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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Campaigns and Coronavirus

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under  way.  

Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

James Dawson at NPR:
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted elections and political campaigns all over the country. But elections can be rescheduled and conducted by mail. Campaigns have tried going virtual.
Ballot measures almost completely rely on canvassers to gather thousands of signatures in person in order for an initiative to make it on the ballot. And the current public health concerns about social interaction have forced ballot measure organizers to shut down their efforts as large events and door-to-door canvassing become impossible.

Alex Rogers at CNN:
Down-ballot candidates have also not shied away from using coronavirus — and the government response to it -- in their advertising.
After the Senate passed a bill to extend paid sick leave for workers, Democrat Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot running against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, criticized his handling of the bill in a statement, saying the Kentucky Republican "put his personal political agenda over our well-being."
McConnell's campaign in turn leaned into his powerful role in the Senate, responding with its first television ad of the year. After sweeping aerial shots of Washington, DC, and scenes of the majority leader in the halls of the Capitol, the narrator accuses McGrath of "us(ing) this crisis."
"While Amy McGrath lies, Mitch McConnell leads," the narrator says, before the web address for the government's coronavirus response website flashes on screen.
But while a national crisis can confer legitimacy on incumbents, especially a Senate leader at the center of negotiating the largest economic stimulus in US history, it may also provide an opportunity for challengers to try to resonate with average Americans by identifying with them.
Last week, McGrath released a new ad showing her and her family "cooped up" at home. As her kids and husband play on the floor behind her, McGrath talks directly to the camera about the volunteer network her campaign has organized to assist "families and seniors throughout Kentucky."
Challengers, and the outside groups backing them, can also use ads during a national crisis to criticize those in power. 
Michael Kruse and Elena Schneider at Politico:
Spread out and all but stranded across the country, sheltering in parents’ guest rooms or spartan apartments with leases about to end, near sad, cleaned-out headquarters, more than two dozen jobless strategists, operatives and organizers described in interviews post-campaign exhaustion coupled now with the extreme anxiety of this lurking illness. They worry. About where the next job is coming from at a moment in which most campaigns—from presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden all the way down the ballot—are all but dormant. They worry about what politics in a dramatically altered country even will look like in a month. Three months. On November 3. Beyond. They worry about health insurance and rent payments. They worry that all this has the potential not just to stall but to smother the nascent careers of promising political pros.
“Everything is on ice,” said Michael McLaughlin, Klobuchar’s national field director. “A lot of younger folks are really stressed.” Added Klobuchar political director Lucinda Ware: “They’re trying to grieve and mourn, readjust. They thought they’d move into other jobs and opportunities, and overnight, or within seven days, they have left the race, started interviewing, looking for places of their own—and that’s all gone now.”