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Biden campaign to ramp up hiring for key posts

Biden campaign to ramp up hiring for key posts
© Greg Nash

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors Biden celebrates vaccine approval but warns 'current improvement could reverse' MORE's campaign is planning some strategic new hires amid concerns from Democrats that their field operations are understaffed. 

Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, is expected to add at least one new deputy in the coming days who will focus on campaign operations, according to sources familiar with the decision. 

“She’s bringing in a lot of her people, people she knows from Obama World,” said one source close to the campaign.

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O’Malley Dillon is also in the process of figuring out other leadership positions across the campaign including in key battleground states, the sources say, as part of the next round of hiring. 

The hiring decisions come after Democrats have quietly complained that the campaign is understaffed and should be further along in its hiring in order to run a smooth general election campaign. 

Democrats who have inquired about campaign jobs in recent weeks have been told that “there’s not much movement for the time being,” as one put it. 

“They’re definitely not where they should be,” said one top Democratic aide who has worked on recent presidential campaigns and has spoken to Biden campaign officials on the matter. 

Sources close to the campaign acknowledge the campaign is playing a bit of catch-up, after a hiring freeze of sorts. For starters, the primary campaign ended earlier than many people expected, after Biden’s surprising come-from-behind path to be the presumptive nominee and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package On The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst MORE's (I-Vt.) departure from the race.

“This all happened pretty quickly,” said one source close to the campaign.  

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But the coronavirus pandemic has also slowed down the process because of across-the-board state shutdowns. 

“The overarching factor here is that we’re in a pandemic,” one Biden ally said. “I think we’ve done a good job of adjusting to the new normal.” 

The biggest question that remains is how to adequately build out state operations while many states are still shut down. 

“Some states may be open and some are shut down,” the source said. “And no one knows how it’ll look a week from now and a month from now.” 

Adrian Hemond, a Detroit-based Democratic strategist, said the Biden campaign “has less staff than you would want under normal circumstances for a presumptive nominee at this point.” 

“But these aren’t normal circumstances,” Hemond said. “Every campaign is trying to figure out the right resource mix in an unprecedented environment. … Democrats can’t use traditional field organizing techniques.” 

Joe Zepecki, a Democratic strategist based in Wisconsin, said state party officials and liberal advocacy groups in the battleground state are up to the challenge of filling the void if the Biden campaign’s ground game is hamstrung by the virus.

“Both the state party [and] the progressive advocacy groups have already adapted to the new world order, trial-by-fire style, in a way that’s going to help Biden in the fall,” Zepecki said. 

Zepecki said his clients are ramping up voter contact efforts and organizing to ensure that Democratic voters request their absentee ballots now so that “we have the data to run a more effective program later and make sure the likeliest Biden voters can participate even if there’s a COVID[-19] spike in the fall.”

“I sincerely believe we’re ahead of the curve vis-a-vis other battleground states in terms of being ready to roll once the flag is dropped on whatever the hell this campaign season actually ends up looking like,” Zepecki said.

Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist in Florida who runs the pro-Biden super PAC Unite the Country, said “we are in the natural window for campaigns to begin staffing up” and that O’Malley Dillon has extensive experience in Florida and will ensure the campaign’s operations there are fully staffed.

“I’m not concerned,” Schale said.

“I, for one, think the GOP edge is overblown. We saw near record turnout for Joe Biden in March in a primary where 500,000 more Democrats voted than Republicans, notwithstanding the virus,” he added. “Further, between the Florida Democratic Party, the [Democratic National Committee] DNC, and outside groups, there have been a lot of organizations engaged in organizing, which will create a solid foundation for the campaign.”