The Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century announced Friday that it plans to spend $200 million, including $140 million on paid advertising, to secure the support of women swing voters for President Joe Biden in the November election.
American Bridge 21st Century has not yet raised all of the funds needed for its campaign, but it already has $85 million on hand.
The group’s spending program would target persuadable women in rural and exurban communities in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, with the possibility of expanding to North Carolina.
American Bridge 21st Century’s strategy is premised on the idea that the Democratic Party’s strength with its base helps it rack up popular-vote victories, but the small portion of the electorate made up of swing voters often decides the fate of critical battleground states.
“There is no reason not to do both” a base and a swing-voter strategy, said Bradley Beychok, a co-founder of American Bridge 21st Century. “Let’s always assume that the base piece is going to be there, because those are the most fervent supporters. But our theory of the case is going to be that there are a lot of gains to be had in these outer places ― more rural areas, more exurban areas.”
The strategy marks a decisive departure from 2016 when many Democratic leaders sounded like they thought they could win without even trying to limit the damage in more blue-collar and less populated parts of the country.
“We may not win in all of these places, but if we don’t lose as bad as we have in the past like in 2016, it’s a recipe for electoral success,” Beychok added. “That will be our playbook.”
The Democratic group has a two-part strategy for convincing these voters of the need to vote for Biden. The first component is highlighting Biden’s policy accomplishments with an emphasis on how it affects the communities of the targeted voters. For example, if Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act led to the construction of an electric vehicle battery plant in the vicinity, the target group of voters can expect to hear about it.
“This economy is roaring. We came out of COVID strong. He’s done a lot of things for young voters, Black and brown voters, middle-class voters, labor workers,” Beychok said. “The list goes on and on. We will certainly claim that credit and tell that story.”
Equally important though, American Bridge 21st Century plans to emphasize the risks of another Donald Trump presidency ― particularly for abortion rights and the health of the country’s democracy. Trump has yet to lock up the Republican presidential nomination, but he is the strong favorite in polls, and Democrats have treated his victory as a fait accompli.
Trump “is a scary thing to a lot of voters, particularly to women, especially when he is the face and brand of banning abortion nationwide,” Beychok said.
“We’re going to create a permission structure that shows voters it’s OK to remember Trump,” he added. “I know it gives you anxiety, but he is who we’re running against, and certainly it’s OK to vote against him again, and here’s why you have to.”
Critically, American Bridge 21st Century’s advertisements on TV, digital media, radio and other platforms, will exclusively feature the words and voices of like-minded men and women from their regions explaining why they plan to vote for Biden, especially if they supported Trump in the past.
Beginning in June last year, American Bridge 21st Century spent months determining the most strategic demographic to target, and then painstakingly identifying the universe of voters that make up that demographic. It settled on women who are likely skeptical of former President Donald Trump and supportive of abortion rights, but may have concerns about Biden or lack the motivation to show up and vote. The target demographic is generally made up of white women over age 30 without a strong attachment to either party, and a moderate history of voting in elections. These women probably do not have a college degree, but come from households that are middle class or higher.
American Bridge 21st Century likewise sought out, and identified hundreds of “messengers” in exurban and rural parts of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, who would make suitable candidates to speak to their peers in paid advertising or grassroots organizing.
American Bridge, as it was then known, began in 2010 as a research and communications shop designed to boost Democrats and undermine Republicans by securing helpful media coverage.
The group continues to have a robust “earned media” operation. But American Bridge 21st Century’s 2024 spending plans are the culmination of an organizing and advertising strategy it has deployed successfully in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles.
In 2020, the group’s research led it to believe it could be most effective with a persuadable set of non-college white voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. The group points to evidence that its $85-million campaign that year reduced Trump’s support among those voters by 4 percentage points in the three states where it was active.
In 2022, American Bridge 21st Century’s research indicated that it would get a better return on its investment by targeting “half partisan” women who “turn up half the time.”
“These women have come into the electoral fold when Trump was elected or when Roe was overturned. And there are more of them than there are of anyone else that are swing voters,” Beychok said. “There’s 8-10% of the electorate that are going to be persuadable, and the majority of them are going to be women.”