COVID-19 pandemic could have lasting impacts on political campaigns, professor says

Updated: Sep. 22, 2020 at 6:09 PM EDT
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OXFORD, Ohio (FOX19) - On the heels of President Donald Trump’s visits to Ohio on Monday, a professor of politics at Miami University is explaining how campaign stops are taking on a new focus.

President Trump’s stop in Vandalia didn’t look much different other than a capacity limit on crowd size due to COVID-19.

Stops like that have historically let voters get to know a candidate, but now that’s not the case according to Dr. John Forren at Miami University.

Dr. Forren, who is a professor of politics at the college, says voters can learn all they need to know online now.

So, these stops have become more about encouraging voter turnout and asking your supports to spread the word to their friends and co-workers, he explained.

“All of us can watch Presidential rallies every day essentially on our laptops or our phones,” Dr. Forren said. “Visits to local communities are really about generating positive news coverage.”

He also says it’s not just news coverage, but local news coverage that is important as candidates hit on regional issues.

“In this area, it may be the Brent Spence Bridge, or it may be, as President Trump did yesterday, talking about manufacturing jobs in the industrial Midwest,” Dr. Forren explained. “It’s an opportunity for a candidate to tailor their message to a local constituency.”

Limited crowd sizes and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced candidates to be creative in the way they campaign.

Dr. Forren says some of the new tactics they have developed to reach voters could be used for years to come and forever change the campaign trail.

“With working from home and now campaigning from home largely for presidential candidates and congressional candidates, down-ballot candidates as well. We will see what works and what doesn’t, and campaigns and candidates are very good at learning lessons from the last campaign,” said Dr. Forren. “So, if this works and it’s successful, we can anticipate changes in the future.”

Dr. Forren is part of a group hosting an Ohio Senate Debate over Zoom on Tuesday. That kind of thing was not happening back in 2016 during the last round of presidential elections.

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