“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 Gardner’s Facebook ad, which also has a little video featuring pictures of the senator and Trump side-by-side.
But voters in Colorado aren’t seeing this spot, which has four versions that began running last week. According to Facebook data, the ad has been seen the least in Gardner’s own state.
“This is the ad Cory Gardner doesn’t want Colorado to see. He ran it all across America, but not here. What’s Cory Gardner hiding?” reads the Hickenlooper ad, which then posts the video from the Gardner ad. The ad from the popular former governor is running only in Colorado.
Gardner’s campaign did not return multiple requests for comment from HuffPost last week. But it later 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.”
As Democratic digital strategist Emily Bengtson noted on Twitter, that explanation would seem to be a problem for the Gardner campaign, indicating that the senator was “promoting content which *not a single one of his voters* is engaging with ― kind of a pickle to be in as an incumbent seeking re-election!”
“Colorado is not suppressed,” spokeswoman Meghan Graft told Colorado Politics. “Facebook’s algorithms are just optimizing based on people who engage with similar content, which also factors in population and demographics, so obviously Texas, California and Florida are going to be amongst the top three.”
A Republican strategist told 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.
But that is not what the Gardner campaign is saying on the record.
“Not only is Senator Gardner trying to hide his unwavering support for Trump from Coloradans, his campaign actually claimed that even Gardner’s own Facebook audience dislikes Trump!” said Hickenlooper spokeswoman Alyssa Roberts. “Once again, Senator Gardner has failed to be straight with Coloradans because he’s too afraid of the president he has stood with 100%.”
Gardner is considered one of the most at-risk senators in the 2020 election cycle, with Democrats looking at his seat as one of their best pickup opportunities. Colorado increasingly leans blue, and Democrats have won the presidential election there for the past three cycles.
That makes the Trump relationship 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 the president could energize Democrats and turn off independent voters, who make up a sizable chunk of the state’s electorate.
Though Gardner has distanced himself from Trump’s remarks at times, he doesn’t go out of his way to forcefully denounce the president. And when Trump went 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.”