WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden took his virtual presidential campaign to the next level Monday when he launched a podcast as the coronavirus forces him to get creative in reaching voters otherwise distracted by a global pandemic.
The podcast “Here’s the Deal” is intended to provide listeners “a voice of clarity during uncertain times” by delving into pressing subjects affecting Americans' day-to-day lives in conversations between Biden and “national top experts,” according to a description of the podcast shown to NBC News.
“Hey, Team Biden. It’s Joe, and I’m sitting in Wilmington, Delaware,” Biden says at the top of the debut podcast. “It’s a scary time, people are confused, things are changing every day, every hour so I wanted to have this conversation with you now if we could.”
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The title plays on one of Biden’s favorite phrases he uses before launching into an explanation about a subject he wants people to understand.
In the 20-minute episode recorded last Tuesday, Biden interviews his former chief of staff, Ron Klain, who also served as the Obama administration’s Ebola czar, on how President Donald Trump should be handling the pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 people in the U.S.
Both take turns talking about the Obama administration's response to the Ebola crisis before Biden brings up his coronavirus and economic plans.
“It’s critical for the president not to resort to fear-mongering and also baseless downplaying or lying about the situation," Biden said during the phone interview. "The president needs to be honest, needs to follow the science, needs to be transparent with the American people.”
Listeners asked Biden and Klain questions about the initial plans they put into action during the Ebola crisis and asked Biden what he is doing to practice social distancing.
“First, I’m recording this podcast to connect with all of you instead of traveling across the country as I have been doing most of the last year,” he said. “It’s just not worth it to go out there and take a chance of getting sick and further spreading the virus.”
The podcast is another way for the campaign to try to connect with voters confined to their homes a challenge recent political candidates have not had to face. The launch comes one week after Biden debuted his home TV studio in his basement, where he was able to reinsert himself into the national conversation on cable news following several technical difficulties encountered in his first week of “working from home.”
The campaign said it plans to upload episodes regularly and to expand the conversations beyond the pandemic, although staffers acknowledge the topic will be revisited often as the nation continues to grapple with its life-altering effects.
In the past week, the campaign has held a number of virtual events, including question-and-answer sessions with workers helping patients recover from COVID-19, and a “happy hour” with young adults. It also launched a newsletter that will be emailed to supporters, featuring Biden’s recommendations on how to prevent coronavirus spread and movies to watch as they stay at home.
The podcast also allows the campaign to remind listeners what Biden is doing to stay on top of the crisis as he battles for national news coverage that has turned away from the presidential campaign to focus on the coronavirus.
“I think it’s important for people to know that you’re talking to almost, every day, top economists about what to do about this," Klain told Biden on the podcast. "You’re talking to Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill and making the point that it’s important that as we fight this economic crisis, we focus on people and families, not corporations.”
“Bingo,” Biden responds.
Besides trying to provide “clarity” on important issues, the podcast promises to bring “the heart, compassion and wisdom” of Biden to Americans as the campaign contrasts President Donald Trump's crisis-management leadership to that of the former vice president.
“Why am I doing this?,” Biden asks listeners. “So we can keep talking to each other. We can’t hold rallies anymore, but we’re not gathering in big public spaces. We’re living in the new normal, but I want you to know that I’m with you and I’m on your side and we’re going to get through this together as a country.”