Joe Biden adapts to telecampaign realities and upgrades home studio
As many Americans moved to tele-working and began connecting with family, friends and coworkers more regularly over online video conferencing software, former vice president Joe Biden has so far only used these platforms once to address the increasingly anxious public.
But Biden began changing that Monday morning, broadcasting from his home.
“Let me be clear, Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus, but he does bear responsibility for our response. And I, along with every American, hope he steps up and starts to get this right,” Biden said, adding this “isn’t about politics” and there’s “too much at stake.”
The former vice president said it’s well past time for the president to put into action the Defense Production Act to boost the production of essential medical equipment and supplies and increase the capacity of the U.S. health care system by activating military personnel.
“Trump keeps saying he’s a wartime president. Well, start to act like one,” Biden said.
For the past week, the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s communication strategy has been light on public, on-camera addresses and focused more on lengthy statements released by his campaign.
As the coronavirus pandemic spiked over the past week in the U.S., the front-runner for the Democratic nomination only held one on-camera address to his supporters, approximately six minutes long, during the last round of primary state voting on March 17.
While he has said he is “regularly” in touch with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Biden, a former longtime senator, finds himself now on the sidelines of the congressional fight over the coronavirus relief legislative packages.
He repeated criticism of the deal which failed Sunday night on Capitol Hill, blaming the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for supposedly focusing too much on corporations.
The former vice president also took time to promote his campaign’s COVID-19 response plan.
On Sunday night, Biden informed donors that his home in Wilmington, Delaware, has undergone a television studio makeover. “They put in a new high speed line into my home, they’ve converted a recreation room, basically, into a television studio,” Biden said on a fundraising call.
During his broadcast on Monday, Biden stood at a podium in front of a bookshelf adorned with campaign pictures, a football and a framed American flag.
A few kinks are apparently still being sorted, since the campaign has had to adapt to the new reality of a presidential campaign without public events. At the beginning of the stream, Biden was cued by an off-camera voice (“And you’re live!”) to which Biden responded, “I’m ready to go?”
But on the technical side, the in-home studio appears advanced and has the capability to directly connect to national television networks for better quality streaming. The public is able to watch on YouTube or on the candidate’s campaign website, where the address is surrounded by donate buttons.
There has been growing pressure on the Biden campaign to make the candidate more visible as President Trump has participated in hours-long press briefings during which he blames the Obama-Biden administration for shortcomings in testing and says it failed to prepare the country for a global pandemic.
In remarks that lasted about 15 minutes Monday, Biden offered a pre-rebuttal of sorts to the president’s daily press briefings and asked for the “unvarnished truth” from the president about the current response.
“These briefings are an important opportunity to inform and reassure the American public. They are not a place for political attacks or to lash out at the press,” Biden said appearing to read from a teleprompter.
One difference between the president’s briefing and Biden’s remarks was Biden did not take questions from reporters, though he said last week on a press call he hopes to do so more often.
Away from the rope lines, where Biden’s glad-handing and impromptu counseling is warmly received, he also continued to emphasize the emotional toll these sudden life changes have had.
“Like all families the Biden family is adjusting to new ways – less time together, more worrying about friends and relatives, concerns about those who are isolated or suffering due to their coronavirus,” he said, “As Americans, we may be physically apart but we are truly all in this together and you know it.”
As for his own work schedule, Biden told the press he has been making calls for around seven hours a day to stay informed. He’s been talking with House and Senate Democratic leadership working on the COVID-19 response stimulus package, as well as with governors and mayors dealing with the response in their communities.
In a call with Georgia donors Sunday night, Biden said he sees “no need” to postpone the election because of the current health scare, and he said some have told him “the other guy is going to try to postpone the election in November,” an apparent reference to President Trump.
The candidate also gave more insight into the closely watched process of choosing a vice presidential nominee, which Biden said will begin “in a matter of weeks.” He has already promised to choose a woman and told the donors the vetted group will be “in excess of six or seven people.”
As that work begins for him and his largely work-from-home team, staff who directly interact with him have been wearing masks and gloves, Biden told reporters on Friday.
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