WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Donald Trump's re-election campaign is ramping up a Facebook ad campaign against efforts to impeach him, buying more ads on the topic in recent weeks than all the Democratic White House candidates combined.
The contrast between the president and the Democratic field is a sign that Trump is betting the Democratic-led congressional impeachment inquiry, which enters a new phase with public hearings scheduled for Wednesday (Nov 13), could help him win the November 2020 election. Public opinion polls show support for impeachment is concentrated among Democrats.
Last Friday alone, the president sent out more than 400 Facebook ads asking for donations that would be rewarded with a personalised "Impeachment Defence Membership Card."
The ads are designed to energise Trump's supporters, encouraging them to turn out to vote in next year's election, and help him win over independents skeptical of the impeachment process, said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist.
"The Democrats are fired up no matter what. He has to make sure that he's able to match and exceed the Democrats'intensity," said O'Connell, who worked on the 2008 presidential campaign of Republican John McCain.
The impeachment inquiry focuses on a July 25 telephone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Joe Biden, a leading contender in the Democratic race for the right to challenge Trump in 2020, and Biden's son Hunter, who had served as a director for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Trump made his request after withholding $391 (S$532 million) million in security aid approved by the US Congress to help fight Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The president has denied any wrongdoing and branded the impeachment investigation a sham.
The Democratic candidates typically combine to run more ads than the president every day. But Trump's campaign and backers pumped out more than 2,900 Facebook ads in the two weeks through last Friday that mention "impeach" or "impeachment," according to a Reuters analysis of Facebook ad data.
The 15 Democratic candidates running new ads in the same period had just more than 200 mentioning impeachment, according to the data, which was gathered by computer scientists at the Tandon School of Engineering at New York University.
The Trump campaign declined to comment specifically on the ads, but communications director Tim Murtaugh said the impeachment proceedings were getting Trump supporters "more fired up." "We are in the fight of our lives right now," the text of one of the ads said. "The President is counting on YOU to be there with him on the front lines of this nasty impeachment battle."
Biden, the former vice president, has called for Trump's impeachment in speeches and has run a few dozen ads in recent weeks inviting viewers to respond to the question: "Should Trump be impeached?" His ads have focused more on attacking Trump over past incendiary remarks, including the president's comment in 2017 that there were "very fine people on both sides" at a rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a self-described neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a woman.
US Senator Elizabeth Warren, another leading Democratic contender, has called for Trump's impeachment in Facebook ads.
But her ads in recent weeks have focused more on her plans for universal health insurance and improving access to higher education.