An Unprecedented Election
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An Unprecedented Election

It’s September, and election season is well under way. Maybe you’ve already seen political yard signs and billboards popping up around your community. However this election year is likely to look very different from any other you can remember. Here, Election Central takes a look at the 2020 presidential campaigns of Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump, and how they are approaching their election strategy during this unusual time.

Joe Biden: A Virtual Approach

This is the typical scenario in election years past: a stranger, usually holding a clipboard and wearing a political T-shirt, knocks on your door. They want to know how you’re going to vote in the upcoming election, and if their candidate can count on your support. Canvassing neighborhoods is an effective technique to get voters engaged and committed to a cause or candidate. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Biden campaign is avoiding canvassing altogether. The campaign also will not be hosting any large in-person rallies or events. Instead, he is campaigning virtually, including conversations with voters.

Other Democratic Party election organizations such as BlackPAC and Working America greatly reduced their normal amount of staff compared to past election years. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the amount of paid staff for these organizations is down significantly—only 10 to 20 percent of what they used in 2016.

While critics might say that a virtual meeting isn’t nearly as good as the real thing, the Biden campaign disagrees, claiming that they have had 2.6 million conversations with voters in battleground states already. They are reaching out to people online, through text messages, and over the phone. Volunteers say that this technique might be more effective right now than in-person meetings, because people are largely isolated at home and so are more willing to have a conversation. The Biden campaign said that they would begin some door-to-door visits in the last weeks before Election Day, but only to drop off literature on front doors. They will not hold conversations with homeowners.

Donald Trump: Business As Usual

The Trump campaign, on the other hand, is using more traditional techniques to turn out voters. According to the Trump campaign, they are knocking on a million doors each week. They are continuing to host large rallies, bus tours, and other in-person events to drum up support. At the same time, they are also reaching out to voters virtually and via text messages and phone calls.

The Trump campaign believes that while virtual contact is useful, nothing replaces the value of a one-on-one, in-person conversation. The Trump team calls the Biden technique an “air war,” and instead is modeling its traditional techniques after the successful in-person door-knocking campaign of former President Barack Obama.

Some political observers insist that in-person election tactics are the most effective way to turn out voters,. Others say that it’s not the door knocking itself, it’s the relationship a candidate builds with voters before he or she ever gets to the door that really matters – and that’s something that can happen just as well virtually.

What Do You Think? Imagine that you are in charge of a campaign for a local political candidate. How will you organize your campaign during the coronavirus pandemic? Where will you focus your time and dollars? How will you balance safety and outreach? Write two or three paragraphs describing and explaining your approach.
Valerie Cumming


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