Election season is here and that means there has been a significant uptick in town halls hosted by politicians running for office on a local, state, and national level. Townhall meetings are an essential component of American democracy and an important opportunity for lawmakers and the public to have an open dialogue about policy and any concerns shared by their constituents.
The 2020 election season is shaping up to be a historical one as the coronavirus pandemic has significantly altered the way most campaigns are conducted on every level. As social distancing expectations are still in place in many parts of the country, political campaigns are having to cancel in-person events like town halls and pivot to hosting them virtually.
We don’t know how long the coronavirus will be around and whether or not social distancing will become a way of life. However, we do know that political campaigns today must adjust their strategies in order to reach a wider audience safely. Fortunately, a number of lawmakers and candidates have already made the shift and have managed to host successful town hall meetings and political campaign rallies to reach large audiences during these times.
The content of this post mentions specific politicians who have made live virtual campaign events a part of their strategy this election season. The views of those politicians listed do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone at Lime Crane. The campaigns mentioned are case examples only and are not intended to be interpreted as endorsements of any kind.
Here are some examples of current politicians and organizations that have switched to virtual campaign events listed in no specific order.
While Barack Obama is technically not running for any office in the 2020 election season, he has leveraged live streaming virtual campaign events as a way to address some of the current issues dividing and troubling Americans. His virtual town hall earlier this month live-streamed on multiple platforms including the former President’s website, YouTube, along with multiple news and media outlets throughout the world.
Former Vice President, Joe Biden
The Biden campaign canceled in-person campaign events as COVID-19 cases began to rise in March and quickly turned to live streaming as a method of communication with voters. Technical difficulties during the broadcasts appeared to give presumptive Democratic nominee a rocky start, but his campaign has since made virtual events a core part of their election strategy.
Of the many political campaigns we examined, one could argue that Bernie Sanders’ campaign staff has been the most proactive with integrating virtual live streaming events into their campaign strategy. The pandemic did not appear to slow his campaign from hosting successful campaign rallies and town halls that were broadcast to voters all over the country from Senator Sanders’ video studio. His high-profile online campaign rally on March 16, 2020 captured the attention of the media and featured musicians and pre-recorded political messages that streamed live on nearly every platform, including Facebook, Periscope, and Twitch.
Though President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is beginning to embrace in-person events once again, he hosted a widely-watched virtual town hall hosted by Fox News in early May. The broadcast, which took place from the Lincoln Memorial, gave the President an open platform to address questions asked by the moderators as well as Americans who had submitted video queries prior to the broadcast.
Republican Candidates in NC’s 11th Congressional District
Not only are politicians campaigns embracing virtual campaign events as messaging platforms, local groups and organizations are also hosting their own programs to give candidates running for office a platform to address voters. The Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual town hall in late May giving candidates in the Republican runoff for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District a platform to make their case to local voters.
The League of Women Voters of Colorado
Another example of groups who employ virtual campaign events as a method to engage with voters is The League of Women Voters of Colorado. The organization hosted an online town hall in early May titled “Protect Our Vote Colorado: Defending Democracy During COVID 19” that featured some of the state’s most well-known politicians.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Senator Bill Cassidy, and other health and political leaders
Nexstar Media Group hosted a live virtual town hall to answer viewer-submitted questions regarding the COVID-19 outbreak in early May. The event was broadcast across the state of Louisiana and featured Governor John Bel Edwards, Senator Bill Cassidy, congressional representatives, and health officials. You can click here to see the event.
Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Gerald Connolly
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) hosted a virtual town hall with voters with hot-button issues like police reform, COVID-19 and others.
Washington State Representative, Monica Stonier
Monica Stonier leveraged Facebook Livestream to engage with her constituents. During her virtual town hall, questions were asked through email or the group chat.
Becky Grossman, candidate for Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District
As the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise in the state of Massachusetts last spring, Becky Grossman quickly switched her campaigning tactics by organizing a series of virtual town halls in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District.
These are only a handful of examples of ways politicians are turning to virtual campaign events as a way to connect with voters. For the time being, the virtual phase is the new normal for campaigns across the country. If you would like to learn more about how a virtual town hall works and best practices, the live stream experts at Lime Crane are uniquely positioned to help you communicate with your audience during this time of change.