The Guardian: Biden’s lead over Trump widens – but strain on his virtual campaign grows

Despite Trump’s falling electoral fortunes, many Democrats remain anxious about Biden’s position – and his strategy.

David Axelrod and David Plouffe, two of Barack Obama’s top campaign strategists, implored Biden’s campaign to expand its digital footprint in a joint New York Times op-ed that compared the atmospherics of the candidate’s home videosto “an astronaut beaming back to earth from the International Space Station”.

“Online speeches from his basement won’t cut it,” they wrote.

Lis Smith, the former top adviser to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, followed with an op-ed on Thursday that offered a blueprint for turning Biden into the “hottest bad boy and disrupter in the media game”. She suggested his campaign use TV appearances and digital content to highlight Biden’s empathy, a trait even supporters say the president has lacked in response to the rising coronavirus death toll.

Part of the campaign’s evolving digital strategy includes partnering with groups that already have an online presence, like JoeMamas2020, a national coalition of “moms, caregivers, moms to be, aunts & all the parental figures in between” with about 27,000 Facebook and 1,200 Twitter followers. The group has helped amplify Biden’s appearances and policy proposals while spreading the word about upcoming events.

Julie Zebrak, the group’s co-founder, said the online army is growing with women energized to help elect a candidate who promises to restore stability and calm after four years of what Trump’s critics view as chaos and controversy.

Yet the same traits that endear Biden to a growing coalition of suburban women and Never Trump Republicans have largely failed to excite younger, progressive voters. It’s not that they prefer Trump – they don’t – but a lack of enthusiasm among those voters could spell trouble in November if they stay home or vote for a third-party candidate.

The campaign has also ramped up its outreach to young people, who overwhelmingly supported Biden’s rival Bernie Sanders. On Friday, Biden presented his economic pitch in an appearance on NowThis, a social-media-heavy news outlet with a young, progressive audience.

“This crisis hit harder and will last longer because Donald Trump spent the last three years undermining the core pillars of our economic strength,” Biden said in remarks that attacked Trump’s stimulus efforts a kind of “cronyism” and corporate welfare. Before he began speaking, Biden removed a face mask, a pointed rebuke of the president who had refused to wear one.

Still, new research conducted on behalf of NextGen America found many young people weren’t convinced Biden’s policies meet the scale of the challenges bearing down on their generation.

This makes the efforts of groups like Progressive Turnout Project, which endorsed him this week, all the more important. In the coming months, the group is investing more than $52m to turn out low-propensity Democratic voters – including young people and people of color – in 17 key battleground states.

“The best thing we can do is go and knock on doors and have face-to-face conversations with voters,” said Alex Morgan, the group’s executive director. “We are still looking to do that. But it’ll be knocking on that door and then taking a few big steps back and having a more distant conversation.”

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