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Monday, October 19, 2020

Everytown pumps $4.4M into closing message in six battleground states

Everytown for Gun Safety is dropping an additional $4.4 million in the closing weeks of the fall election, tying gun safety measures to the coronavirus pandemic in a slew of TV and digital ads.

Everytown, co-founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is spreading its investment across six key battleground states to mobilize supportive voters. The effort is part of $60 million in spending on 2020 races, doubling what the group spent on the 2018 election cycle.

In Texas, Everytown is targeting two open, competitive House seats, dropping $2 million on negative TV ads. In Texas’ 22nd District, the group attacks Republican Troy Nehls, who is running against Democrat Sri Kulkarni, for his National Rifle Association endorsement. In Texas’ 24th District, the ad hits Republican Beth Van Duyne, who is running against Democrat Candace Valenzuela, for accepting money from the NRA.

Everytown is also spending $1.3 million in TV and digital ads aimed at flipping state legislative chambers to Democrats in Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina and Texas. One digital ad tells voters in North Carolina that “Covid-19 is not the only public health crisis facing North Carolina families,” the ad’s narrator says. “Deaths from Covid-19 and gun violence are on the rise, but Republicans in the North Carolina state legislature have failed to take the action required to keep us safe.”

Another $1 million will go to TV and digital ads, as well as a direct mail campaign, focused on voter mobilization in Arizona, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

Everytown’s ad buy comes at the close of a 2020 election dominated by coronavirus and a struggling economy, topics not central to the group’s core issue: stricter gun laws. In March, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, “Everyone asked, ‘was the political zeitgeist scrambled?’ And we asked ourselves the same question,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

Throughout the spring, Everytown researched ways to refine their messaging and found that yoking the coronavirus and gun violence together could be an effective way to move voters.

“Our polling showed us, when you couple the dual carnage of Covid and gun violence to legislative failure to address both emergencies, it's particularly potent,” Feinblatt said. “When you talk about the number of people who have died from Covid, from gun violence, and you lay responsibility at the feet of lawmakers, what you find is that Americans want to know that their lawmakers are going to do to keep them safe.”

One particularly stark example came in a TV ad that aired in Florida and Arizona last month, linking Trump’s inauguration speech to the pandemic and gun violence.

“As he’s sworn into office, Donald Trump warns about American carnage. He was right. Trump’s failed leadership has brought four deadly years,” the ad’s narrator says, over ominous music. “125,000 dead from gun violence, 200,000 more from Covid-19. Now, Trump warns about the carnage to come if he’s not reelected.

“As the death toll continues to rise, downplaying, denying, refusing to act — Donald Trump is failing America,” the ad concludes.

In an analysis done by Civis Analytics, a Democratic analytics firm which performs randomized trials judging the effectiveness of ads, Everytown’s ad was the highest performing 30-second negative ad about President Donald Trump last month.

It “[contextualized] the gun violence crisis within the COVID crisis” and “their fall TV spot effectively moved the needle in increasing support for Democratic candidates,” said Jesse Stinebring, Civis Analytics’ managing director for political research and development.

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