Envision a Presidential Campaign without Handshakes, Rope Lines, or Rallies

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President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C., March 2, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

I’m not sure the political world has fully grasped how odd and different this upcoming presidential campaign is going to be, barring some sort of miraculous and rapid solution to the coronavirus pandemic. Joe Biden has probably shaken his last hand in 2020, worked his last rope line, and held his last rally. President Trump is no doubt itching to hold one of his traditional boisterous rallies, but that will depend upon whether it’s safe for people to get together in groups.

Modern campaigns are almost entirely focused upon getting the candidate in front of large groups of people, which is what we’re supposed to be avoiding in the era of “social distancing.”

Candidates will be traveling significantly less; what’s the point of being in a particular state for a “virtual” rally? Will the Biden campaign even have a press plane? Will reporters want to spend a lot of time on planes, hopping from swing-state city to the next? Press conferences were already growing rarer in recent cycles. Will any reporter ask Joe Biden a question in person for the next five months or so?

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There probably won’t be any campaign rally/concerts featuring Jay-Z and Katy Perry for the Democratic nominee this year. Biden is unlikely to sit on the couches on the set of Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert; all his late-night joke-filled appearances will be by remote. The candidates will still hold photo opportunities, but the menu will be smaller. School classrooms are unlikely. Candidates may still “drop in” on iconic bars, restaurants and small businesses — if they’re still open — but presumably those establishments will have a reduced number of patrons at any given time. No more hanging out with the bikers, with a woman on Biden’s lap. There is likely to be a 9/11 ceremony in New York in September, but it may not be such a big gathering. Visiting a hospital will carry its own risks, and reminders of the candidates’ ages.

Getting-out-the-vote will involve fewer knocking on doors — or perhaps standing a safe distance away from the door. There will be fewer big gatherings such as festivals, sporting events, or concerts for voter-registration drives. Some college students will be back on campus, but some won’t, and they probably won’t be hosting big events. As noted in today’s Jolt, the party conventions will probably be nothing like what they have been in recent cycles.

The next couple months of the campaign are probably going to look a lot like the previous few months of the campaign.


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