Conventions provide contrast between two parties' approaches

The road to Nov. 3 will be new political territory for Donald Trump and Joe Biden, both fresh off their respective Republican and Democratic conventions and now facing the challenges of a presidential race unlike any other in U.S. history.

Traditional campaign yard signs are beginning to pop up, but the large rallies and small diner appearances with handshakes and holding babies likely will be eliminated or drastically curtailed during this coronavirus pandemic election year.

The conventions provided a clear contrast between the two parties' approaches to the path ahead and how to navigate political campaigning in the pandemic.

Trump delivered his acceptance speech Thursday to a crowd of supporters who mostly did not wear masks or adhere to the social distancing guidelines of health officials. Former Vice-President Joe Biden delivered his speech to supporters who watched via video conferencing from their homes across the nation.

The focus in the remaining 67 days, however, largely will be focused on just a handful of states and voters, according to Henry Brady, professor and dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

"Basically, 90-95% of the electorate knows where they stand, so there's a very small number of people who can be swayed," said Brady.

Brady says the reduction in campaign trips across the country will also limit the candidates' visibility that usually has come from news coverage of those local events.

Brady says staying in the public eye will be a bigger challenge for Biden,  who doesn't have the platform of the presidency.

Trump probably has an advantage because of his daily tweets. He's constantly getting press coverage. I think the Biden campaign's biggest problem will be to cut through those tweets," said Brady.

Television, radio, and digital advertising also could play a bigger role than in 2016, particularly in key swing states that determined Donald Trump's electoral college victory, despite his losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

"You've got to keep your eye on the ball which is the electoral college. It's not winning the most popular vote," said Brady.

"We're really seeing historic levels of spending," said Ben Taber, a spokesman for Advertising Analytics which examines campaign ad spending.

"We've already seen two billion dollars spent in the 2020 presidential race. Total for 2016 it was $850 million, all told," said Taber, who estimates that overall spending could climb to as much as $8-billion by election day.

Taber says both the Trump and Biden campaigns have spent about $300 million each so far. He also noted where that spending has been focused.

"There's really kind of a clear hierarchy here, where there are six top states that are seeing the vast, vast majority of money. So that's kind of in the Midwest you've got Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and then you've got Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona," said Taber.

Taber says both campaigns have been breaking fundraising records every month.

Three presidential debates are scheduled as well as one vice presidential debate, which could provide a better way for voters to compare the candidates.

The Trump campaign has called for more debates. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi countered Thursday saying Biden should not dignify Trump with any debate. Biden himself said he would take on President Trump.

"I think the most important thing for Joe Biden is to show that he can stand up to Donald Trump," said Brady.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana