The manager of Joe Biden’s presidential bid said on the first day of the Democratic National Convention that the campaign will have the “largest voter protection effort that has ever been conducted on a presidential campaign” as President Donald Trump continues to stoke a postal crisis.
“We are looking at a very sophisticated and complex, multipronged approach across every level that’s available to us,” Jennifer O’Malley Dillon said in an interview Monday with The Washington Post. “That certainly includes litigation. That includes, certainly, political coordination and legislative efforts.”
O’Malley Dillon said in key states like Arizona, where a majority of voters participate by mail, the Biden campaign is working to “make sure they know they’ve got to get that application and their ballot in early, as early as possible to give the post office the time that it needs.”
“I feel very confident that we are going to be able to execute our strategies and reach out to voters,” she said. “I am also very confident that Donald Trump is going to do everything that he can to try to stand in the way. And we’re going to ensure that we have the resources and the focus to stop that.”
“We are doing the work to ensure that we are minimizing the chaos,” she said.
Alongside O’Malley Dillon, veteran election lawyers, including Robert Bauer, are working with the campaign to promote voter education about mail-in voting and counter the president’s claims.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, warned supporters last month that he believes Trump will try to “indirectly steal” the election by making a case against mail-in ballots.
O’Malley Dillon’s comments come amid mounting pressure on the U.S. Postal Service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former logistics executive and Republican fundraiser. House Democrats have demanded that he testify at an emergency hearing next Monday along with Robert Duncan, the chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, accusing them this weekend of pushing “dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions.”
In recent days, DeJoy’s changes at the agency have reduced mail deliveries and overtime hours, resulting in massive mail backlogs that have delayed critical communications and packages, including prescription drugs.
The Postal Service also sought to eliminate hundreds of high-speed mail sorting machines this month and remove public collection boxes in states including California, New York and Pennsylvania, causing an outcry. The USPS described the mailbox removals as routine, though it pledged to cease the practice until after the election following the public backlash.
DeJoy’s push has sparked intense scrutiny in part because of Trump, who last week said he opposed offering election aid to states – and emergency money for the Postal Service – to restrict Americans from voting by mail. Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that mailed ballots invite voter fraud.
The president is being backed by a bustling Republican operation in 15 states to monitor voting locations and ensure a heavy GOP presence at polling sites.
Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee are working together to recruit 50,000 volunteers to serve as “poll watchers,” according to advisers to both groups, with $20 million set aside for courtroom fights, underscoring the legal arsenal at the party’s disposal.
In the interview Monday, O’Malley Dillon also sketched out her vision of the fall campaign and shed light on how she sees the political map. The strategist previously served as deputy campaign manager for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, among other senior roles in Democratic presidential politics.
“We start with the states that are on the map that we feel pretty confident in, but we really need to do the work – those are the Virginias, the New Hampshires, the Colorados,” O’Malley Dillon said. “In ’08 and ’12, those were really strong battleground states. They are still battleground states, but we are heavily favored. Some people might call them safe states. I certainly don’t believe that. I believe that we have to do the work to ensure that we continue to maintain our support there.”
The next group of states on her radar is the “sort of traditional swing state list,” including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, where “we obviously don’t have to win all of them,” she said. But she sees Biden as “competitive across the board.”
Arizona, in particular, is a priority, O’Malley Dillon said, noting that “the campaign staff kid me because I talk about it so much.”
“It has never really, truly been a battleground state at the level that it is. And some of that’s because of the trends over the last several cycles. Some of that’s because of the important work that’s been done on the ground,” she said.
Arizona’s Democratic Senate candidate, Mark Kelly, she added, “is really running an incredibly strong campaign. We’re going to work very closely with him.”
The Deep South and states such as Georgia, which have been coveted by recent Democratic presidential nominees but remained largely out of reach, are targets as well, with the Biden campaign hoping to be lifted by increased support and participation from Black and Latino voters.
“I think 2020’s the year, I think for sure, whether, you know, we’re talking about Florida, whether we’re looking at Georgia,” O’Malley Dillon said, recalling her work for Democrat Stacey Abrams’s near-miss Georgia gubernatorial campaign in 2018. “These are states that are really changing demographically over year after year. They are states where there’s just stronger electoral population in support of Democrats. That continues to trend in our direction.”
But traveling to some of those states is still a challenge because of the coronavirus pandemic and safety concerns, complicating the Biden campaign’s attempt to make inroads in places that have leaned Republican in recent cycles.
O’Malley Dillon said the campaign is mulling how to proceed logistically, in terms of travel by the former vice president or by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., whom Biden announced last week as his running mate.
“Or job is to meet with and show up to voters wherever they are. So I am far less concerned about the travel restrictions as I am making sure that we are spending the time and building community and connection and engaging with voters during this time of crisis,” she said. “We’ve thought about how do we reach voters while not putting them in harm’s way or our teams or our volunteers in harm’s way? How do we ensure that we make connections and we have quality conversations?”
Digital expansion is part of the answer, O’Malley Dillon said. But so are old-school phone calls to undecided voters.
“Phone calls are much more prevalent and more successful,” she said. “I know we’re seeing this in polling. More people are responding.”