David Axelrod and David Plouffe have some advice for Joe Biden. In fact, they were kind enough to share it on the New York Times Editorial page. In the editorial, both Axelrod and Plouffe, two men who know a thing or two about winning general elections from their Obama-era days, advised the former vice president has to ‘get beyond the basement tapes and project himself into our ever more digital world’.
The fact these two men wrote this an op-ed suggests they couldn’t get to Biden through their channels of communication. Ideology and politics aside, Axelrod and Plouffe are not wrong. In fact, they hit the nail on the head.
Biden is not doing enough to make himself look like a natural alternative to Trump.
The viewership numbers on his live streams are shambolic. Even mid-level YouTubers are getting more numbers on their daily live streams than Biden. To shore up his numbers and reach a bigger audience, Biden is having to rely on Megan Rapinoe’s large Instagram following to reach prospective voters.
Age has nothing to do with a poor digital strategy. Trump and Sanders are both old and the only two American politicians who have a dedicated group of online supporters ready to run through brick walls for them. However, Biden’s poor digital strategy has more to do with him as a candidate than the tactical choice made by his marketing team.
The NYT Piece
In the NYT piece, both Axelrod and Plouffe implore Biden to understand the nature of modern media. Doing live streams and TV interviews with friendly hosts is not a solution in itself. Biden has to come up with one-liners and responses which are picked up and dissected by the news media.
In simple words, simply showing up for media appearances is not enough for a presidential candidate. Saying exciting stuff and engaging people regularly will help Biden gain positive coverage and build momentum.
Biden’s best moments during the campaign when he was doing what he knows best – retail politics. Biden is good at one-on-one conversations. He did it very effectively for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Although his gaffes have made more headlines during this cycle, his biggest strength is still talking to small groups and making a good impression.
Unfortunately for Biden, the coronavirus pandemic has locked people in their homes. His brand of retail politics won’t be possible to deploy on a large scale even after restrictions are lifted. This means Biden’s outreach on a digital level has to improve if he wants to beat Trump in November.
Then again, can he really improve his digital strategy? What interesting thing does Biden have to say to voters? Four more years of Obamacare?
While the NYT piece raises some good points, both Axelrod and Plouffe don’t mention one important factor – Biden has zero policy positions people are speaking about.
Why People Voted for Obama?
In 2008, Obama told voters he would get the country out of Iraq. Obama had many traits every good candidate does. His oratory was masterful, his short background in politics meant he still had a good track record compared to his rivals. However, above all else, Obama made a country weary of war believe the war was done and the soldiers were coming back home.
This position won Obama the election.
Biden doesn’t have any such policy position to boast of. He is not telling the American electorate he will stop the regime change wars benefiting the military-industrial complex. He doesn’t want to back a single-payer healthcare plan which a majority of the country (even Republicans) support. He doesn’t want to rein in Wall Street or speak out against big bailouts.
Sadly for the Democratic Party, Biden is not ready to take up a position that can define his entire campaign. Right now, his only focus is on stopping Trump.
Biden Waiting for Trump to Fail?
Biden may seem weak, but he is fighting Trump. Anyone who knows the president well would understand his capacity for buffoonery. There is a real possibility Trump could do something crazy and force the American public to choose Biden as the default president.
The strategy isn’t bad. Trump is the type of candidate who could end his campaign in a matter of a few weeks.
Biden’s advisors realize this. That is why, instead of making Biden take up progressive policy positions to excite the Democratic base, they are waiting for Trump to do something stupid. This could excite their own base to vote Trump out while demoralizing the Republicans.
While this strategy is not completely without merit, it still suggests weakness. Even sitting six months away from November, it is safe to say that the Trump base will turn up for him.
Will Joe Biden’s base do the same? Does he have a base to beat Trump? Biden’s best bet right now is to wait for Trump to crash and burn.