The Iowa Firearms Coalition Political Action Committee focused heavily on getting out the gun-owner vote and raising awareness of pro-gun candidates in the 2020 election. In prior races, IFC had used text messaging through i360, light social media advertising, and candidate donations to influence voter turnout and support pro-gun candidates. 2020 has brought unique challenges in voter engagement through COVID-19 and massive spending in national races. It was determined that our most effective outlet to engage voters would be to target key demographics in swing district legislative races and pivot regions in Iowa through social media. IFC-PAC running more ads was also an opportunity to prepare for a 2022 ballot initiative and increase awareness in IFC and IFC-PAC advertising.
IFC utilized previous election data and generally accepted election expectations to select target races in retaining a Second Amendment friendly majority in the Iowa House and Senate. IFC PAC did not exclude suburban and urban communities as we believe our message carries well there. Supporting this conclusion was heavy firearm purchasing trends in Iowa’s urban areas and success with the Whitver-Gustafson Senate race in 2018, where significant election effort was aimed at the Ankeny area with high engagement from gun owners. We believe that success in the same area in 2020 validated that conclusion.
IFC-PAC Candidate List:
- Dan Dawson (SD-8)
- Michael Bergan (HD-55)
- Jeff Shipley (HD-82)
- Eddie Andrews (HD-39)
- Garret Gobble (HD-38)
- Jon Dunwell (HD-29)
- Steve Bradley (HD-58)
- Brooke Boden (HD-26)
- Mark Cisneros (HD-91)
- Tim Goodwin (SD-44)
- Jeff Reichman (SD- 42)
- Brent Siegrist (HD-16)
- Sally Abbott (HD-67)
- John Landon (HD-37)
- Bobby Kaufmann (HD-73)
Based on election outcomes, we believe the targeting was effective and well placed. Two of the selected races fell short. IFC PAC observed high engagement in the Jon Dunwell race, where he achieved 48.4% of the vote in his race, where the incumbent won by 17% in 2018. The other failed race was Sally Abbott, who was selected as IFC PAC had targeted that race in 2018 when Ashley Hinson was defending the seat against a Moms Demand Action endorsed candidate. We also noted higher engagement levels in the Shipley and Boden races as we encountered higher levels of support and opposition from people engaging the posts.
IFC-PAC ran both positive ads for the pro-gun candidates and attack ads directed at the challengers. For the pro-gun ads, we only used the endorsed language with Dan Dawson. Other positive ads labeled the candidates as defenders of the Second Amendment for incumbents and encouraged voters to preserve fundamental liberties for newcomers. Tier 1 candidates had multiple ads and graphics created on their behalf.
IFC PAC attack ads were centered around incumbents who had previously voted against the Freedom Amendment, Bloomberg endorsements, and simple ‘can’t be trusted with your right to keep and bear arms’ language. The attack ads for Bloomberg endorsements would link the most radical elements of the gun-control lobby’s agenda to the candidate. Tier 1 opponents had multiple attack ads created. The attack ads were run with a much larger portion of the candidate’s budget in the suburban races, where outspoken anti-gun candidates were seeking re-election.
In addition to candidate-oriented ads, IFC also ran generic ads aimed at civil unrest, hunters, women, patriotism, and the tradition of firearm ownership. The ads appeared multiple times to target different outcomes. The generic ads ran statewide targeting politically moderate and conservative social media users and then were ran again targeting IFC PAC pivot counties. We also targeted specific interests such as hunting, right-wing news, and commonly held interests amongst our core membership.
The following map steered targeting of IFC PAC ads in pivot counties. We did add the Council Bluffs area to support two races and emphasized the Mississippi River counties with generic ads.
The overall engagement with the generic ads was positive. Ordinary shares were 200-1000, comments ranged from 150-1100, and the reach went as high as 95,000 people per ad. The highest engagement came in ads directed at hunters and centered around civil unrest.