On Tuesday night, Joe Biden and Donald Trump will face off in the first presidential debate of the 2020 cycle, and cable channels will be lit up with analyses of which candidate beat expectations and which lines landed best with audiences at home.
But 60 years after the first televised presidential debate, the post-event spin isn’t limited to television anymore. The moment the event finishes, a new class of pundits on YouTube and Instagram will be digging through the footage for memorable moments to clip, remix, or outright manipulate. And just as candidates in previous cycles played to cable pundits, the 2020 campaigns are increasingly planning their message with an eye to how it will play on YouTube.
On YouTube at least, the early advantage is to Trump. Over the last four years of Trump’s presidency, the campaign and Republican Party have built a vast network of conservative online influencers, including personalities like Ben Shapiro from The Daily Wire and Dave Rubin, host of The Rubin Report on YouTube. Shapiro and Rubin speak with Trump surrogates often, reaching over 1 million subscribers per channel.
But behind the scenes, Biden’s campaign is pushing to make YouTube a more friendly place for Democrats. The Biden campaign has been working directly with YouTube channels and Facebook pages like Occupy Democrats and creators like Brian Tyler Cohen to create content that reaches millions of people, the campaign said, as part of a broader effort to counterbalance influencers like Shapiro and Rubin. A conscious counterpoint to the Trump campaign’s “Death Star,” the effort has been nicknamed “the Rebel Alliance.”