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President Donald Trump speaks at a roundtable on the economy and tax reform at Nuss Trucking and Equipment on April 15, 2019 in Burnsville, Minnesota. Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The Trump campaign is spending nearly half (44%) of its Facebook ad budget to target users who are over 65 years old, as opposed to Democratic candidates who are only spending 27% of their budget on that demographic, according to data given to Axios exclusively from Bully Pulpit Interactive. 

Why it matters: In the wake of huge 2018 Democratic gains among young voters, older voters will be even more critical to Trump's strategy in 2020. 

Expand chart
Adapted from a Bully Pulpit Interactive chart; Chart: Axios Visuals
"We assume Trump is making a huge play to hold an advantage he had in 2016 with older white voters. This follows the public statements from the campaign manager that they plan to target and reach all of their voters online, not just cultivate small-dollar donors."
— Ben Coffey Clark, partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive

Between the lines: Other data points pulled from the Facebook ad archive show that the President is using most of those ads targeted towards older people to talk about immigration. 

  • Trump is using nativist language around immigrants in 54% of his ads, according to BPI. So far Democrats have not responded in kind on the topic of immigration and are focused on fundraising and other policy issues.
  • "The one thing the Trump campaign has proven time and again is that they follow the results and optimize for outcomes and not the general consensus," says Zac Moffatt, CEO and founder of public affairs firm Targeted Victory, which specializes in corporate and conservative issue campaigns and causes.

How it works: Facebook opened up its ad archive API (application programming interface) for the first time in March in a way that makes it possible to glean insights about a campaign's targeting and messaging strategy. Previously, spend dynamics were available, as was ad creative, but this level of granularity around ad targeting was not. 

By the numbers: In total, the Trump campaign is only targeting voters 18-35 with 4.3% of his total ad budget. 

  • Unsurprisingly, Democrats Tusli Gabbard, Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourke are doubling down on young people, spending almost four times as much as Trump to reach those voters.
  • Both Democrats and Trump are targeting middle-aged people, ages 34-65 roughly, at the same percentage of total spend. 

Be smart: The Facebook algorithm will usually optimize ads towards younger voters who are easier to reach, which reinforces The Trump campaign's commitment to consolidate its base with older voters.

The big picture: Multiple studies released over the past year suggest that Facebook usage on the core app is tilting much older, as younger users flock to apps like TikTok and Facebook-owned Instagram.

  • Traditionally, campaigns have been able to target older viewers mostly via national TV buys or direct mailings. This data shows that the Trump campaign sees an opportunity to target them digitally too.

Go deeper

Cuomo asks New York AG and chief judge to choose "independent" investigator into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Feb. 24. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A special counselor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement Sunday asking the state's attorney general and chief judge to jointly pick an "independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation" to investigate claims of sexual harassment against the governor. The AG's office subsequently turned down the offer, saying it wants to conduct its own probe.

The state of play: The statement is an about-face from Cuomo, who had previously selected a former judge close to a top aide to lead the investigation, the New York Times reported, a move that was widely criticized.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.