May 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Trump and inner circle hang on Facebook verdict

Illustration of Trump's silhouette inside a blank Facebook profile picture template

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Donald Trump and his inner circle are anxiously awaiting Facebook's decision about whether to reinstate him to the platform, viewing it as the propellant for an increasingly likely second presidential campaign in 2024.

Why it matters: The decision, due Wednesday morning, could shape the campaign, because Trump's confidants view Facebook as the linchpin to his fundraising and online political strategy.

  • These confidants concede there's a long way to go until 2024 and circumstances could change that dissuade Trump from running. But sources who've spoken to the former president in recent weeks say he's missing being at the center of the political universe and may not be able to resist running again.
  • Trump has publicly held open the possibility of a 2024 campaign and is putting in place an operation to preserve that option. Trump established his own outside groups and has told his supporters to donate to them to help Republicans win.
  • Despite living in political exile in Florida, Trump remains far more popular with Republican voters than GOP lawmakers in Washington.

The big picture: While Trump is known for his connection to Twitter, Facebook has always been central to his campaign strategy. His team used the social network relentlessly in 2016 and 2020 to raise money and energize hardcore supporters.

  • Trump spent around $160 million on Facebook ads in 2020, microtargeting key supporters.
  • Biden spent $117 million on the same effort.

Between the lines: Trump and his aides have publicly minimized the political consequences of him being kicked off these platforms. The former president has claimed his press releases get even more coverage than his tweets, although comparative metrics are difficult.

  • Behind the scenes, though, the reality is they're anxious to be re-platformed — and on Facebook especially because of its superior power as a fundraising tool.
  • "Getting this account back is not only essential for his future political viability," a source close to Trump told Axios, "it would also be an undoing of an unjust act by a social media company that made an ad hoc ruling to de-platform a sitting president."
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