It’s hard to fault voters for asking “where’s Rep. Jeff Van Drew?”
Facing a competitive challenge from the scion of one of the country’s most storied political dynasties, Van Drew’s campaign for a second term has seen its online presence dwarfed by Amy Kennedy’s comparatively prolific social media pages.
Van Drew’s campaign Twitter account has not made a single post in September. In August, the account posted a single tweet sharing an op-ed the Congressman released ahead of his Republican National Convention Speech.
The congressman’s activity on that platform has decreased in past months, though those pages were never that active to begin with.
In June, that account made three posts. In May, it made 14, while it posted nine tweets in April and 12 in March.
Kennedy’s campaign Twitter has posted 67 times this month. That’s more than one-and-a-half times as many tweets as the incumbent’s campaign has put out in the last six months.
Van Drew campaign manager Ron Filan did not return calls, text messages and emails seeking comment first made on Sept. 15. The only response the New Jersey Globe’s inquiries received from Filan came on the morning of Sept. 18, when Filan asked the Globe to email questions because he was “on the road with the congressman all day.”
The Globe never received answers to those questions.
The Democrat-turned-Republican has been slightly more active on Facebook, though not by much.
So far in September, six posts have been made to Van Drew’s Facebook page. Five of the posts were made after the Globe’s Sept. 18 email inquiry about the campaign’s digital strategy.
The page was more active in preceding months, though not tremendously so. There were 13 posts to the Facebook page in August, only one of which mentioned a campaign event. The remainder publicized the congressman’s appearances on Fox News and his Republican National Convention Speech.
The page boasted 17 posts in July and 15 in June.
Kennedy’s online presence dwarfed the incumbent’s here too. So far in September, Kennedy’s campaign has posted to Facebook 51 times—that’s as many posts as have appeared on the incumbent’s page since the start of June.
She made 62 posts in August and 27 posts following her Primary win in July.
There is a silver lining for Van Drew: His Facebook following is far larger than Kennedy’s.
The incumbent’s Facebook page has 18,887 followers to Kennedy’s 4,803, though it’s not clear how many of the congressman’s Facebook followers began tracking the page after Van Drew defected to the Republican party last December.
Faced with crumbling support among rank-and-file Democrats over his opposition to impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, Van Drew left the Democratic party in December, becoming a fervently pro-Trump Republican in the process.
The challenger’s Twitter platform is larger than her opponent’s. She has roughly 11,500 followers to Van Drew’s 7,019.
She has the advantage in recent Facebook ad spending too.
Between Sept. 16 and Sept. 22, Kennedy spent $13,071 on Facebook and Instagram ads, compared to $9,304 for Van Drew.
In the weeks preceding Sept. 22, Van Drew’s ads touted his RNC speech to the exclusion of all else, though the congressman launched two new digital ads Tuesday, the first touting his record on health care and COVID-19, while the second attacks Kennedy as a “phony, entitled liberal elitist.”
The challenger’s recent ads largely focus on a fundraising push made ahead of the end of 2020’s third quarter, though a handful focused on her health care platform and attacked Van Drew for his party switch and ensuing pledge of “undying loyalty” to Trump.