The following is a transcript of an investigative report on Full Measure News. Click on the link at the end of the transcript to watch the video story.
We may not know who’s winning the election in a few short weeks, but one thing’s for sure, thanks to both technology and coronavirus, this is a campaign like no other. Today, we look at how the candidates try to get personal with voters at a distance.
Biden campaign ad: Campaign song plays
Sharyl: More than ever, the candidates have been appearing virtually at fundraisers,
Biden campaign video: Thank you everyone for joining us today.
and giving speeches from the comfort of their own space.
Biden campaign video: “The very soul of America is at stake.”
And when they do get out,
President Trump: Hello everybody, Hello Duluth.
their appearances are carried live online by news organizations, CSPAN, and more. Over 116-thousand people watched Trump’s airport event in Duluth, Minnesota on September 30 on RightSide Broadcasting’s YouTube channel, which carries every Trump rally.
Sharyl: For insight on campaigning for president in the digital age of coronavirus, I spoke with Peter Loge, associate professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University.
Sharyl: This is the first presidential campaign that has had every tool at its disposal, including all of the online tools, but has had to move to an almost entirely digital online model because of coronavirus. How do you think that impacts things?
Peter Loge: It changes everything. Again, it changes it faster, right? As you say, we've been doing online politics for a while. I did an AOL, I coordinated an online chat on America Online with Senator Kennedy in 1995 back when online chats on America Online were a thing. And it was all digital.
Sharyl: That was like futuristic.
Loge: That was, it was the first federal official to do an online chat on AOL. And we were like cutting edge. You know, now the assumption is everything is always already online, right? Everything's on a digital device. Everything is hand-held.
Sharyl: Have you gotten a sense as to which campaign may hold the advantage when it comes to use of digital for politicking?
Loge: I think of the two major presidential candidates, President Trump is out ahead on this one. He did a really terrific job four years ago, a much bigger list, more Twitter followers, more Facebook fans. Part of what Trump has is that this is an established machine that works, which is good for him. The disadvantage is you tend to go with what works. Technology is moving pretty quick. And so Biden isn't stuck in old habits. He gets to invent new habits, hopefully more from his perspective, hopefully more of which are good than bad.
Trump campaign ad: We built the greatest economy the world has ever seen and we’re gonna do it again.
But some of the most important digital influence in campaign 2020 comes through online political ads.
Biden campaign ad: The 2020 Presidential election is less than two months away. It’s gonna be close.
OpenSecrets.org provides a snapshot of who is spending how much with Facebook and Google.
Bloomberg campaign ad: Mike Bloomberg sees a different kind of menace coming from Washington. Mike Bloomberg for President.
Democrat Mike Bloomberg is no longer in the presidential race, but is the biggest spender with more than $122 million split about evenly between Facebook and Google.
Biden for president and Trump for president have spent roughly the same amount on Facebook and Google, each totaling about $60 million.
Trump campaign ad: I’m Donald Trump.
Biden campaign ad: I’m Joe Biden.
Both candidates have fundraising committees adding millions more. Trump Make America Great Again Committee has poured in over $111 million dollars; $71 million to Facebook, about $40 million to Google. The Biden Victory Fund has spent more than $41 million, the vast majority on Facebook ads.
Sharyl: It seems like there is a battle over control of this platform meaning online and the ads and the fact checking. Is that being driven, do you know, in part by political figures and political interests who really know this is key to a candidate’s success?
Loge: Everybody’s trying to control it, but that's no different than campaigns have been for, for hundreds of years, right? You want to stand on your soapbox in your corner of the park and shout your words. Instead of one park, now we have, you know, dozens and dozens of parks spread across social media. Everybody can have their own park where their followers and their Facebook groups, right? Everybody's still trying to get their little soap box and stand in their box.
Sharyl: What new and different things do you think we might be seeing in 10 years from now?
Loge: That's an excellent question. I'm looking for the hologram candidates who
Sharyl: I was wondering about that, right.
Loge: to sort of come virtually knock on my door. You know, if we all have a Ring or some virtual doorbell, they can pretend to ring the bell and we can pretend to have a conversation.
Sharyl (on camera): While President Trump has been going to outdoor rallies drawing many thousands of supporters, Joe Biden has largely stuck with small, socially distanced events, including a handful of rallies with supporters staying in their cars.