I grew up in retail, the son of a haberdasher, so it's easy for me to look at the presidential campaign as a basic sales challenge. Or to quote my old man, “Don’t blame the customer for not buying a product if they were never talked to.” So why, in today’s politics, are Democrats not marketing our candidate to those who are most likely to support him?
If Democrats are going to win in November, they must be honest and acknowledge that Biden’s campaign has not yet built credibility among his base voters. His team is still not aggressively marketing to African Americans, Latinos or youth voters online while everyone is clearly at home and on the internet.
It's time to learn from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 MORE’s mistakes of not talking to key demographics in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio during the 2016 campaign. There are millions of potential Democratic voters in those states who need to be sold on the former vice president. This means hearing from more relatable sources that can validate Biden as a candidate they can trust.
It's been almost three weeks since Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Manchin fires warning shot on plan to expand Medicare Democrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor MORE (I-Vt.) paused his campaign and endorsed Biden. While this was a major step towards uniting the opposition to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE, we still are not seeing video ads of Bernie or other surrogates talking directly to their supporters about the importance of electing Biden.
It’s never been faster and cheaper to communicate these types of micro-targeted endorsements to key voters. The Democratic Party keeps sophisticated voter files. So Biden’s team could immediately start data-matching and engaging every voter who became involved in the Democratic primaries to make sure they are not forgotten and vote in the general election.
Democrats can't afford not to communicate with their base allies.
But why wait for Joe? His campaign is in the middle of retooling. Bernie could easily send online ads to his supporters instead of waiting until Biden’s campaign asks him to attend last-minute rallies like 2016. Bernie should work right now to mobilize his massive email list like he has done to raise over $2 million for workers during the coronavirus pandemic and like he did for other candidates in the past. He could send video messages that give his base authentic reasons to support Joe. He does not need to wait until the Democratic convention in August to start this process.
Endorsements by Sanders, President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTop nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report Prosecutors face legal challenges over obstruction charge in Capitol riot cases Biden makes early gains eroding Trump's environmental legacy MORE and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Warren11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Senate Democrats seeking information from SPACs, questioning 'misaligned incentives' UN secretary-general blasts space tourism MORE (D-Mass.) have increased Biden’s favorability by nine percentage points, according to Newsweek. Imagine if each of these Democratic juggernauts put his or her full weight behind Biden right now. This includes email lists, social media pushes, TV appearances and even digital endorsement ads.
Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton’s campaign didn't spend money on online advertising to young voters during the entire summer of 2016. Her campaign only ran fundraising acquisition ads. Those ads did not provide concrete reasons on why to vote, but simply said, “I'm with her” and “Contribute a $1.” They never micro-targeted Bernie supporters with unique messages from credible messengers. Let's hope this time is different.
Biden’s team needs a united base in this critical election. That means targeting all of the various self-identified left-leaning groups on social media with a comprehensive advertising campaign. This includes reaching out to social Democrats, progressives, liberals, new Democrats, Blue Dogs, yellow dogs, etc.
Let's also hope Biden’s campaign recognizes that this year is different, and that Democrats shouldn’t rely on last-minute Get Out The Vote (GOTV) concerts and rallies in the final days of the campaign to save us from a second Trump term.
Instead, they have time to coordinate right now with all the primary candidates, utilizing data-sharing agreements and building a comprehensive outreach plan. This should be resolved quickly so we start to see, for instance, video ads of Andrew YangAndrew YangAndrew Yang planning to launch third party: report Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Kings launch voting rights effort honoring John Lewis MORE talking directly to his supporters in an authentic way about why they need to unite behind the nominee now. The same goes for Warren, Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThis week: Democrats face mounting headaches Klobuchar: 'It is evil to make it deliberately hard for people to vote' Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats MORE (D-Minn.) and Cory BookerCory BookerBiden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions Biden says he will review executive actions after police reform talks fail 11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill MORE (D-N.J.) and all of the other Democrats who ran for president.
Let's be honest, Jay-Z and Bernie Sanders flying into Cleveland for election-week rallies does not work, feel authentic or register young voters. For one thing, voters can't register to vote in Ohio within 30 days of an election. For another, these efforts were always tired, costly and ineffective before a pandemic, so let’s change the playbook now knowing that they will be even less effective this year.
And finally, let's not let Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John KerryJohn KerryOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies Kerry: 'We can't get where we need to go' in climate fight if China isn't joining in A new UN climate architecture is emerging focused on need for speed MORE or Howard Dean off the hook either. They should all be actively sending emails and campaign messages on behalf of Joe BidenJoe BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill MORE right now, instead of waiting until the last few weeks of the campaign. They have all built massive lists and can quickly help with the fundraising deficit the Democrats need to quickly make up.
With Rep. Justin Amish (I-Mich.) exploring a run for president as a Libertarian, the margins could get even narrower. In 2016 libertarians received over 172,000 votes in Michigan, a state Biden will need to win.
Remember, not liking Donald Trump may not be enough to overthrow the sitting president. Voters are consumers, and they still need a concrete reason to “buy” Joe Biden.
Therefore, it's time to start with basic brand building and authentic marketing from trusted allies and supporters. If you have a list of supporters, don't wait for someone to ask you to get involved. Act now. The world is counting on us. All of us.
Scott Goodstein was the external online director for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in charge of the campaign’s social media platforms, mobile technology, and lifestyle marketing. He was a lead digital strategist on the Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign and is the founder of CatalystCampaigns.com.