With President Biden kicking off his re-election bid in April and a slew of candidates announcing campaigns (or testing the waters) for the Republican nomination this summer, American voters are staring down the barrel of an eventful election cycle. While it is far too early to predict what exactly will unfold, with every election comes new innovations in campaigning and new ways to persuade and mobilize the electorate.
Here are four things we’ll be paying close attention to as these races get off the ground:
How Democrats approach building their online communities to organize, bolster communications, and fight misinformation
The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee have begun ramping up a program to recruit “community validators” from the supporter base in an early move to scale the campaign’s digital organizing apparatus. These community validators will likely serve as vocal supporters of the campaign in their communities and use their personal platforms and networks to share President Biden’s and Vice President Kamala Harris’ message. The campaign is making key asks to help motivate supporters, and leaning into relational organizing tactics in user flows and upsells.
In 2020, the Biden campaign oversaw an unprecedented distributed organizing effort, during an election where much of the traditional offline campaigning had to move online due to the pandemic. This time around, all signs point to the Biden campaign and the DNC expanding on their successes by moving validators and grassroots volunteers into deeper, more closed parts of the internet, like private chat apps, Facebook groups, private text message chains. We’re curious to see that strategy unfold and to see how they will innovate as the cycle continues.
How campaigns leverage AI
2024 is widely expected to be the first time that will see the widespread use of tools powered by Artificial Intelligence in an American election. We’ve already talked about AI at length and how it might impact our work as political practitioners (or … not — you can check it out here) but beyond that, we’ll be waiting to see how the 2024 campaigns—as well as the grassroots communities they build—might harness this new technology.
To date, there are some hints of what the environment might look like. Campaigns are already experimenting with AI to more effectively target voters, identify new donors, translate materials into multiple languages to reach new constituencies, and help campaigners work smarter in the long run.
But we might not be prepared for AI misinformation. On the day of Biden’s re-election campaign announcement, the RNC used AI tools to produce dystopian images for a negative attack video. Audio deep fakes of various politicians — including one of Biden and Trump slinging insults at each other — have made their rounds on social media platforms. There is rightful, growing concern about all of it.
As our CEO Joe Rospars explains here, we believe that technology that is made easy to abuse will always be abused by bad actors — and combating those abuses, whether with AI or any other platform, will require vigilance from media, tech companies, and voters.
How Democrats coordinate down ballot
The Democratic Party has spent the last few election cycles building robust infrastructure to ensure that President Biden has a strong party apparatus to support his campaign and downballot candidates in 2024. Thanks to this increased investment, as well as the natural advantages of the presidential bully pulpit, they now have a great amount of runway to build sophisticated, coordinated digital programming. As such, Democrats now have the opportunity to ensure that the tide can lift all boats. Can the party leverage the increased attention and general star power of a presidential election to truly help lift up candidates running at the state and local level?
Last cycle, the party, with the DLCC at the helm, made history by both defending state legislative chambers in their control and flipping chambers in states like Michigan—and we can expect to see them try to expand on those wins in 2024.
One clue as to how coordination efforts could scale up this cycle: The Biden campaign is going all-in on a 50 state fundraising strategy, recently announcing joint fundraising agreements with all 50 state parties. State parties will now receive even more resources that they can use to help candidates running down ballot.
If we can learn anything from the biggest advocacy and mass mobilization efforts that have occurred this year — most of which have revolved around pushing back against hateful state level laws like those targeting the LGBTQ+ community, abortion bans, book bans — it’s that we need to build and resource a solid bench at the state and local level for long-term viability. That’s no easy feat, but Democrats are well-positioned to make great strides.
Where candidates choose to place themselves in an increasingly fractured media landscape
There is no corner of the American media landscape that is not experiencing some form of volatility right now — from cable news to traditional outlets to digital-first publications. In light of the current economic outlook, many media outlets have cut budgets, laid off staff or simply folded altogether this year.
To add onto that, big tech and broadcast social media platforms are facing their own forms of reckoning. We all know about how massive changes at Twitter have impacted the stability of the platform, as well as the growing influence and massive audience growth (not to mention corresponding privacy and national security concerns) of TikTok.
The year has shown us that we have a big, wide, fractured internet to contend with — so where will candidates and campaigns decide to show up? In the case of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose decision to launch his campaign on Twitter Spaces was an unmitigated disaster, could we see more candidates testing new platforms for key rollouts and announcements? Could candidates eschew traditional media altogether and burrow themselves into their respective ideological digital media ecosystems? Will we see more of President Biden on TikTok? Are we all going to have to join BlueSky soon?
As we all know, every presidential election cycle is a rollercoaster ride — for candidates, campaigners, and most importantly, voters themselves — we’ll just have to buckle up and see how it all shakes out. Stay tuned.