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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Onstage and on the air, 2020 Democrats are talking about topics like health care, student loans and reparations, but in the online scramble for donations and e-mail addresses, Trump-centric topics dominate the left's conversation.

The big picture: Hot-button issues like gun control, abortion, immigration and climate change are among the topics that have dominated digital advertising — mostly on Facebook and Google‚ since the midterms, according to data provided to Axios by the progressive group Tech for Campaigns.

Why it matters: Polarizing topics are being pushed via ads on social platforms, where algorithms elevate content that tends to be more emotion-driven. 

  • "On social media, you're in an attention war, and you need content that makes people stop scrolling — that's what these emotionally-charged issues do," said Greg Dale, the director of campaign relations for Tech for Campaigns.
  • A lot of the groups that are spending around these issues are involved in statewide races. That's particularly true for abortion at the state level, where legislative action has heated up in response to Republican power in D.C.

The bottom line: The need to get donations fast is driving a push toward more polarizing messaging. 

Go deeper: For hacked campaigns, 2020 might as well be 2016

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Kellyanne Conway's parting power pointers

Kellyanne Conway addresses the 2020 Republican National Convention. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Axios.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in this town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle in.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

Democrats aim to punish House GOP for Capitol riot

Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes through a newly installed metal detector at the House floor entrance Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to cut funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with a plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.