Former President Barack Obama on Tuesday officially endorsed Joe Biden, his former vice president and the presumptive Democratic nominee in this year’s presidential election.
In a 12-minute video posted on his social media accounts, President Obama vouched for Biden’s strong character and leadership, especially during times of crisis.
“Joe has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times, and heal us through a long recovery,” he said. “I know he will surround himself with good people: experts, scientists, military officials who actually know how to run the government and…will always put the American people’s interests above their own.”
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 14, 2020
The endorsement, which has racked up more than 10 million views on Twitter alone, comes amid the devastating coronavirus pandemic which has required millions of Americans to stay at home and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. Obama also spoke about Biden’s experience in responding to viral diseases.
“Joe helped me manage H1N1, and prevent the Ebola epidemic from becoming the type of pandemic we’re seeing now,” he said.
In recent weeks, the Biden campaign began making the transition to an entirely digital outreach infrastructure. Speaking to The Daily Beast, the campaign acknowledged the difficulty of mobilizing supporters during the pandemic but reported some initial signs of success. According to one official who declined to provide specific numbers, the campaign saw “explosive growth” in volunteers signing up while self-quarantining at home.
New: With nearly every aspect of the 2020 campaign upended, @JoeBiden's team is strategizing around the next phase ahead: wrangling a volunteer army remotely.
Inside the campaign's digital plan to address organizing + volunteering during the pandemic https://t.co/Ga22sTkENQ
— Hanna Trudo (@HCTrudo) April 1, 2020
In addition, the nationwide quarantine has forced the Biden campaign to find new ways to reach voters. The Daily Beast reports that organizers for the Biden campaign are hosting a series of trainings for people who are interested in virtually volunteering for Joe Biden.
The Daily Beast also reported that organizers are hosting virtual book clubs and digital brunches as well as calling their supporters for virtual wellness check-ins. There is also a campaign-run Slack channel to help stay connected with other Democratic volunteers during this time.
The Biden campaign has become more reliant on digital media tools rather than traditional modes of outreach. This includes bulking up its digital infrastructure and increasing Biden’s visibility, to anticipate competing with President Trump in the general election. The campaign’s latest attack ads, primarily focused on Trump’s handling of the pandemic thus far, are being debuted on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Biden’s YouTube channel, which has a far smaller following of just over 40,000 subscribers.
Biden himself has also adjusted to the new format, most recently hosting a virtual town hall with frontline workers during the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday. In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the campaign would be increasing their level of online engagement, including virtual town halls and livestreams.
The campaign recently told Time Magazine they generated 7.8 million views across all platforms between April 4 and April 11, which is considerably higher than the initial viewership Biden was getting; one virtual happy hour with young voters in late March had 314,000 views, according to a campaign spokesperson.
As attention turns to the general election, the public health uncertainties—including warnings from epidemiologists of a possible second or third wave of infections—leave the prospect of in-person voting and campaigning in doubt. Current polls show that Biden is leading 47% to Trump’s 41%.