On the Campaign Trail: Insights from the Biden for President Campaign

The AAPC recently caught up with pollsters Celinda Lake and John Anzalone from the Biden for President campaign who shared their experience on their success from the 2020 Presidential campaign. The team is also the recipient of AAPC’s 2021 Democratic Campaign of the Year Award.

What specific team efforts contributed to the success of the campaign?

“Team” permeated the campaign from the beginning and that really contributed to the success. The pollsters worked very well together, solicited each other’s opinions, shared data and methodology, and clearly understood from day one that we were all in this together while facing a very difficult task in the primary and the general. This campaign had remarkable coordination between the “big data” operation and the polling and we worked hard to share methodology and compare insights and findings for the maximum impact. The entire team was very message oriented and benefitted from interactions with the policy people. We also were led by an amazing message team with Mike Donilon and Anita Dunn. The field operation and Jenn Ridder worked hard to implement the findings across mediums and to understand the value of traditional and big data targeting. Jennifer O’Malley Dillon set a strong tone from day one of “one team” and did an amazing job of assembling and leading a campaign virtually. First and foremost we were also led by a candidate and spouse who listened to the data, knew who they were and their values, and were open to good and bad news.

What tools did your team use to keep the campaign organized?

The tools that we used as pollsters were daily conversations, exchanging all materials and drafts, and sharing insights from all the work we were doing. Deep respect and affection and a good sense of humor helped us throughout. In our firm and in all their firms we were aided with such strong teams and partners.

How big of a role did social media marketing play in the success of the campaign?

Constant monitoring of social media by the DNC was superb, as well as the exchange of information so that we could compare what we were seeing in the polling with what was happening in social media responses, and flexible rapid testing using social media.

What was the biggest obstacle that your team faced on the campaign trail, and how did you overcome it?

Two big obstacles occurred. It’s hard to speak on the difficulty of exchanging information and having input when everything is socially distanced and on zoom. The sharing of information had to be formalized. It made it much harder to have input and to share than when we were all in one place. We overcame it with really good coordination from Julia Kennedy and a deep commitment to full sharing. We experimented with a variety of state and national coordination meetings. The state teams were also very data oriented and did an excellent job of consuming the data. The second obstacle was the difficulty of beating Donald Trump. The campaign and Joe Biden knew from day one how extraordinarily difficult that was. Then came the overlay of COVID-19 and the impact that had on field and GOTV. There was also the third stage of the campaign to protect the vote which our firm transitioned to day after the election.

What did you find most rewarding about working on this campaign?

The most rewarding part of the campaign was the success of the unity message and the economic message which were so authentic to Joe Biden. That was rivaled by the reward of beating Donald Trump. I truly believed from day one that Joe Biden was the candidate to beat Trump. It was very rewarding to work with such a talented group of pollsters to get the job done, share information and learn so much from them. It was rewarding to see our research turned directly in days to communications. It was very rewarding to work with two such powerful, principled women in Dr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.