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Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

In an effort to lure voters around issues like race relations, the Trump campaign has poured big money into Facebook ads about criminal justice reform.

Why it matters: It's a huge departure from his months-long campaign strategy of targeting hard-line supporters with ads discussing topics like the "fake news" media and immigration.

  • Now, the campaign is pushing more aggressively to address newer issues that experts think voters will consider more seriously in November.

The big picture: Top Republicans think that the election will hinge on four key issues — the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, China and race.

  • Polling suggests that the president's campaign fails miserably on race relations.

By the numbers: Prior to George Floyd's death, the Trump campaign spent less than $50,000 on Facebook ads addressing criminal justice.

  • Since two days after Floyd's death on May 25th, the campaign has poured nearly $6 million into Facebook ads about criminal justice, according to data from Bully Pulpit Interactive.
  • While spending on "fake news" has remained consistent, in the past two months the Trump campaign's investment in ads addressing criminal justice reform have surpassed "fake news" as a top policy issue in ad messaging.

Yes, but: The Trump campaign is also investing heavily in ads opposing defunding the police, which typically mention "law and order" and the "radical left," a topic that appeals to many Republicans and their concerns that the protests over police brutality will dismantle law enforcement.

  • Overall, the Trump campaign has spent roughly $45 million on Facebook ads since late May, while the Biden campaign has spent around $24 million.

Between the lines: Trump views helping Black Americans as a separate issue from police brutality. While he says he supports Black lives, he also argues vehemently against defunding the police and has criticized the "Black Lives Matter" movement as a "symbol of hate."

  • Instead, in response to widespread criticism over his handling of the Floyd protests, Trump and his reelection campaign hit back by promoting his work on criminal justice reform and touting that unemployment among African Americans has dropped since he took office.
  • His campaign has continued that approach in the months since the outcry over Floyd's death, and plans to emphasize this messaging during the Republican National Convention this week — including with a speech from Alice Marie Johnson, whose prison sentence Trump commuted.

The other side: The Trump campaign declined to comment. Jamal Brown, national press secretary for the Biden campaign, told Axios that "no amount of gaslighting or false ads about Joe Biden's record can help explain away Trump's racism."

  • "Joe Biden and Kamala Harris offer a better path forward to a safer, more equitable future, and we will spend every day between now and election day making that contrast known."

View the ads.

Go deeper

Dec 1, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Don Jr. tells Georgia Senate voters that Trump is on the ballot

Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui T./Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In a six-figure radio ad being released in Georgia today, Donald Trump Jr. tells the state's voters that the U.S. Senate — and his father's accomplishments — are on the line during January's special election, according to audio obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Trump Jr.'s first of many advertisements in the Georgia Senate races argues the race isn't just about electing the Republican incumbents, but also about preserving President Trump's agenda.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.

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