The coronavirus pandemic and resulting ban on most social gatherings and public events has upended what would normally be a busy campaign season. With the presidential election just over 7 months away and primary season in full swing, candidates like President Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders would be holding public rallies, town halls, meet-and-greets, shaking hands, kissing babies and the like. But all of that is off the table for now with coronavirus anxiety leading to social distancing. The last Democratic debate had no audience and included an awkward elbow-greeting between Biden and Sanders, and there is already talk of the next debate having no moderator.
Even without the president's signature massive rallies, the Trump campaign is confident in their ability to reach voters. "We're holding virtual training sessions, and continuing to talk to our grassroots people, to our donors, to all of the folks that we have to," says Marc Lotter, Trump 2020 Strategic Communications Director. "And because we have such a strong digital operation already, many of these people we've been in communication with for a very long time."
As for how the election itself would play out if "social distancing" continues, Lotter predicts it might go completely non-virtual. "You've also got many states going back to old-school technology," he says. "Making sure that in addition to all of the various voting machines and machinery they use, that there is an actual paper trail."
The other big question looming over the 2020 election is whether the coronavirus will impact this summer's Republican and Democratic National Conventions. "Both of the major national parties have their conventions in late July (Dems) and in August (GOP), so we still have some time," says Lotter.