Now is the Perfect Time to Have Mastered Online Campaigning

Too bad Joe Biden hasn’t done anything like that.

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Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. August 10, 2019. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Joe Biden, Joe Biden keeps assuring us, is the man to beat Donald Trump. But over the past two-weeks, as the COVID-19 outbreak has surged across the nation, lingering doubts about Biden have persisted and intensified.

The advent of coronavirus has changed many aspects of American life, perhaps permanently. It has certainly changed the way political campaigns will be run in the future.

And it has changed how they must be run right now.

Political campaigns, like everything else during the COVID-19 outbreak, have moved online. Digital media has replaced the face-to-face campaigning that has been the bread and butter of politicians like Joe Biden for decades.

There are some political campaigns, and indeed some political parties, that are better prepared to adapt to this overnight shift than others. Some politicians have positioned themselves to take advantage of the many technological advancements in data-mining and application.

Unfortunately, this does not include Joe Biden or the Democratic Party.

“We’re thinking through what does a virtual campaign look like, and how do we ensure that Biden is able to have that one-on-one connection that he is able to form with voters when he’s out in the real world. How do we create that online? We’re experimenting with a lot of different formats on that front.” — Kate Bedingfield, communications director for the Biden campaign. March 27, 2020.

While Biden’s team is “discovering the joys of a Zoom conference call” in online political campaigning 101, Trump’s team could be teaching doctorate-level classes on the subject.

It is a field in which Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale has not only excelled, but pioneered new territory.

The Trump campaign’s online mastery is perfectly suited to a scenario in which volunteers cannot go door-to-door, prospective voters cannot attend rallies, and everything must be coordinated via app and online interaction.

“I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Facebook was the method- it was the highway which his car drove on.” — Brad Parscale, 60-Minutes. October 2017

To make things worse for Democrats, Parscale is only following and improving on a model first pioneered by another very successful campaign innovator: President Barack Obama.

That the Democratic Party could have, and should have, learned similar lessons from the Obama campaign is likely to be particularly disappointing to Democratic voters.

Before coronavirus, it was thought by Democratic strategists that online digital campaigning would play a not-insignificant role in determining the outcome of the presidential race in November.

This is why Democratic mega-donors, including Michael Bloomberg, have been pouring money into super-PACs created to help Democrats bridge the ever-widening digital gap between themselves and the Trump campaign.

Now, in the aftermath of COVID-19, online campaigning has become the whole game.

“You cannot just build an app, or build out data, in the few months you have from the Convention. The Democrats will have that problem this time. As they all inter fight, we are building for our future.” — Brad Parscale. September 2019

Parscale is right. But Biden is hardly alone in being behind the technology curve. The Democratic Party is equally culpable.

Even the outbreak of COVID-19 hasn’t completely erased the Iowa primary technical glitch disaster. Exit poll data from Michigan, which Democrats were also counting on, was compromised by yet another technical glitch. While not as catastrophic as the Iowa embarrassment that left the results of voting in limbo for weeks, missing out on vital data is troubling for Democrats in a tough race against an incumbent President Trump.

What is more troubling is the pattern of incompetence Democrats are revealing in failing to conduct these primaries in a consistent and reliable manner. With all the technical tools available to Democrats, there should be no trouble counting votes, or securing polling data.

Trump’s campaign is using technology just fine. Better than fine, in fact.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has turned the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee into a radically advanced data-mining operation.

“We have turned the R.N.C. into one of the largest data-gathering operations in United States history.” — Brad Parscale

Democrats, and Joe Biden foremost among them, must confront the fact that they are now running against a wartime president, without the unpopular war. The Democratic Party must also consider the strong probability that COVID-19 may actually help Donald Trump’s reelection bid.

Trump’s approval ratings, as it relates to his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak is over 60% according to the latest polls.

Once Trump’s online campaign juggernaut takes over, that number is likely to improve. It is unclear what, if anything, Democrats like Joe Biden intend to do about it considering they have been effectively muzzled by COVID-19.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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