Campaigning amidst coronavirus puts more emphasis on social media

Shaking hands, packing arenas, and kissing babies are all activities that public health officials say should be off-limits in the age of coronavirus.

And that means campaign activities as we know them are changing.

Everything from rallies to how campaigns register voters must be done differently.

“Nobody will come to the door to talk to a stranger,” says Baruch College political analyst David Birdsell, “Much less handle their pen and fill out a form.”

Maria Cruz Lee was a digital director on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and says the landscape in 2020, thanks to coronavirus, looks much different.

“Significantly different,” Cruz Lee says, adding that so much more emphasis is being placed on digital.

“It’s actually a huge role that digital is playing right now.”

But when it comes to digital, few things play as big a role as the visuals on social media, whether it’s video or still photos.

David Lienemann, a former White House photographer who’s releasing a new book of his work covering former Vice President Joe Biden, says captured visuals will play a bigger role than ever before.

“I do think visuals— still photos in particular—are hugely important for showing voters the candidates this fall because they can’t be in front of large crowds of people.”

He thinks campaigns will have to alter how they choose images though— using a mix of archive footage and photos, in addition to content from small intimate—socially-distanced— events.

“Public health is more important than shaking hands at this point.”

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