Biden Is Losing the Internet. Does That Matter?


Mark Provost, an administrator of The Other 98%, a left-leaning Facebook page with more than six million followers, said Mr. Biden could capitalize on liberals’ hostility for Mr. Trump by giving the party’s base more red meat, and becoming more combative himself.

“You want to tap into that deep id inside the Democratic Party,” Mr. Provost said. “At this point, people just want to see a bully get smacked down. They want to see him hammer Trump a lot more.”

In the coming months, Mr. Biden will benefit from his proximity to Democrats with bigger online followings. This week, two videos containing new endorsements of Mr. Biden, from Mr. Sanders and Mr. Obama, got millions of views apiece and briefly stole the spotlight from Mr. Trump and his coronavirus task force. Mr. Biden will also benefit from the efforts of left-wing super PACs like Priorities USA Action, which has raised millions of dollars to rally digital support for the Democratic nominee online.

These efforts may still seem small in comparison with Mr. Trump, who has spent years building a vast data operation and a war chest that will allow him to blanket the internet with ads. Brad Parscale, who ran Mr. Trump’s digital operation in 2016 and is managing his re-election campaign, has said he does not expect Mr. Biden — or any other Democrat — to catch up to Mr. Trump, with or without social distancing.

“President Trump’s supporters will run through a brick wall to vote for him,” Mr. Parscale said in a recent statement. “Nobody is running through a brick wall for Joe Biden.”

For now, Mr. Biden’s supporters can take solace in his relatively strong polling performance, and the hope that a lull in the coronavirus allows him to return to the campaign trail this summer. And while some Democrats are worried that Mr. Biden’s online struggles are a preview of a rough road ahead, others don’t see social media success as a prerequisite for winning the White House.

“We’re not campaigning for YouTuber in chief. We’re campaigning for president,” said Andrew Bleeker, the president of Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic strategy firm. “He has a message of bringing the country together around the American spirit. He doesn’t need to change that to get views.”

Kevin Roose is a technology columnist for The Times. His column, The Shift, examines the intersection of technology, business and culture. @kevinrooseFacebook





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