Priorities USA led the charge against Trump and his allies

November 03, 2020

Priorities USA powered Democrats to the verge of victory up and down the ballot in 2020.

After four long years of Donald Trump’s failed leadership, the American people are ready to turn the page on his chaos and incompetence — and restore character and decency to the White House. 

Priorities USA led an unprecedented outside effort to boost Joe Biden’s campaign to the doorstep of victory through a combination of big spending, fresh thinking and smart strategy. We believe our unparalleled investments over the past four years, along with those of our partners, pushed the progressive movement forward in countless areas and prepared us to seize this moment together.

Priorities was the largest independent spender in the presidential race — and we used that money to make smart investments that won the digital ad war.

In an election marked by historic fundraising numbers and massive expenditures by outside groups from both parties, Priorities USA led the field as the largest independent spender in the presidential race on either side. All told, we invested $153 million in television, radio and digital advertising, including $133 million across the core six battleground states.

But we didn’t just spend a ton of money using the same old political playbook — we questioned the conventional wisdom and made smart investments in innovative ideas that paid off big. In particular, we made an unprecedented commitment to our digital strategy, shifting a large portion of our spending away from traditional channels in an effort to meet voters where they are increasingly spending their time. As a result, a full 50% of our presidential ad spending happened online through a diverse mix of social, search and streaming platforms.

To make that possible, we built a best-in-class, digital-first team that brought all of our creative, targeting, buying and measurement work under one roof. By investing in our in-house talent, we were able to increase our impact — maximizing our resources and expanding digital infrastructure for the progressive movement writ large.

Priorities mapped the right path to victory from the start — and invested early to keep it clear throughout the primary.

At the onset of the 2020 cycle, Priorities identified a clear, strategic path to 270 electoral votes that focused on a defined, six-state battlefield: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. After two years and $133 million in concentrated ad spending by Priorities across these core presidential battlegrounds, those early decisions have been validated. Today, those states remain the most likely to decide the election and, therefore, represent Joe Biden’s best path to victory in the Electoral College.

Of course, that kind of wire-to-wire consistency didn’t just happen on its own. It was made possible by large-scale investments by Priorities to aggressively shape the narrative of this election on the most favorable possible terms for Democrats. That included making a massive early investment to put the president on defense during primary season, refusing to cede these crucial fall battlegrounds to Trump while the rest of our party (rightfully) focused on selecting a nominee. As part of this early effort, beginning in July 2019, Priorities single-handedly outspent the Trump campaign online in the core battlegrounds for more than a year — filling the spending gap and ensuring those key states remained competitive until the Biden campaign could successfully secure the nomination and turn their attention to the general election.

Priorities spent big to define Trump’s coronavirus failures — and the president never recovered.

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic fundamentally altered the trajectory of this race — and Priorities was there to meet the moment and hold Donald Trump accountable for his pandemic failures. We were the first outside group to go up on TV and digital platforms in battleground states telling the truth about his botched response to the virus. In fact, between late March and the end of May, Priorities USA alone outspent spent America First and the Trump campaign combined in battleground states in order to ensure that voters learned the truth about Trump’s disastrous mishandling of the pandemic. 

And all those attacks produced measurable results. A digital experiment conducted during this timeframe revealed that our digital program alone increased Joe Biden’s statewide margin by 1.25 points and decreased Trump’s overall approval by 2.4 points on average between April and September. And perhaps unsurprisingly, while Trump’s approval rating on his handling of the pandemic was above water in battleground states when our onslaught began in March, with the help of a steady drumbeat of $69 million worth of ads on the issue from Priorities, it has dropped precipitously in our polling in the months since — and the president’s political prospects have never recovered.

Priorities led the charge on voting rights litigation — and won big victories for our democracy.

Donald Trump has openly cast doubt on election results and admitted that he is relying on the courts to hand him a victory, but voter suppression is far from a new phenomenon. That’s why Priorities has been leading the fight to protect every American’s voting rights since 2015 — and we took our litigation program to the next level in 2020.

When the coronavirus crisis hit, we knew we needed to overhaul our litigation strategy and moved to protect voting during the pandemic. Priorities quickly pivoted to fighting Republican efforts to exploit the pandemic and make voting even harder by forcing their constituents to choose between their health and their right to vote. We increased our litigation budget to over $34 million, identified four ways to reform state election laws to support vote-by-mail, and initiated 18 legal challenges in six states to institute these and other reforms — winning key victories in Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

Priorities partnered with allies to build progressive power — and put the Senate in play.

Of course, defeating Donald Trump and electing Democrats up and down the ticket isn’t a task one organization can accomplish on its own. That’s why Priorities has worked hard to develop deep partnerships and form strong alliances with organizations working in all corners of the progressive space. 

Throughout the cycle, we forged meaningful partnerships with 119 national, state and local progressive organizations, allowing us to share learning, increase capacity and coordinate efforts across the movement. Our in-house team was able to coordinate $204 million of allied spending to better optimize our resource allocation and ensure we collectively covered the full map as efficiently as possible. 

Priorities also formed a powerful partnership with Senate Majority PAC, with the two organizations quietly collaborating to spend $27 million on digital ad campaigns in three of the most crucial Senate races of the 2020 cycle — targeting Martha McSally in Arizona, Susan Collins in Maine and Thom Tillis in North Carolina. 

Working hand in hand, Priorities and SMP were able to engage in these key states earlier than ever before, define each race on our terms and put the incumbents on defense from the jump. As a result, all three Republicans appear headed for defeat on Election Day — paving the way to a Democratic majority in 2021 and beyond.