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AOC deftly deployed digital spending to trounce Wall Street–backed rival

June 24, 2020, 10:46 PM UTC

So far, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is passing her first reelection campaign with flying colors.

The woman they call AOC trounced her challengers in yesterday’s New York congressional primary elections, winning more than 70% of the vote in securing the Democratic nomination for the state’s 14th congressional district (representing parts of the east Bronx and northwest Queens).

The 30-year-old Ocasio-Cortez, whose youth and progressive politics have made her a rising star in the Democratic Party, defeated a notable challenge from former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, who positioned herself as a moderate, pro-business alternative to the incumbent.

But Caruso-Cabrera could only muster less than 20% of the vote, despite reportedly turning to Wall Street heavyweights like Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman for fundraising.

Still, as the New York Times notes, Caruso-Cabrera’s $2 million war chest was no match for Ocasio-Cortez, who has raised more than $10 million since the start of the current election cycle—the fifth most among all congressional candidates in that time.

Arguably as important as the amount that Ocasio-Cortez has raised is how her campaign has deployed those funds: with a heavy dose of digital advertising. AOC has spent $3.6 million to date on Facebook ads during the current election cycle, according to the Times, including $2.4 million this year alone. By comparison, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the second-biggest digital advertiser among current House members, has spent only $620,000 online this year.

With digital advertising widely considered a key reason why the Trump campaign was able to deliver a shocking victory in the 2016 presidential election, the rest of the political establishment has sought to catch up. AOC is no exception; in addition to heavy online advertising expenditures, her enviable social media presence (she’s one of the most-followed members of Congress on Twitter) is capable of rallying a vocal base of progressive supporters online.

It has proved enough to secure her district’s Democratic nomination for the second time running, and shown that her 2018 upset of longtime congressman Joe Crowley—which launched her into the national political conversation—was no fluke.

“Wall Street CEOs, from Goldman Sachs to Blackstone, poured in millions to defeat our grassroots campaign tonight,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday evening. “But their money couldn’t buy a movement.”