Biden campaign taps friend groups, social media, with unpredictable results

Biden campaign taps friend groups, social media, with unpredictable results
Biden listened attentively as she told him about surviving cancer and how the Affordable Care Act, which Biden helped push as Barack Obama’s vice president, saved her life. (AFP)
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Updated 30 May 2024
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Biden campaign taps friend groups, social media, with unpredictable results

Biden campaign taps friend groups, social media, with unpredictable results
  • Biden listened attentively as she told him about surviving cancer and how the Affordable Care Act, which Biden helped push as Barack Obama’s vice president, saved her life

RACINE: Andrea Dyess, 57, was already a Joe Biden fan, but after meeting him in her neighborhood of Racine, Wisconsin, in May, she has been talking to anyone who will listen about giving him four more years in the White House.
Dyess was on a street corner with her two young grandchildren trying to catch a glimpse of Biden’s motorcade, when a campaign worker invited her to join the president at a nearby community center.
Biden listened attentively as she told him about surviving cancer and how the Affordable Care Act, which Biden helped push as Barack Obama’s vice president, saved her life.
“I told him, just keep fighting the fight,” she said,
Since then, Dyess says she has shared her “once in a lifetime moment” directly with dozens of friends and relatives, at a church revival, at her grandkids’ school and on her neighborhood walks. She’s also been urging her 20-year-old son’s friends to register to vote.
Campaign officials say the encounter is exactly what they are hoping to replicate around the country with a series of small-scale campaign events.
Biden, 81, has spent decades honing his ‘retail’ politician style of wooing voters. Big, thundering speeches have never been his style but he lights up when meeting people one-on-one, thumping shoulders, hugging strangers and FaceTiming people’s moms.
In sharp contrast to the
mass rallies
hosted by Republican rival Donald Trump — heavy on stagecraft with classic rock playlists, anti-immigration rhetoric and mostly white audiences — Biden meets with small, more diverse groups of voters for personal conversations.
Those
smaller events
are arranged with friendly invitation-only audiences, and often publicized only at the last minute to avoid pro-Palestinian protests that have dogged Biden’s appearances for months.
It’s part of a broader campaign strategy that includes celebrity endorsements, a slew of political surrogates, traditional ads and official events to showcase Biden’s support for NATO, infrastructure funding and other key policies.
The campaign is under heavy pressure as Biden wobbles in the polls.
Despite strong economic growth and stock market highs, his approval ratings are near two-year lows, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed, and other polls show Trump ahead in several of the battleground states that Biden narrowly won in 2020.
Campaign and Democratic party officials say that is in part because voters are still smarting from higher prices and don’t know enough about what Biden has done to reduce costs of prescription drugs and other essentials, or his backing of unions fighting for higher wages.
They say US media is too “fractured” to be an effective way of reaching voters on these issues. So they’re enlisting friend networks, super-surrogates, small business groups, podcasts, new media and TikTok stars who they hope will talk issues and policies as they try to convince millions of Americans to back Biden in November.
Charles Franklin, who directs polling at Wisconsin’s Marquette University Law School, said that because Biden doesn’t have “groupies” like Trump, these smaller events are a better bet. “If they both got the same stadium and did back to back events, [I’m] pretty confident that Trump would have the bigger turnout for that,” Franklin said.
Republicans, who ridiculed Biden’s 2020 campaign for being run “from his basement,” say the lack of big Biden rallies in 2024 is further evidence of his physical and political fragility.
Trump spokesperson Karoline Leavitt, described Biden’s strategy as “tiny, staged, 15-minute snooze-fests,” and said “Team Trump’s campaign events will continue to get bigger and better.”
Before events like the one in Racine, the campaign combs its databases for local people who care about a specific issue Biden’s policies have addressed or are part of a demographic he hopes to reach, and invites them to meet Biden. Sometimes they find unexpected guests like Dyess.
The interactions are filmed by the campaign for YouTube video and campaign ads, and followed by local and national media. Ideally, participants make their own social media posts and those go viral, reaching more voters, the campaign says.
“One of the strategies around any visit is not just to have the perfect room and create the conditions for serendipity, but also to make sure that what happens in the room doesn’t stay in the room,” said Ben Wikler, head of Wisconsin’s Democratic Party.
In Milwaukee in March, for example, Biden met 9-year-old Harry Abramson, who had written to Biden about his stutter.
Biden, who stuttered as a child, shared his strategy for dealing with difficult words. The interaction was picked up by the local Fox affiliate and other TV stations, digital and print media, and Biden’s campaign put it on Facebook and other accounts. It went viral, bouncing around chat rooms, TikTok and Reddit.
“Grandpa’s gonna Grandpa. Imagine telling your friends you got speech lessons from the president of the United States,” one Reddit user wrote under a video of the interaction on “Made Me Smile,” a group with 9.5 million members.
Biden visited the Fitts’ family home in North Carolina in January, part of a ‘kitchen table’ visit to regular families in swing states. Afterward, teenaged Christian Fitts posted a video on TikTok showing the President admiring school photos on his refrigerator and sharing french fries at the kitchen table.
The post got over one million “likes” and thousands of comments that attracted millions more views. Many were incredulous, rather than outright endorsements of Biden. “HIM JUST STANDING AT THE FRIDGE IS SENDING ME” one user wrote. Nearly 50,000 people liked the comment.
Tracking the digital impact of this strategy is difficult, political experts say. New tools to track TikTok content are still not reliable, most Facebook posts are private, and there’s no way to know how many of those who comment will actually vote.
Teddy Goff, co-founder of marketing firm Precision Strategies, believes the smaller events are a smart play.
“They’re going to wind up in the local news, local newspaper, local TV, and in all likelihood, will get seen by more people than might have been to that Trump rally,” said Goff, digital director of former President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, referring to an April rally by Trump in Green Bay that drew a crowd of 3,200.
Relying on individuals to share the Biden message can be unpredictable.
Sheree Robinson, a Black mother of five from Racine who says funding from Biden’s American Rescue Plan helped her earn her a High School Equivalency Diploma, was invited to ride in Biden’s limousine during his May Wisconsin visit.
She posted a video on Facebook showing her smiling next to a bemused-looking Biden, as he gets detailed instructions on what to expect at the next event. In her comment, she used an obscenity to tout herself as a “big ... deal,” without any praise of Biden.
Later, however, she called into a local radio program to share what she called an “awesome” experience, and plugged Biden’s policy that helped her get a degree. The Wisconsin Democratic party is featuring her in digital ads it will use around the state.
Social media tends to embrace more negative or awkward moments, like a stumble or fall, Goff noted, rather than a tiny event like the recent one in Racine.
Biden’s campaign is outspending Trump’s on digital media in Wisconsin, according to an analysis by Priorities USA. It spent $2.2 million on digital ads in the state alone since January, compared to $1,500 spent by Trump.
So far, though, a FiveThirtyEight compilation of Wisconsin polls still shows Trump with a slight lead in the state.


