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Republicans hope the digital targeting will help GOP candidate Debbie Lesko (right) defeat Democratic candidate Hiral Tipirneni (left). Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Republicans' strategy for today's special House election in Arizona was to target digital ads to GOP early voters — and it appears to have paid off, with the share of early voters from each party about on par with the past few cycles.

Why it matters: Although the district is deep red and isn't expected to flip, this counters the trend of high Democratic turnout and depressed GOP turnout in other special elections. Micro-targeting voters and digital ads are also part of a larger Republican strategy to protect the House in November.

The strategy: The Congressional Leadership Fund — a political action committee allied with House Speaker Paul Ryan — partnered with Cavalry, a consulting firm founded by former aides to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to run the digital advertising campaign in Arizona.

  • They spent only $65,000 on ads reaching an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 voters on the district's permanent early voter list. Voters on the list saw the ads over 50 times on average over the past month, and more than 18,000 clicked the ads to find their poll location, per Cavalry.
  • "By efficiently targeting this list online, we were able to quietly bank votes" for Republican candidate Debbie Lesko, said Cavalry's Michael Duncan.
  • It’s a tough political environment right now for Republicans, “but by being smart and using the data that’s available, we can make sure we’re not leaving any votes on the table,” he said.

By the numbers: As of four days ago, 48.3 percent of ballot returns were for Republicans and 27.8 percent were for Democrats. At the same point in the 2016 election cycle, 46.7 percent of returns were for Republicans and 27 percent for Democrats, per data analysis firm Data Orbital.

The bigger picture: CLF announced a $10 million digital advertising buy last week, which will be spread across 30 districts. "By placing an emphasis on a hyper-targeted digital effort, CLF was able to focus on turning out key voters," executive director Corry Bliss said, adding that "CLF has placed a high priority on digital targeting for the 2018 cycle."

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

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Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.