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Effective Campaigning During Covid-19
Dr. Louis Perron - Political Consultant Dr. Louis Perron - Political Consultant
Zurich ,
Thursday, August 13, 2020


In 81 days, the USA will elect a new president. With the coronavirus, the U.S. presidential election and any other election to be held this year has fundamentally changed. An election involving an incumbent is foremost a referendum on the incumbent. Indeed, when people vote on an incumbent, they render a verdict. In this case, it will be a judgement on the crisis management of an executive (both the health and economic dimensions).

All campaign tools that involve personal contact are pretty much gone for the moment. Alternatively, campaigns can rely on phone banks and massive text messaging. It is now also common for presidential campaigns to have sophisticated apps (Team Joe, Trump 2020). Other high-profile campaigns can and should duplicate this.

In the U.S., parties are also challenged to come up with new (and hopefully more engaging) formats for the traditional party conventions. From a campaign perspective, we should try and look at everything as an opportunity.

In that sense, this corona crisis is also an occasion for campaigns to do what they should have been doing all along: build their data base. Campaigns should particularly reach out to elder voters. Many of them are online, but they need a little push to get more and further engaged.

Phone, screen and radio time are all up. Therefore, campaigns should also reach out to radio stations. Campaigns can also do good old door hangers, robo calls and there is great technology out there to do live mass calls with hundreds or thousands of supporters. The good thing is that political leaders and surrogate candidates are not expected to be at meetings in person right now. As a result, they also have more time, which is no small feat. A top surrogate can do zoom calls for eight, ten races per day.

Political parties may also play a humanitarian role giving out aid or do food deliveries. It is however important to be straightforward about this. A party should not pretend to give out aid when they are actually campaigning. Parties should do either one and be candid about it.

This being said, all these changes are of a tactical nature. The basics of campaigns have not changed. They still need a message and a strategy. Ideally, campaigns tie their message to the current situation. They shouldn't make noise for the sake of making noise. While voters are listening more than usual, they want to hear specific solutions.

Dr. Louis Perron is a political scientist, consultant and TEDx speaker based in Switzerland. During the past years, he has helped two dozen candidates and parties win election and referendum campaigns.

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Dr. Louis Perron
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