South Korea fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers crossed border on Thursday

South Korea fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers crossed border on Thursday
Updated 47 min 38 sec ago
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South Korea fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers crossed border on Thursday

South Korea fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers crossed border on Thursday

SEOUL: South Korea’s military fired warning shots after several North Korean soldiers crossed the border on Thursday morning, the Yonhap news agency reported on Friday citing the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
The soldiers retreated immediately after the warning shots were fired, the report said.
They had breached the Military Demarcation Line running through the middle of the demilitarised zone (DMZ), where they were working around 11 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Thursday, South Korea said.
It is at least the third such incident this month. South Korea’s military fired warning shots on Tuesday after dozens of North Korean soldiers breached the demarcation line.
The incident came after Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Pyongyang for the first time in 24 years earlier this week. (

 


US rushing delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine to counter increased Russian attacks

US rushing delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine to counter increased Russian attacks
Updated 21 June 2024
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US rushing delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine to counter increased Russian attacks

US rushing delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine to counter increased Russian attacks
  • White House says it can do this by redirecting orders made by other allies for air defense systems
  • Russia has resumed its aerial pounding of Ukraine’s power grid while Kyiv’s forces are again targeting Russian oil facilities with drone strikes

WASHINGTON: The White House announced Thursday that it will rush delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine by redirecting planned shipments to other allied nations, as Washington scrambles to counter increased Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
National security spokesman John Kirby said the US had taken the “difficult but necessary decision to reprioritize near-term planned deliveries of foreign military sales to other countries,” though he wouldn’t say which nations would be affected or how many.
“Right now, we know that Ukraine urgently needs these additional capabilities,” Kirby said on a call with reporters, adding, “Obviously more is needed, and it’s needed now.”
The announcement comes after President Joe Biden, during last week’s Group of Seven meeting in Italy, suggested such action might be necessary, saying, “We’ve let it be known for those countries that are expecting, from us, air defense systems in the future, that they’re going to have to wait.”
“Everything we have is going to go to Ukraine until their needs are met,” Biden said. “And then we will make good on the commitments we made to other countries.”
The US was already sending Ukraine a consistent stream of interceptors for its air defense systems, including for the Patriot missile batteries and the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS. But Kirby said that more was urgently needed as Russia’s military has accelerated missile and drone attacks against cities and infrastructure centers “trying to destroy Ukraine’s energy system ahead of this winter.”

