenditure ads in Virginia's 10th District, similar to the one above against GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Even in the final days of the campaign, Sheldon Smith is a busy man.

A phone call to his cell on Wednesday first went to voicemail. The recording left no mistaking it was the right number; it was the voice of a someone who talks for a living. 

The North Carolina Race That Wasn’t Supposed to Be in Play
GOP Rep. George Holding faces his toughest re-election — in a district drawn for his party

Rep. George Holding, R-N.C., is running for re-election for the first time with a Republican in the White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

NASHVILLE, N.C. — Rep. George Holding didn’t have time to finish his beer.

The North Carolina Republican made a last-minute appearance at the local Chamber of Commerce’s Fall Shrimp, Oyster and Chicken Fest here Thursday night. But after 20 minutes of schmoozing at the entrance of the Rose Hill Plantation, it was time to push on to the opening of a county GOP headquarters about 20 minutes away. 

Final Push From NARAL to Fire Up Abortion Rights Voters
Announces $750,000 in direct mail and digital ads targeting most reliable supporters in swing districts

Groups like NARAL want to make sure voters engaged by opposition to the confirmation of Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh actually get out to vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With voters already casting ballots in states that allow early voting, outside advocacy groups are not just trying to reach potential new voters — they’re working to make sure their most ardent supporters actually show up.

That is certainly the case with NARAL, which is announcing a final push to make sure that the abortion rights group’s supporters get out to vote in 2018.

Just How Average Are the Average Voters in Campaign Ads?
There are no rules about disclosing who appears in campaign commercials

Air Force veteran Andrew Marschall, second from right, appears in an ad for North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer’s bid for Senate. What the ad doesn’t mention is that Marschall is a Republican state legislator. (Screenshot Kevin Cramer for Senate/YouTube)

Turn on any TV across America over the next two weeks, and there’s likely to be people talking into the camera about how wonderful or how awful a particular candidate is.

The face-to-camera testimonial from so-called regular people is a staple of campaign advertising.

GOP Super PAC Goes on Attack in Rural Virginia District
Democrat Cockburn has 3Q financial advantage over GOP’s Riggleman

Democrat Leslie Cockburn is running for the open seat in Virginia’s 5th District. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A super PAC tied to House Republican leadership is going on the air in Virginia’s 5th District, where the GOP nominee for the open seat is being outspent by the Democrat. 

Congressional Leadership Fund is debuting a new ad Wednesday in the Roanoke media market that will run through Election Day. The ad, shared first with Roll Call, seeks to contrast Republican Denver Riggleman and Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn. The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that CLF was investing in the district.