When Barack Obama and Joe Biden reunited this month for a video to promote Biden’s presidential bid, they shot enough footage to keep the former president visible in a race that the coronavirus pandemic has largely pushed out of public sight.
On Monday, Biden’s team released a clip of the former president and his two-term vice president checking in with a 19-year-old campaign volunteer by telephone.
“Hey, Arianna,” Obama says to kick off the call as a camera on Arianna’s end records her excitement. “What’s up?”
Biden, seated across a table from Obama, then joins in. “Thanks for all you’re doing, what you’re doing, Arianna. You’re doing a helluva job.”
The call, shared first with BuzzFeed News, is an example of how Biden’s team is trying to maximize whatever socially distant time Obama can offer. Ordinarily, a former president as popular as Obama might already be on the campaign trail, energizing large crowds in battleground states, or at least preparing a major address to the Democratic convention. But COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has rendered rallies unsafe and forced a substantial downsizing of both parties’ August conventions. Biden hasn’t held a traditional campaign event since early March. President Donald Trump had hoped to resume his big arena rallies but saw weak turnout last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and, blaming the weather on what turned out to be a nice day, scrapped plans for a campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Biden and Obama filmed those calls while they were together to record a 15-minute video meant to frame the former vice president as a return to competence and decency after the Trump presidency. The video has been a viral and organizing hit for the campaign. Including a much-hyped preview and several excerpts, the content has been viewed more than 25 million times since debuting last week. And the preview, which included a prompt to text the campaign to be notified when the full video went live, helped the campaign triple its email list sign-ups from the previous day, a spokesperson said.
In their call with Arianna, Obama and Biden heard about volunteer efforts the campaign is involved with as the pandemic continues. Food banks and shelters have run short on volunteers, so the campaign has pitched in to host food drives and coordinate assistance through a Virtual Volunteers for Joe program.
“I’ve got a 19-year-old,” Obama tells her toward the end of the conversation. “Your parents must be very proud and trying to figure out how you grew up this fast.”