Barnette pulls ahead of Pennsylvania Senate rivals in Facebook traction

Data: CrowdTangle; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Kathy Barnette has quietly built a robust organic social media operation as her more prominent rivals for Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate nomination on Tuesday have plowed huge sums into digital ads, data reviewed by Axios show.

Why it matters: In what’s expected to be one of the most expensive Senate primaries in U.S. history, Barnette has pulled within striking distance of rivals — namely, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and financier David McCormick — who have far more resources at their disposal.

  • Barnette has, nonetheless, capitalized on grassroots conservative enthusiasm in the final weeks of the race.
  • It’s reflected in Facebook engagement numbers showing her steadily gaining traction against her competition.

By the numbers: Axios analyzed social media data from CrowdTangle.

It shows average weekly engagement on Facebook posts for Barnette, Oz and McCormick, the three front-runners.

  • Despite a Facebook following far smaller than Oz’s — who boasts millions of fans on the site stemming from his long career in the limelight — Barnette overtook Oz last week in per-post engagement figures.
  • Her recognition in the race received a huge boost this month thanks to a viral video about her life story.

Between the lines: Political advertising data show Barnette has spent far less than her rivals on paid content on the platform.

  • Her campaign has reported spending less than $36,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads during the past 90 days.
  • That’s compared to $216,000 for Oz and $99,000 for McCormick.
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