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Can Joe Biden win a presidential campaign from his living room?

The virtual campaign Biden is waging is a stark contrast with President Donald Trump.

Biden speaks on Good Morning America.
Biden speaks on Good Morning America.
Image: Youtube

JOE BIDEN HAS no foreseeable plans to resume in-person campaigning amid a pandemic that is testing whether a national presidential election can be won by a candidate communicating almost entirely from home.

The virtual campaign Biden is waging from Wilmington, Delaware, is a stark contrast with President Donald Trump, who is planning travel despite warnings from public health experts about the coronavirus’s spread.

It also intensifies the spotlight on how Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, will manage his campaign, with some in his party fretting that his still-developing approach is not reaching enough voters.

For now, Biden and his aides are brushing back hand-wringing from Democrats and mockery from Republicans who argue that the 77-year-old is “hiding in his basement”.

“The idea that somehow we are being hurt by my keeping to the rules and following the instructions that (have) been put forward by doctors is absolutely bizarre,” Biden told ABC’s Good Morning America.

Campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon took the helm of Biden’s campaign in mid-March, just as coronavirus shutdowns commenced.

She recently beefed up the campaign’s digital and finance teams and said she will unveil battleground state leadership in coming weeks.

But those moves haven’t prevented critiques from prominent Democrats, including the architects of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, who question Biden’s digital savvy and capacity to build the national vote-by-mail effort that might be necessary to win during a pandemic.

Obama allies David Plouffe and David Axelrod wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed that Biden’s home studios resemble “an astronaut beaming back to earth from the International Space Station”.

They also encouraged Biden to make wider use of platforms from Facebook and Twitter to Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok.

Source: Good Morning America/YouTube

To some degree, the naysaying reflects Democrats’ desperation to beat Trump – who holds a clear early lead in fundraising and organising – and the reality that Biden emerged from a haphazard primary campaign and must now play catch-up.

From inside the campaign, the outside worries seem as much about timing and perception as about reality: the April and May fundraising windfall is just now being put into hiring.

Biden has ramped up his social media presence, including a recent Instagram appearance with soccer star Megan Rapinoe and an economic speech on NowThis, a digital news medium targeting younger voters.

Critics, Mr Biden allies say, also gloss over how his core pitch – touting his experience and empathy, making a moral and competence case against Mr Trump, and promising to “rebuild the middle class” – won over Democratic primary voters even before the coronavirus upended daily life.

Now, Mr Biden’s argument against the president is sharpened but stems from the same roots, with recent polling suggesting it is reaching voters.

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Trump is answering with a daunting reelection behemoth.

On a call with reporters Tuesday, the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, called it the “largest field and data program” in GOP campaign history.

“The Trump campaign never skipped a beat” when the emphasis shifted to digital, Lara Trump said.

And now the president wants to return to a conventional travel schedule. He travels next on Thursday to Pennsylvania, and aides say he wants to travel at least once a week.

Biden, meanwhile, is “anxious to go out and campaign” but is staying home “to set an example… with this health and economic crisis.

“This is not politics,” Biden said. “This is life.”

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