Future Forward super PAC raises eyebrows in Biden World

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Allies to President Biden are concerned that Future Forward — the preferred super PAC backing the president’s reelection bid — isn’t doing enough in the late spring and summer months to help build a narrative boosting the president and his accomplishments.

The allies say the super PAC is sitting on a massive war chest, but that since its January announcement of a record-breaking $250 million ad buy between August’s Democratic National Convention and Election Day, it has done little to make the case for Biden amid a rash of polling that shows former President Trump leading in key battleground states. 

“I don’t get the strategy,” said one veteran Democratic operative, who has been involved in recent super PACs and desperately wants to see Biden win. “They’re sitting on a s‑‑‑ ton of money and we all know voters are framing their decisions earlier and earlier.”

The Democrat pointed out that it’s also less expensive to make ad buys now as opposed to the fall when television stations are flooded with wall-to-wall campaign ads from various races both national and local. 

“It defies logic and how we have run modern presidential campaigns up to this point,” the operative said. “And every day that goes by is a wasted day.”

A second Democratic source who has been involved in super PACs, said more needs to be done sooner, including a wide-ranging communications push to educate voters on the Biden administration’s successes. 

The source pointed to a recent poll by Politico/Morning Consult that revealed voters aren’t familiar with Biden’s domestic spending initiatives, with many saying they know little about the significant laws that passed during the Biden administration. 

A slim minority said they had seen, read or heard a lot about the laws — 11 percent for the American Rescue Plan, 14 percent for the infrastructure law, 9 percent for the CHIPS and Science Act, and 17 percent for the Inflation Reduction Act, the survey revealed. 

“We have a financial advantage. I don’t know why you wouldn’t flex that,” the second source said. “I’m certainly not someone who thinks we shouldn’t be spending late. We definitely should be spending late. And I’m not here to say it wasn’t effective in the past. It was effective. But this isn’t 2020. 

“And because we have a financial advantage, we can shape the narrative.”

Future Forward did not comment for this story. The super PAC is above equals when it comes to outside groups, as it is run by people who have strong relationships with top Biden advisers, including Anita Dunn. 

At the same time, other groups have been involved in helping Biden. Another Democratic super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, launched a three-week ad blitz against Trump earlier this month, with ads airing in battleground states Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The ads seek to warn voters about reduced abortion access if Trump were to win the election.

And earlier this spring, Unite the Country, a third super PAC backing Biden, spent tens of millions highlighting Trump’s criminal cases and his threat to democracy.

But some Democrats say that isn’t good enough. And they’re asking to see more from Future Forward. 

“The only thing you can’t get more of in a campaign is time,” the second source said. 

Some in Biden World say they believe in the strategy employed by Future Forward. They say voters are still tuned out for the most part and that they don’t want to see ads so far away from Election Day because it would be overkill. They say the best time to catch undecided voters is in the final stretch of the campaign, after the convention. 

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Democrats are dominating the airwaves, spending $33 million on ads tracked by AdImpact. At the same time, the outside group MAGA Inc. has spent $7.9 million.

Traditionally, a campaign’s preferred super PAC has led the way on ad buys, beginning months ahead of the convention. During the last few presidential cycles, Priorities USA Action started driving a narrative about the presumptive Democratic nominee well before the Democratic National Convention.

In 2020, Priorities spent more than $6 million on a string of negative ads attacking Trump. The group ended up spending well more than $100 million before the convention that year.  

In 2016, Priorities, which was the preeminent outside group that helped back Hillary Clinton, released two ads in May of that year attacking Trump for his attitude toward women. 

One of the spots called “Speak” featured a string of comments Trump made about women including “You can see there was blood coming out of here eyes … Blood coming out of her wherever.” Trump made those remarks about television broadcaster Megyn Kelly after a Republican debate. 

In April 2012, Priorities — which also backed Obama’s race — aired an ad called “Romney’s World View.”  The spot appeared on TV and online in key battleground states at the time including Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Virginia. 

In the ad, a narrator sought to bring down then Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, portraying him as favoring the wealthy and being out of touch with middle class Americans. 

“Mitt Romney: He made millions off companies that went bankrupt, while workers lost promised health and retirement benefits,” the narrator says in the spot. “His own tax return from last year reveals he made $21 million, yet paid a lower tax rate than many middle class families. Now Romney’s proposing a huge $150,000 tax cut for the wealthiest 1 percent, while cutting Medicare and education for us. Mitt Romney: If he wins, we lose.”  

Democrats say Future Forward should step in with their own efforts. 

“The mantra for this race should be early and often,” one Democratic strategist said. “We should be all-in all of the time.” 

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