May 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Buttigieg campaign adviser: Biden going virtual could kill traditional presidential runs

In this screengrab from , Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Coronavirus Virtual Town Hall

Photo: via Getty Images

Lis Smith, Pete Buttigieg's former campaign spokesperson, argued in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday that Joe Biden's move to virtual campaigning amid the coronavirus crisis could lead to "the death of the traditional presidential campaign."

What she's saying: Smith argues that Biden, at age 77, "can become the hottest bad boy and disrupter in the media game" by becoming "digitally omnipresent." That move, "at a small fraction of the cost and physical toll" of a normal campaign, could "create a new paradigm for how presidential campaigns communicate in the press for years to come."

  • "Mr. Biden’s greatest asset as a campaigner is his palpable empathy. Politicians can learn a lot of tricks — talking points, debate and interview strategies — but personal warmth is something that cannot be taught. It also happens to be a trait that translates well on TV."

The big picture: She also says that the crisis should be used to rethink traditional convention programming, saying it "puts even political junkies to sleep."

  • She suggests "mini-documentaries on the state of America under Mr. Trump" and using "the creativity of Hollywood and grassroots supporters alike to offer exclusive content like musical performances from in-demand artists and episodes of hit TV shows."

The state of play: Smith points out that President Trump is the "heavyweight champion of generating media attention." She argues that Biden will have to attempt to match his media prowess by "being willing to go everywhere, as Mr. Trump was in 2016."

  • She says that "it is an indication of the president’s weakness four years later that he sticks to the safety of Fox News, Sean Hannity’s show and Twitter."
  • "Trump’s freewheeling moments in appearances that do reach a broader audience, as in the daily coronavirus briefings, have exposed him as unfit, like his recent suggestion to treat COVID-19 with disinfectant."

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