To the Editor:
Every Presidential season poses new challenges and opportunities in how campaigns must be run in order to win – but this one is a real doozy for the Democrats. Here are some suggestions for a winning playbook.
Though Trump will be supported on Facebook and elsewhere by a highly targeted social media campaign, he will inevitably end up running largely as a one-man show. Biden can, instead, run as the head coach whose team has a deep bench of talent and a clear vision. He could recruit 10 to 15 people who, as top advisors (and prospective Cabinet level appointees) have the standing to speak for him in a variety of campaign settings.
Traditional rallies and public events will probably be impossible from now till November. But there will be a host of opportunities to appear on radio, television and internet talk shows and interactive Zoom-style settings. There it will be possible to engage a variety of constituencies on the issues they are most concerned with and in ways that will speak directly to their concerns.
A single candidate could only do so much of this kind of retail politics. However, the depth and variety in the Democrats’ bench in the primary season – which seemed like a weakness then – could be turned to an advantage now. Unlike Trump who always sees himself as the smartest person in the room, Biden could run as the wise leader and head coach of a team that actually knows how to get things done and deal with the crises we face in a wide range of fields.
If he gave them the status of prospective Cabinet level officials, Biden’s team could be in dozens of live media spots every day, drawing on specific strengths of people like Kamala Harris, Julio Castro, Deval Patrick, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang and others. Imagine Elizabeth Warren as the prospective Treasury Secretary announcing plans to deal with the problems people are having paying rent or mortgage. Picture Stacey Abrams as prospective Attorney General giving interviews to Chris Wallace, speeches to the NAACP and holding electronic town hall meetings. Picture her plans to secure voting rights for all Americans. If players with Cabinet status lean into it by announcing policy initiatives, they will garner newsworthiness and draw attention. Positioned thus, they could dominate the game. In talk shows, town halls and video conferences, they could offer compelling visions for the next four years and feed journalists’ questions to press with Trump officials.
This last point highlights a central strength of this strategy. It allows the Biden team to outmaneuver Trump from many different angles – and leverage social networks and media. Trump will be severely hampered in pressing back. His one-on-one strategy will not play well against a coordinated zone defense/offense in this ball game. Further, the lies and manipulations churned out in his social media ads will be easier to address promptly and effectively.
This time of extraordinary disruption from COVID-19 is not the time for a President specializing in short-term disruption. We need a team that can play to win in the long run. Biden can win by running as a wise coach who puts together a great team, corrects their occasional stumbles, and sends in a substitute if necessary. This will play to his strengths as an older, experienced statesman with a strong track record of working well with others and getting the job done.