This handout photograph taken on June 18, 2024 and released by the Press service of the 24th mechanized brigade shows Ukrainian servicemen repairing military equipment at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (AFP)

Russia has resumed its aerial pounding of Ukraine’s power grid while Kyiv’s forces are again targeting Russian oil facilities with drone strikes, as each side seeks to hinder the other’s ability to continue fighting.
The number of interceptors to be sent isn’t clear but Kirby said it could involve “hundreds” of Patriot interceptor missiles.
Kirby said Ukraine will get prioritized shipments as soon as systems roll off assembly lines for the next about 16 months, and those will provide the country with “enough capability” during that period.
After that, he said, “Countries that have been asked to delay will start to get” deliveries of systems they had already ordered.
Kirby said the move means “a range of countries” will face delays in receiving missile systems that are being diverted to Ukraine but that the shift would not affect Taiwan or what it “continues to need and receive for self-defense” in the face of potential threats from China.
Asked to describe how other countries reacted to the shift, Kirby said they were “broadly understanding of it.”
“They know how serious the need is in Ukraine,” he said.


Le Pen’s National Rally seen leading vote in French snap elections — polls

Le Pen’s National Rally seen leading vote in French snap elections — polls
Updated 21 June 2024
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Le Pen’s National Rally seen leading vote in French snap elections — polls

Le Pen’s National Rally seen leading vote in French snap elections — polls
  • The simulation of the national popular vote does not allow for a direct forecast of the balance of power in France’s next National Assembly, as the election on June 30 and July 7 is held as a two-round majority vote in each district

PARIS: Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally is seen leading the race ahead of France’s parliamentary elections, three polls showed on Thursday, ahead of the leftwing Popular Front and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrists.
Pollster IFOP in a survey for broadcasting group TF1 and Le Figaro said the National Rally (RN) would secure 34 percent of the vote, while the Popular Front would reach 29 percent and Macron’s Together bloc would get 22 percent.
Another poll by Harris Interactive — conducted for RTL radio, M6 TV and Challenges Magazine — put the RN at 33 percent, while the left was seen at 26 percent and Macron’s camp at 21 percent.
A third poll published on Thursday, by OpinionWay on behalf of CNews TV, Europe 1 radio and the Journal du Dimanche paper, also put the RN in the lead with 35 percent of the votes, ahead of the Popular Front which had 27 percent and Macron’s camp which had 20 percent.
The simulation of the national popular vote does not allow for a direct forecast of the balance of power in France’s next National Assembly, as the election on June 30 and July 7 is held as a two-round majority vote in each district.
The Harris poll, however, made rough seat projections and forecast 235 to 280 seats for RN and its allies, which would fall short of the 289 needed for an absolute majority but make it by far the largest bloc.


New York moves to limit ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids

New York moves to limit ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids
Updated 21 June 2024
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New York moves to limit ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids

New York moves to limit ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids
  • The bill marks the latest attempt by a state to regulate social media as part of concerns over how children interact with the platforms

