Democrats look to capitalize after Biden’s big moment
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign will look to capitalize on what it sees as a successful convention by building on that event’s message about the former vice president’s empathy and compassion while seeking to sharpen a contrast with President Trump.
Biden’s advisers and allies, feeling confident after the virtual convention and a well-reviewed closing address by Biden, say it is a message that is simpatico with where the nation is as it grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and record-high unemployment.
“Look, the message this week worked. It’s that simple,” said one longtime Biden ally close to the campaign. “And I think we continue to deliver a stark warning on this presidency while maximizing and doubling down on the contrast between Joe and Trump. It’s darkness versus a pathway out.”
The question for the campaign is how to execute its strategy as the pandemic continues to keep Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) grounded in the final stretch.
For now, the Biden campaign sees no need to change course as it continues to make the case that Biden is better-suited for the presidency than Trump, who the former vice president argued in his address had hopelessly failed in his response to the coronavirus pandemic. A string of national and battleground state polls show Biden with a healthy lead in the race, though it’s too early to know if the unusual convention will provide a bounce.
Harris’s rollout as Biden’s nominee went smoothly and electrified donors who contributed $48 million in 48 hours. ACTBlue, the donation platform used by campaigns, received more than $82.6 million during the four-day virtual program.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the Biden ally said. “The strategy doesn’t need to shift. Just because it’s post-convention doesn’t mean it needs to change.
The ally pointed to Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, who can help broaden the reach of the campaign, even virtually.
“We have two new partners who can do their own events,” the ally said. “Other than that, let’s keep it going.”
On the heels of the convention, Democratic strategists say they’re feeling good about where they are in the race with nearly 70 days to go until Election Day.
“If this was a football game, we are at a point in the race where the team up begins the fourth quarter having just scored and with the team behind pinned deep into their own side of the field with the clock ticking — and playing against the wind,” said Chris Lehane, a veteran of several presidential campaigns. “That said, there is still a quarter to go and this will be the most intense point of the game.”
Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, cautioned that while the strategy of generally keeping Biden in place appears to be working, that could change if Trump can safely make his way in and out of key battleground states.
“Right now, I think they’ve struck the right balance,” Payne said. “But if Trump is finding ways to be in these markets, that is going to present a challenge for the Biden campaign.”
“I don’t think they cannot respond in kind in those moments,” he added.
Next week, as Republicans take center stage with their convention to re-nominate Trump, the Biden campaign says it will use the week to further underscore the contrasts between the two sides. They also say in some ways, the Republican convention will be helpful to Biden.
“You’re going to see a convention that is full of attacks and one that tears people apart as opposed to the resilient, united message we saw this week,” said one Biden aide. “I don’t think you’re going to see anything about covid, getting the economy back on track, you won’t hear a kind word about John Lewis. We’re going to try and capture the moment.”
Next week, Democrats will also release daily videos meant to underscore what the Biden campaign argues are Trump’s failures in office, officials familiar with the plans said. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) are among those taking part.
It is not yet clear how exactly Biden and Harris will attempt to go on offense during the convention, but the aide added, “You can expect them to counter-program for sure.”
At the same time, Democrats are downplaying the chances of either candidate getting a significant convention bounce.
“I’m not sure there will be a bounce because Donald Trump and Joe Biden are very established, nationally-known figures,” said Mike Nellis, a Democratic consultant who served as a senior adviser on Harris’s presidential bid. “For Trump in particular, he’s such a polarizing president that I don’t know if there’s anyone in the country who doesn’t have a set opinion on him.”