Coronavirus forces candidates to shift to ‚virtual‘ campaigns

While the coronavirus is wreaking havoc in sports, on stock markets, and shifting activities of everyday life, it is no surprise that the presidential race is not an exception. The global COVID-19 pandemic has seen the 2020 presidential campaign enter a virtual phase. There are no more handshakes and big rallies. No more small meet-and-greets and volunteers knocking door-to-door. Virtual phone banks and town halls are now the new normal and political parties are holding no more in-person gatherings. You only need now an internet-connected device to attend a rally of your favorite candidate.

Tools of the digital world, such as the town halls, live-streamed speeches, and virtual fundraisers are replacing the traditional open-air campaign events. Former Vice President Joe Biden had a town hall held in Illinois, while Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is staging daily news conferences from Vermont and not his usual rallies around the country among thousands of supporters. The coronavirus is changing how things are being done and trying to make things run as normal is almost impossible. However, political leaders have no option but to act as per the situation.

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Amid calls for social distancing to stop the pandemic’s spread, Democrats Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, as well as Republican President Donald Trump, have had little choice but to call off all waiting large-scale public events in favour of politicking online and over the airwaves. This pandemic is a real-time test to candidates on how they would react during a crisis. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed the US citizens a day after President Trump gave a speech from the Oval Office.  Responding to the outbreak, the leaders both gave insights in terms of what the people should expect in leadership headed forward.

Elections officials in the four Democratic primary states (Florida, Arizona Illinois and Ohio) are taking extra precautions before voters head to the polls Meanwhile the pandemic is interfering with the 2020 election race in the United States, from cancelled rallies to missed fundraising opportunities. The full impact of the disease will not be visible until come November 2020. For states that have to conduct primaries in the coming few weeks, voters have to cast their ballots via mail. Time will also be extended for early voting centers for election day crowds to be avoided. Louisiana’s governor, for instance, had to postpone his state election from April to June.

The abrupt turn of events is giving the contest an added degree of uncertainty. The coronavirus is idling a potential and powerful force in the Democratic Party. It is not an advantage to those who move door to door and move through public gatherings in efforts to register new voters. Such efforts have been all but frozen by the pandemic because Americans are now being forced to stay indoors and keep their social distance to prevent the spread of the virus.

The coronavirus shifted president Trump reelection bid. During the meeting of the president and top campaign in the White House, they came prepared with reams of polling data on his standing with voters eight months out from the speculated election date. On the contrary, Trump directed his attention on something else: The coronavirus. Before the group could begin their long-planned presentation on the 2020 race, the president launched into a commentary about how travel from Europe was a mess and needed to be shut down.

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The Democratic Party of Wisconsin also voted to call off all congressional district conventions. Besides, it had to limit its state convention a one day and allow the chairperson to hold a virtual convention. All offices worldwide were to come to a closure. A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Republican Party said that the party officials were supposed to make changes to both their congressional and state conventions as well.

The coronavirus has come at a time when the 2020 electoral campaigns were at their peak and has altered all the activities and how they take place.  Even, the well-funded players in the presidential race too are experiencing the punch of the pandemic. The holding pattern gripping the contest is delaying on-the-ground. This is why proper organizing efforts are necessary to win the seats for battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and, Florida.

But even as campaigns get used to the new reality, they encounter other issues largely out of their control. They are still not sure if elections are going to happen come November with this kind of situation that is not getting any better. If they do, elections may see far lower turnout due to people being scared of putting their health at risk by showing up at the polls, or from problems with having enough poll workers or even polling sites on election day.

Despite there being an alternative direct interaction, there are still many challenges accompanying it. While campaigns have long used digital tools to supplement their in-person efforts, political strategists say it is not as effective as communicating with voters face-to-face. In as much as the presidential candidates will be affected by this new reality, candidates as well are finding it hard to cope with the situation at hand. The digital campaigns area challenge because most of them are already running on much thinner budgets and might not have enough to spend on ads and staff to make up for the loss of in-person interaction.

In conclusion, amid the global focus on the coronavirus and highly unstable political and economic outlook; critical components of any campaign may become difficult. All news coverage is being focused on covid-19, its impacts and how we can prevent its spread. This is one reason why getting the attention of any citizens through the online platform may not be effective.

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