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Team Trump remains at the forefront

00:0202:24

President Trump is launching a daily schedule of online campaign programming that, combined with daily White House briefings, is part of a double-barreled strategy to woo voters virtually after the coronavirus canceled live events.
The Trump campaign plans to broadcast one marquee event on its website and social media channels each day this week and nearly every Monday through Saturday in the weeks ahead. The programming is an acceleration of efforts to reach voters amid a public health crisis that grounded the president’s robust itinerary of stadium rallies and roundtables, as well as similar gatherings hosted by prominent supporters.
This blueprint for aggressive virtual engagement is dovetailing with the nationally televised news conferences Trump leads from the White House almost seven days a week, during which he details the administration’s progress toward bringing the coronavirus pandemic to heel.
“The Trump campaign is being smart,” Republican strategist Chris Wilson said Monday. “Any candidate or campaign sitting at home just waiting for this to end is making a likely fatal mistake.”
With the coronavirus pandemic taking time-tested methods for appealing to voters off the table, the major 2020 campaigns are scrambling for suitable substitute strategies with just seven months to go until Election Day. In place of field staff knocking on doors to turn out the vote, campaigns are using text messaging. Instead of rallies and town hall meetings to grow coalitions, campaigns are holding a range of virtual events and broadcasting them on the internet.
The Trump campaign has already held a few such events that each attracted more than 1 million views. This week, the president’s team unveiled a full slate of online programming: on Monday, Black Voices for Trump; on Tuesday, Team Trump Online; on Wednesday, American Heroes Series; on Thursday, Women for Trump Empower Hour; on Friday, Team Trump Online; and on Saturday, War Room Weekly.
“President Trump’s campaign remains at the forefront of digital campaigning and engagement,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine said. “Sleepy Joe’s broadcasts, which include the candidate himself, are nowhere near those numbers regularly.”
The Trump campaign’s assessment of Joe Biden, his likely challenger, is shared by some nervous Democratic insiders, who fret the former vice president has not put forward a virtual campaign to match the boldness of Trump.
The Biden campaign disputes that, asserting that, over the past three weeks, the virtual events it has held or produced have garnered 45 million views collectively across all platforms. Of those, a program featuring Ronald Klain, former chief of staff to Biden when he was vice president and coordinator of Barack Obama’s response to the Ebola crisis, received more than 5 million views, said the campaign, which is continuing to expand capabilities for virtual campaigning.
The latest offerings include another episode of Biden’s new podcast featuring an interview with Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who has battled with Trump over the federal response to the coronavirus, as well as a “kids town hall” with Youtube influencers. While Trump has the benefit of the presidency's bully pulpit, Biden has had to rely on interviews and online broadcasts to break through.
Dane Strother, a Democratic strategist, conceded that Biden needs to do more to compete with Trump and what he described as the president’s attempt to create a virtual “Trump TV” network.
But he said some of what the vice president is facing is beyond his control. Significantly, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders still has not exited the Democratic primary, despite his long odds of overtaking Biden in the race for convention nominating delegates. After the former vice president becomes the presumptive nominee, Strother’s guidance for the kind of virtual campaign he should run is simple: mimic Trump.
“Once Bernie gets out and we get over this [coronavirus] apex, Biden can grab some of the attention back,” he said. “Hopefully, Bernie moves on.”
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