Obama campaign bosses Plouffe and Axelrod urge Biden to beef up digital operations to battle Trump

Key Points
  • David Axelrod and David Plouffe, the architects of Barack Obama's 2008 run for president, have warnings and advice for Joe Biden as he takes on President Trump.
  • "Online speeches from his basement won't cut it. Written pronouncements on this issue or that may have won attention during his many years in office, but will get little pickup now," Axelrod and Plouffe wrote. 
David Axelrod and David Plouffe, enjoy the view from a cherry picker as President Barack Obama makes a campaign stop at Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa, on Saturday, September 1, 2012.
Nikki Kahn | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama's top campaign architects are telling Joe Biden to improve his digital operation if he wants to defeat President Donald Trump this fall.

David Axelrod, who served as Obama's chief campaign strategist in 2008 and 2012, and David Plouffe, who ran the 2008 campaign, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times on Monday encouraging Biden to expand his campaign's overall digital effort and to move on from relying solely on scripted speeches from his basement. 

All campaigns have been forced to get off the trail and go fully virtual due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The two men led the way in crafting Obama's digital effort, with a large focus on using data to craft messages that appealed to a large swath of the electorate. 

The column shows that top Democratic strategists believe Biden's campaign is still a long way from having the necessary tools to overcome Trump's juggernaut of a campaign that has been established over the course of four years.

"Online speeches from his basement won't cut it. Written pronouncements on this issue or that may have won attention during his many years in office, but will get little pickup now," Axelrod and Plouffe wrote.  Obama endorsed his former running mate for president last month after Sen. Bernie Sanders withdrew from the race. 

Biden's campaign has at least 25 people on staff focused on the digital side, but the two former senior Obama strategists said the former vice president's operation must start hiring more digital advisors if they want to compete with Trump. 

Biden's campaign has been in touch with at least three top digital consulting firms, including Mike Bloomberg's tech company, Hawkfish

They pointed to Trump's use of Twitter and his ability to use it as a messaging platform to pummel his enemies. They suggested the apparent Democratic nominee could take Trump's efforts and use them against him. 

"Mr. Biden can turn the tables on Mr. Trump. To do this, the challenger needs to behave more like an insurgent, building the capacity to wield facts, humor and mockery at lightning speed in those surreal moments of opportunity that Mr. Trump regularly provides," they said. Axelrod and Plouffe pointed to Trump's recent suggestion that perhaps disinfectants could be injected into a person to kill coronavirus as a prime target for such mockery. 

The former Obama campaign advisors also pushed Biden to start turning more to his surrogates as a way to connect to voters online, instead of the virtual events being focused solely on him. 

They called on the creation of a "virtual content production studio and establish a unique content calendar for each major social media platform," something Trump already has established.  They argued for Biden, in the absence of traditional door knocking, to start calling on his supporters to help organize. These supporters could then potentially reach out to voters that are on the fence about participating in the general election, especially those in battleground states such as Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan and Florida. 

"This is an urgent need, as Mr. Trump is far ahead of Mr. Biden organizationally in the battleground states," the two advisors said. 

The Biden campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former President Barack Obama endorses Biden for president