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed a bill that would allow parents to block their children from getting social media posts suggested by a platform’s algorithm, a move to limit feeds critics argue are addictive.
Under the legislation, feeds on apps like TikTok and Instagram would be limited for people under age 18 to posts from accounts they follow, rather than content suggested by an automated algorithm. It would also block platforms from sending minors notifications on suggested posts between midnight and 6 a.m.
Both provisions could be turned off if a minor gets what the bill defines as “verifiable parental consent.”
The law does not take effect immediately. State Attorney General Letitia James is now tasked with crafting rules to determine mechanisms for verifying a user’s age and parental consent. After the rules are finalized, social media companies will have 180 days to implement the regulations.
“We can protect our kids. We can tell the companies that you are not allowed to do this, you don’t have a right to do this, that parents should have say over their children’s lives and their health, not you,” Hochul, a Democrat, said at a bill signing ceremony in Manhattan.
The signing is the first step in what is expected to be a drawn out process of rule making, and a probable lawsuit from social media companies to block the law.
NetChoice, a tech industry trade group that includes X and Meta, has criticized the legislation as unconstitutional.
“This is an assault on free speech and the open Internet by the State of New York,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, said in a statement. “New York has created a way for the government to track what sites people visit and their online activity by forcing websites to censor all content unless visitors provide an ID to verify their age.”
Most of the biggest social media platforms send users a steady stream of suggested videos, photographs and other content, using a computer to try and predict what will keep users entertained and engaged for as long as possible. The algorithms use a variety of factors to curate that content, including what a user has clicked on before and interests of other people with similar preferences.
The bill marks the latest attempt by a state to regulate social media as part of concerns over how children interact with the platforms.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week announced plans to work with the Legislature on a bill to restrict smartphone usage for students during the school day, though he didn’t provide exact details on what the proposal would include. Newsom in 2019 signed a bill allowing school districts to limit or ban smartphones while at school.
There hasn’t been broad legislation on the subject at the federal level but it is a common point of discussion in Washington. This week the US surgeon general called on Congress to put warning labels on social media platforms similar to those on cigarettes, citing mental health dangers for children using the sites.
Some tech companies, with pressure mounting, have decided to set up parental controls on their platforms. Last year, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, created tools that allowed parents to set time limits on the apps for children.
The New York legislation, debuted last October, had faced major pushback in the Legislature from the tech industry.
“Social media platforms manipulate what our children see online to keep them on the platforms as long as possible,” said James, a Democrat who pushed for the bill. “The more time young people spend on social media, the more they are at risk of developing serious mental health concerns.”


Trump proposes green cards for foreign grads of US colleges, departing from anti-immigrant rhetoric

Trump proposes green cards for foreign grads of US colleges, departing from anti-immigrant rhetoric
Updated 21 June 2024
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Trump proposes green cards for foreign grads of US colleges, departing from anti-immigrant rhetoric

Trump proposes green cards for foreign grads of US colleges, departing from anti-immigrant rhetoric
  • A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, allows individuals to live and work permanently in the United States and is a path to citizenship

MIAMI: Former President Donald Trump said in an interview posted on Thursday he wants to give automatic green cards to foreign students who graduate from US colleges, a sharp departure from the anti-immigrant rhetoric he typically uses on the campaign trail.
Trump was asked about plans for companies to be able to import the “best and brightest” in a podcast taped Wednesday with venture capitalists and tech investors called the “All-In.”
“What I want to do and what I will do is you graduate from a college, I think you should get automatically as part of your diploma a green card to be able to stay in this country. And that includes junior colleges too, anybody graduates from a college. You go there for two years or four years,” he said, vowing to address this concern on day one.
Immigration has been Trump’s signature issue during his 2024 bid to return to the White House. His suggestion that he would offer green cards — documents that confer a pathway to US citizenship — to potentially hundreds of thousands of foreign graduates would represent a sweeping expansion of America’s immigration system that sharply diverges from his most common messages on foreigners.
Trump has blamed immigrants who are in the country illegally for committing crimes, stealing jobs and government resources, and suggested that they are “poisoning the blood of our country.” He has promised to carry out the largest deportation operation in US history if elected.
Trump and his allies often say they distinguish between people entering illegally versus legally. But during his administration, Trump also proposed curbs on legal immigration such as family-based visas and the visa lottery program.
Right after taking office in 2017, he issued his “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, directing Cabinet members to suggest reforms to ensure that business visas were only awarded to the highest-paid or most-skilled applicants to protect American workers.
He has previously said the H1-B program commonly used by companies to hire foreign workers temporarily — a program he has used in the past — was “very bad” and used by tech companies to get foreign workers for lower pay.
During the conversation with “All-In,” Trump blamed the coronavirus pandemic for being unable to implement these measures while he was president. He said he knows of stories of people who graduate from top colleges and want to stay in the US but can’t secure visas to do so, forcing them to return to their native countries, specifically naming India and China. He said they go on and become multibillionaires, employing thousands of workers.
“You need a pool of people to work for your company,” Trump said. “And they have to be smart people. Not everybody can be less than smart. You need brilliant people.”