The Biden Campaign Is Trying To Reach Voters Virtually

May 8, 2020
Originally published on May 8, 2020 5:12 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Adjusting to life on the virtual campaign trail has been a challenge for both Joe Biden and President Trump. It's been a particular struggle, though, for the former vice president. Here he is kicking off a virtual campaign rally this week with supporters in Florida.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: Just me? Am I on?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yes.

BIDEN: Good evening. Thanks so much for tuning in.

KELLY: Ouch. Joining us now is NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid. She covers the Biden campaign. Hey, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: So clearly some technical difficulties for the former vice president there. What is his strategy for campaigning when he can't go out and campaign?

KHALID: Well, you're right. I mean, he's been hunkered down at his house in Delaware. So we should point out he has not been able to physically go out and campaign because of the virus. This week, the campaign announced this new strategy to kind of try to mimic a traditional day out on the campaign trail. So Biden virtually went to a key battleground state - that's Florida.

And in Florida, he virtually held a roundtable with a group of African American leaders. He did some local media interviews and then held this virtual rally in Tampa, which as you heard, it was just, frankly, really glitchy and had some awkward moments. You know, they had an intro speaker and a DJ, but what was supposed to be this kind of dramatic introduction of Biden, instead, as we heard, you know, it seems like the former vice president wasn't clear they were rolling, and that was kind of the tenure of a good chunk of that rally.

The thing is, you know, voters go to a Biden rally, I would say, more than anything for the rope line, for the chance to meet Joe Biden, grab a hug or a photo with him. And in a virtual rally like this, that just doesn't exist. That experience isn't there.

KELLY: And I'm comparing this to the Trump campaign. President Trump has been out traveling. He's left the White House. He's been going out and meeting people in real life.

KHALID: You're right. And, you know, it's hard to make this equal comparison just in part because the president has a natural megaphone. But it is noteworthy that both the president as well as his vice president, Mike Pence, are continuing to travel. And, you know, whether or not these trips are official presidential duties or campaign swings, in my view, doesn't really matter because the goal is the same, which is to swamp the airwaves on local TV in a key swing state. And we saw that President Trump just this week was in Arizona. That's a key state Republicans need to hold onto in November.

You know, that being said, where the president usually feels most comfortable campaigning is at a rally surrounded by thousands of his loyal supporters, and he has expressed a desire to get back to that.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't think we can have a rally with an empty stadium, with nobody in there. In other words, you know, you may be able to pull it off for baseball or football or boxing or basketball; you can't pull off a rally with a hundred - it wouldn't work out too well.

KHALID: And, you know, he said that, hopefully, he'll be able to get back to that in the last couple of months before the election. And Joe Biden would presumably also want to get back to those traditional rallies. Here's what he said when he was wrapping up a roundtable virtually in Florida yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: It's great to be in Jacksonville today (laughter). And look - I'm anxious to get down in person and campaign in person with you all.

KELLY: So besides the virtual reality and the videos, how else is Joe Biden trying to reach potential voters?

KHALID: Well, he has a fraction of the social media following that Donald Trump does. So what we've begun to see from his campaign is this idea of just showing up more on influential platforms, connecting with celebrities. For example, today, he delivered a speech about the economy on Now This. It's this left-leaning news site. They claim to reach 60% percent of Americans in their 20s, racking up some 2 billion views a month. That's an audience Biden, you know, streaming on his Facebook page, would just not be able to reach on his own.

KELLY: Thank you, Asma.

KHALID: You're welcome.

KELLY: NPR's Asma Khalid.

(SOUNDBITE OF FKJ SONG, "BETTER GIVE U UP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.