Basement Brigadier Joe Biden can win a presidential campaign against the mobile President Donald J. Trump in the opinion of two guys who propelled Barack Obama to the presidency.
The advice givers — David Axelrod, senior strategist for both Obama’s campaigns, and David Plouffe, 2008 campaign manager — wrote an op-ed commissioned by The New York Times, which will — spoiler alert! — eventually endorse the former vice president for president.
Being mired in his Delaware basement, the advisers wrote, nullifies Biden’s “authentic sense of empathy” and his “intensely moving encounters with people.”
Axelrod and Plouffe ground out a puff piece enumerating all of Biden’s many qualities — such as experience as senator and vice president — while neglecting negatives, such as his propensity to trip on his tongue; to, um, embellish his credentials, not to mention the sexual harassment charge that we will not mention.
While the president’s freewheeling and often fact-free news briefings are actually hurting Trump, Biden can’t count on that as a path to victory. “Now Mr. Biden is mired in his basement, speaking to us remotely, like an astronaut beaming back to earth from the International Space Station,” they wrote.
What to do?
Online speeches from his basement won’t do it, nor will conventional TV and radio advertising. National campaigns abandoned local newspaper advertising long ago.
“Broadcast interviews are fine, but most valuable only if they generate a great and memorable line that becomes a widely shared and consumed video moment,” they wrote.
With Biden, they did not say, there’s the danger of him ad libbing a gaffe that becomes the memorable moment.
Biden needs to get digital and bang social media. “In many respects, they are the campaign, not an important part of it.”
My initial reaction? This is mindless. Where is the substance?
“While television remains a potent force, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are all essential,” they wrote.
Reading that makes me want to vomit. This is how voters will get their information?
Yes — and I have known for some time that “most” Americans get their “news” from Facebook, which is not a news organization. It is a blank wall, often filled with graffiti.
For someone who has spent his life working for news organizations that have standards, professional policies, and ethics, this was a kick in the balls. It is the new reality.
And Trump has mastered the Art of the Campaign. His social media presence swamps Biden’s about 15-1.
What can Biden do?
Act like an insurgent, they say. Hit and run like a speedboat, not like a battleship. “Make him react to you.” Example: A video saying “This is a cup of Lysol. It is poison. Please do not drink it.” Social media feasts on snark. Maybe that’s why Ukraine elected a standup comedian.
Biden won’t do standup, but needs to get supporters such as the Obamas, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, to resend any of his material, adding tens of millions of people to his reach.
He also needs to use surrogates, such as those named above.
They say the Basement Brigadier can win, if he accelerates his digital and social media game.
They are probably right, and if they are, this will depress the number of campaign in-person rallies in the future. While they energize the people who are there, they are costly in terms of money and manpower.
Rallies could join whistle stop campaigning on the ash heap of history. At least that’s what I hear on Twitter.