Why the 2020 campaign is now in 'totally uncharted waters'

Why the 2020 campaign is now in 'totally uncharted waters'
Phil Roeder https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

From rallies and conventions to canvassing on busy sidewalks, crowds and elections go hand in hand. But the 2020 election will be the first in the United States since the deadly coronavirus pandemic. And journalist Jeff Greenfield, in an article for Politico, contemplates how the pandemic could affect this year’s election.


“For the 200-day stretch of campaign that still stands between now and November 5,” Greenfield writes, “it has also brought home a stark new reality. Though the primary has followed a largely traditional path, it is now clear that long before we hit November, campaigns will be in totally uncharted waters.”

Greenfield asks, “What kind of a campaign can you even run if the key element of a campaign — regular, in-person visits to battleground states — is off the table? How do you mount a get-out-the-vote campaign if door-to-door canvassing and sign-up efforts at mass rallies are out of the question?”

The journalist goes on to explain that he discussed this subject with both Republican and Democratic “veterans of past campaigns,” asking for their insights on campaigning in the age of coronavirus.

David Axelrod, former campaign manager for President Barack Obama, told Politico, “Conventions may be an anachronism, but they do provide four nights of network coverage and a guaranteed national audience — the impact of which is magnified by the enthusiasm of a crowd.”

Veteran Democratic strategist Robert Shrum believes that former Vice President Joe Biden — the only remaining candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary — can use technology to be “reassuring.”

“If I was with the Biden campaign,” Shrum told Politico, “I’d work long and hard at shaping an acceptance speech that’s more of a ‘fireside chat.’ I’d forget about shaping sound bites and go for a narrative and a logical consistency. You have to deliver them in a conversational way. And I think Biden can pull this off. One of the things that people think is a weakness is a strength. He’s reassuring, not a revolutionary.”

A long-time GOP operative, Mike Murphy, recommends getting Hollywood involved in the election.

“I’d call Hollywood and say, ‘We need a great 90-minute movie.... and start thinking about this now.’ Hollywood people know how to do this better than political hacks.”

Democratic strategist Joe Trippi recalls that when he worked on former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004, it was necessary to use the internet for fundraising — and 16 years later, according to Trippi, the internet is even more crucial for campaigns.

“In ’04, we did the internet because we had to,” Trippi told Politico. “We had to create a whole different way of doing it. The necessity is there again.”

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