“We’re asking patriots nationwide to show that they support the pro-growth, conservative agenda that President Trump and I are fighting for ― will you join them? Sign your name now to say ‘thanks’ to President Trump for delivering REAL results on behalf of ALL Americans!” reads the text of the Facebook ad, which also has a little video featuring pictures of Gardner and Trump side-by-side.
But if you’re a voter in Colorado, you probably haven’t seen it.
There are four versions of the ad that began running Monday. According to Facebook data, the ad has been seen the least in Gardner’s own state.
Gardner’s reelection campaign did not return requests for comment on why Colorado voters aren’t seeing the ad.
In theory, the campaign may not have chosen any geographic targeting, and the ad has simply been seen by lots of people not in Colorado. That explanation is far-fetched, however, considering Gardner is the senator from Colorado and presumably has a significant number of Colorado connections on Facebook.
Additionally, every other Facebook ad Gardner is running is being seen in Colorado.
The other explanation is that the Gardner campaign deliberately excluded it from Colorado.
Gardner is one of the most at-risk senators in the 2020 cycle, with Democrats looking at it as one of their best pickup opportunities. The state increasingly leans blue, and Democrats have won the presidential election there the past three cycles.
Gardner is facing off against John Hickenlooper, a former governor who remains popular but who had a series of missteps this spring.
The Trump relationship is tricky for Gardner. On the one hand, completely disowning the president could anger GOP voters, donors and even Trump himself, but being seen as too close to Trump could energize Democrats and turn off independent voters who make up a sizable chunk of the electorate.
Gardner refused to vote for Trump in 2016 ― he said he “cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women” ― but he has endorsed the president’s reelection bid this time around.
And when Trump came to Colorado in February for a rally, Gardner appeared with him and said the president had “done so much good for Colorado.”
“You are going to help us get Cory Gardner across that line because he’s been with us 100%,” Trump told the crowd. “There was no waver. He’s been with us. There was no waver with Cory, and we appreciate that.”
“There are no two ways about it: Sen. Gardner has pledged his allegiance to Donald Trump at the expense of Coloradans,” said Eli Rosen, spokesperson for the Colorado Democratic Party. “As Trump said himself, Gardner is with him ‘100%,’”
UPDATE, 8/17 ― The Gardner campaign told a Colorado Sun reporter that it did not deliberately hide the ad from voters in the state: “Facebook’s algorithms are just optimizing based on people who engage with similar content.” It also said that it ran a nearly identical ad from February to June, reaching only Colorado voters, so it wasn’t trying to hide this spot now.
A Republican strategist offered a fuller potential explanation, telling Colorado Politics that the ad looked like it was intended to collect contact information from potential voters, donors and volunteers. Since it had already run in Colorado ― and presumably resulted in a sizable number of email sign-ups ― the Gardner campaign could have asked for the ad to exclude people already on its list. That would have resulted in a larger share of national viewers.