Democrats wanted to hold massive in-person electoral training at their national convention.
With the event now going fully virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic, Joe Biden’s campaign is instead teaming up with the progressive group Arena and Wisconsin’s Democratic Party to provide free online training to activists to teach them how to get out the vote and persuade swing voters during the convention, POLITICO has learned.
The news comes after rank-and-file members of the Democratic National Committee complained that party leaders hadn’t done enough to engage first-time delegates for the convention or provide transparency about their arrangements for the unprecedented gathering.
The plans also underscore the extent to which Democrats have been forced to revamp their convention amid the Covid-19 era — and how heavily Biden’s campaign is now relying on virtual organizing instead of traditional field programs. Conversely, President Donald Trump’s campaign began knocking on doors again in June.
“As Vice President Biden often says, we are in the battle for the soul of our nation,” Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, said in a statement. “To win that battle, we need the strongest grassroots army the Democrats have ever seen.”
The fact that Biden and Trump are taking such radically different approaches to person-to-person voter outreach may be something of a wild card in the election.
Trump’s team sees its field program, which has been up and running in several states for months, as a major advantage. Biden’s campaign hired senior aides in some swing states, including Pennsylvania, as late as July.
Democrats, on the other hand, say that virtual organizing helped Jill Karofsky win a state Supreme Court race in Wisconsin earlier this year. Progressive insurgents around the country have also successfully built online volunteer operations recently.
Democrats will launch a new website on Thursday for its convention training sessions from Aug. 17 to Aug. 20, which they are calling the “Campaign Academy 2020.” Organizers are looking to sign up 10,000 people to participate.
There will be 16 separate live-streamed events, and Biden’s campaign aides will help facilitate them. Digital organizing will be one of the three main themes of the programs.
“In the age of coronavirus, the path to victory for Democrats up and down the ballot has shifted dramatically,” said Nellie Sires, executive director of Wisconsin’s Democratic Party. “The Democratic Party of Wisconsin and Arena are proud to have the opportunity to pull back the curtain and equip Democratic volunteers across the country with the tools they need.”
The Democratic National Convention Committee announced on Wednesday that Biden would not accept his nomination in Milwaukee despite originally saying he would, as a result of concerns about risking the health of employees and residents. Speakers also won’t travel to the city, making the event completely virtual.