A major outside Democratic group is outspending President Trump on Facebook ads in the crucial battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Why it matters: 2020 presidential candidates have spent at least $61 million so far this cycle on Facebook and Google ads, with Trump in the lead, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. But that's national spending. The state-by-state spend (below) is important because that's where the 2020 election will be won.

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Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive; Table: Axios Visuals

The big picture: Trump is still using online advertising more aggressively than Democrats.

  • "The Trump campaign’s intense testing of ads is one example," writes the NYT. "It posts dozens of variations of almost every ad to figure which plays best. Do voters respond better to a blue button or a green one? ... Will they more readily cough up cash for an impeachment defense fund or an impeachment defense task force?"
  • As Axios' Ina Fried and Sara Fischer write: "Online ad spending offers President Trump an efficient way to target sympathetic voters with fundraising pitches and barrage them with inflammatory messages on issues ranging from immigration to impeachment."

Meanwhile, Priorities USA — a major Democratic super PAC — launched a digital ad campaign in late July "focused on holding President Trump accountable" and highlighting how his economic policies have negatively affected some Americans.

  • The group spent $40 million online in 2016 and they said they plan to spend more than that in 2020.

Yes, but: The GOP has more than $150 million cash on hand for their 2020 efforts, so Democrats aren't yet winning the money race.

The bottom line: Whoever wins the next election will need a battleground strategy online that reflects a comprehensive field operation on the ground in these states.

Go deeper

Parties trade election influence accusations at Big Tech hearing

Photo: Michael Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

A Senate hearing Wednesday with Big Tech CEOs became the backdrop for Democrats and Republicans to swap accusations of inappropriate electioneering.

Why it matters: Once staid tech policy debates are quickly becoming a major focal point of American culture and political wars, as both parties fret about the impact of massive social networks being the new public square.

1 hour ago - World

Germany goes back into lockdown

Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will enact one of Europe's strictest coronavirus lockdowns since spring, closing bars and restaurants nationwide for most of November, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Germany is the latest European country to reimpose some form of lockdown measures amid a surge in cases across the continent.

How overhyping became an election meddling tool

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

As online platforms and intelligence officials get more sophisticated about detecting and stamping out election meddling campaigns, bad actors are increasingly seeing the appeal of instead exaggerating their own interference capabilities to shake Americans' confidence in democracy.

Why it matters: It doesn't take a sophisticated operation to sow seeds of doubt in an already fractious and factionalized U.S. Russia proved that in 2016, and fresh schemes aimed at the 2020 election may already be proving it anew.

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