A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

Conventions and campaigns in the time of coronavirus

The coronavirus crisis has scrambled the 2020 election – jeopardizing conventions, fundraising, and even the logistics of voting itself.

Biden for President/AP
In this image from video provided by the Biden for President campaign, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual press briefing Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

Dear reader:

It’s becoming clearer by the day that the coronavirus crisis has completely upended the 2020 election.

I’m not talking about the politics, though that’s also been scrambled. I mean the process of getting to November – the conventions, the fundraising, the campaigning, and perhaps the logistics of voting itself.

Joe Biden made this clear on Tuesday when he cast doubt on whether the Democrats would hold their quadrennial convention in Milwaukee in July. All those people crammed into an arena, wearing Uncle Sam hats and cheering?

“It’s hard to envision that,” Mr. Biden told Brian Williams of MSNBC.

It’s a bit easier to envision the Republican convention going on, since it isn’t scheduled until the last week in August, in Charlotte. And President Donald Trump does love the visual pop of a big raucous crowd.

But what about Mr. Trump’s rallies? They’re the opposite of social distancing. It could be mid-summer before they seem like a good idea. Basic door-to-door campaigning for lower-level officials seems out of the question for now, too.

Enter Zoom. Virtual campaigning, with an on-screen candidate hosting a “crowd” gathered around laptops, may be the wave of the next few months. The Biden campaign has already converted some previously scheduled speeches into virtual events. Down-ballot candidates will certainly follow.

The technology is cheap and eliminates the wear and tear of travel. Virtual campaigning may persist in politics even after the pandemic ebbs.

“You may be seeing how the future looks,” GOP consultant Rick Wilson told NBC earlier this month.

As for voting, that’s already been affected, as at least 14 states and Puerto Rico have postponed primaries. It’s quite possible that in coming months more states will allow more voters to opt for mail-in ballots. They might also lengthen or encourage early voting, allowing lines to spread out or shorten for an election whose turnout has long been projected to be possibly record-breaking.

Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

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