The campaign, which plans to hire more staff more rapidly, recently bulked up its senior leadership ranks and its digital operations. It made those announcements just as Democratic operatives began expressing concern that Biden wasn’t on the campaign trail and wasn’t hiring up quickly enough —concerns dismissed by Biden’s campaign.
“The standards and timing from past elections cycles are irrelevant — no one has ever staffed a presidential campaign during a public health crisis of this magnitude,” a Biden adviser said. "We’re being thoughtful and deliberate about hiring.”
The campaign also feels it has time, considering that Biden clinched the nomination earlier than Barack Obama did in 2008 or Hillary Clinton did in 2016. And he’s marginally leading President Donald Trump in most recent polls of five of the six battleground states: Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona. Trump holds the slimmest of advantages in North Carolina.
Former Obama advisers David Plouffe and David Axelrod warned last week in a New York Times op-ed that Biden, who has been self-quarantined at home for nearly two months, needs to do more and that his “online speeches from his basement won’t cut it.”
Just when Biden emerges from his home and hits the campaign trail is unclear and, his campaign says, will be based on recommendations from the campaign’s Public Health Advisory Committee.
The hiring spree is a leading indicator that the campaign is shifting gears under its new campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, who assumed her new post just as the campaign shuttered its headquarters and its staff dispersed to work remotely amid the coronavirus scare. That situation saddled her with the triple task of running a campaign that no longer has a headquarters, reinventing that campaign to be totally virtual and sustaining fire from nervous Democrats.
At the same time, the Democratic group Organizing Together 2020 has been filling the void by building up a staff of about 500 in the battleground states that Biden could take over in June.
“I can understand why the campaign is waiting, but at the same time to not have a senior adviser and state director in a place like Wisconsin as soon as possible is effin’ bananas, considering what happened in 2016,” said a top Wisconsin Democratic strategist.
But Democrats aligned with the campaign say the new hires of Ridder, Ritner and others are just in time.
“The bedwetters are doing their thing because it’s the season for double-guessing,” said a Democratic consultant advising one of the outside groups backing Biden. “But the fact of the matter is: Biden has won precisely because he’s ignored those people.”