U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper released a series of Facebook ads Monday that draw attention to ads run last week on the social media platform by his Republican opponent, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, featuring President Donald Trump — only the Democrat's versions of the ads are appearing only in Colorado, while Gardner's ads were seen by Facebook users in every state but Colorado.
"This is the ad Cory Gardner doesn’t want Colorado to see," says one of the Hickenlooper ads, above an image of Trump and Gardner raising their hands triumphantly.
"He ran it all across America, but not here. What’s Cory Gardner hiding?"
But instead of linking to a brief video extolling the "REAL results" Gardner had advertised the Republicans' "pro-growth conservative agenda" had delivered, Hickenlooper's ad links to a HuffPost story by Amanda Terkel, the news site's Washington bureau chief.
Terkel reported Friday that the Gardner ads highlighting his bond with Trump appeared to be showing up in front of Facebook's U.S. users everywhere except in his home state, according to Facebook data.
Other versions of the Hickenlooper ads that began running Monday featured maps of the United States with an empty spot where Colorado should be.
"Cory Gardner has been running ads outside of Colorado featuring Donald Trump and his border wall, but HID those ads from Coloradans," one of those ads read. "This is typical of Gardner: He says one thing in Colorado but outside the state he’s all Trump’s."
The Gardner campaign on Friday vehemently denied it was concealing Gardner's Trump ties from Coloradans, instead pointing the blame at Facebook's ad algorithm, which amplifies ads among populations that are responding to "similar content."
“Colorado is not suppressed,” Gardner spokeswoman Meghan Graft told Colorado Politics. “Facebook’s algorithms are just optimizing based on people who engage with similar content, which also factors in population and demographics, so obviously Texas, California and Florida are going to be amongst the top three.”
Anyway, the ad hadn't been hidden from Coloradans, the Gardner campaign protested, pointing to an almost identical version that ran for about four months earlier in the year that was solely targeted at Facebook users in Colorado. What's more, while the new ad reached about 20,000 users, the original ad was viewed by around 850,000 users, Facebook data showed.
If the Gardner campaign told Facebook to avoid showing the ad to people who were already on Gardner's mailing list, a Republican strategist said, that could leave Colorado Facebook users out in the cold, since Gardner had likely already milked that group for all it was worth.
Democratic digital strategists and the Hickenlooper campaign scoffed at the Gardner campaign's explanations.
“Not only is Senator Gardner trying to hide his unwavering support for Trump from Coloradans, his campaign actually claimed that even Gardner’s own Facebook audience dislikes Trump!” Hickenlooper spokeswoman Alyssa Roberts said Monday.
“Once again, Senator Gardner has failed to be straight with Coloradans because he’s too afraid of the president he has stood with 100%.”
Gardner, considered one of the most vulnerable senators up for election this year, appeared on stage with Trump at a February rally in Colorado Springs, where he lavished praise on the president and Trump echoed the sentiment.
“You are going to help us get Cory Gardner across that line because he’s been with us 100%,” Trump told the crowd. “There was no waver. He’s been with us."
Friday afternoon, Trump reiterated his support for Gardner, tweeting that the Republican had his "Complete and Total Endorsement."
The Gardner campaign declined to comment Monday on its challenger's new ad campaign.