With gatherings being canceled around the country, former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders have continued their primary campaigns, but from a much more distant place away from public contact. Thanks to social media and the ubiquitous means now available to live video stream your thoughts and communicate directly supporters, each campaign has moved to a virtual presence, as much as possible.
Some observers and analysts have been asking the question of where Joe Biden went after the Democratic debate on March 15 which was basically the last high-profile campaign event for the foreseeable future. For Biden, the transition to virtual campaigning has been rocky, but his presence online continues to build and the former vice president is now broadcasting live from his home, per CBS News:
As many Americans moved to tele-working and began connecting with family, friends and coworkers more regularly over online video conferencing software, former vice president Joe Biden has so far only used these platforms once to address the increasingly anxious public.
But Biden began changing that Monday morning, broadcasting from his home.
“Let me be clear, Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus, but he does bear responsibility for our response. And I, along with every American, hope he steps up and starts to get this right,” Biden said, adding this “isn’t about politics” and there’s “too much at stake.”
The former vice president said it’s well past time for the president to put into action the Defense Production Act to boost the production of essential medical equipment and supplies and increase the capacity of the U.S. health care system by activating military personnel.
“Trump keeps saying he’s a wartime president. Well, start to act like one,” Biden said.
For the past week, the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s communication strategy has been light on public, on-camera addresses and focused more on lengthy statements released by his campaign.
Biden’s balancing act of limited exposure and a propensity to put his foot in his mouth means he can’t be out front and center as much as he or his campaign would probably like right now. It’s also a balancing act of not coming off too harsh against the sitting president during a time of national crisis. Essentially the Democratic primary dropped off the radar in every news broadcast, especially after it seemed that Biden appeared to start putting Sanders at a delegate disadvantage, one which is near impossible to dig out of given the current reality of canceled primaries.
The CBS story goes on to note that Biden is basically a moot point sitting on the sidelines waiting for voters to care about the election again. He’s sitting on the bench watching House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer take the baton for Democrats on the national stage.
What about Bernie Sanders? The senator from Vermont has long been strong with his social media presence, especially after building an army in 2016. Sanders has also been spending time addressing supporters directly from his social media platforms. Just days ago, Sanders garnered over 5 million viewers to a virtual campaign rally, per The Verge:
Monday night’s Sanders rally wasn’t held in any one physical space, instead taking place in the Sanders video studios and in Neil Young’s own home, on phone, tablet, and computer screens across the country. It was a prerecorded program featuring music and political messages that streamed live on nearly every platform, including Facebook, Periscope, and Twitch. That way, Sanders could reach people exactly where they are right now — at home.
“I don’t have to tell anybody that we’re living in a very unprecedented and strange moment in the history of our country,” Sanders said in his speech Monday night. “It may be a time to rethink our value system, to rethink many of the systems that we operate under.”
As social distancing rules trickle into effect across the country, political campaigns have faced hard choices, canceled rallies, and even chaotic election delays. But campaigns are also learning new ways to reach their supporters and grow their base — tricks that will be sorely needed in the months to come. No one knows precisely how long people will be asked to keep their social distance, but if online campaigning becomes routine, candidates across the country will need a new kind of online strategy to carry them to victory.
There’s a dynamic with candidates where sometimes they come across to voters much better on camera than they do in person, or vice-versa. Sometimes a candidate can be welcoming and charming in person, but terrible on camera. Face-to-face retail politicking is no longer an option, so campaigns are working hard to deliver a message and avoid being seen as “rigid” while addressing supporters via video.
Sanders has no trouble grabbing an audience, probably a much larger audience than Joe Biden could right now even if Biden tapped two major musicians to play some solo performances.
The Democratic primary has been changed permanently this cycle. Sanders continues to “asses” his campaign, a status that has remained the same for almost a week now.
However, the recent reports on Bernie indicate that he will stay in the race at least until the New York Primary if it’s not postponed:
Bernie Sanders’ sputtering campaign will participate in the New York primary on April 28, despite no clear path to the nomination and growing calls for him to swiftly exit the race.
In a Tuesday morning email, the Vermont senator’s campaign said they were ramping up for the next round of primaries with thousands of volunteers phone-banking and organizing in the Empire State.
“In the ramp up to the New York primary, Bernie 2020 today announced full-time state staff and a broadscale digital organizing program throughout the state,” the email read.
That New York Primary takes place just over a month away, on April 28, which means Sanders isn’t planning to exit the race any time soon. So far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the primary is still scheduled to take place, though party leaders have hinted that voting could be postponed, though no formal decisions have yet been made.
Until Sanders decided to call it quits, the entire primary campaign continues as a skeleton with no public appearances and only virtual town halls and live stream web videos where candidates can interact with their supporters. What was once front-page news has now become little more than an afterthought in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.