1 year since launch, Joe Biden campaign faces familiar questions as it looks to general election

The former vice president marks the anniversary as the presumptive nominee.

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the 20th Democrat to enter the 2020 race when he announced his third run for president in April 2019 as a fragile front-runner, facing questions about his viability against a crowded field.

Biden entered the race leading in the polls but plagued by questions about his ability to win over younger voters who favored more progressive policies and concerns over his ability to raise the funds necessary to be competitive against the impressive grassroot hauls of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

He faltered early on, facing disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire due in part to a lackluster organization, before delivering on his long-held strategy that a strong finish in South Carolina, due to his popularity with African American voters, would open up a pathway to the nomination through more diverse states on Super Tuesday.

While Biden has all but secured the Democratic nomination, questions about his campaign organization persist.

Despite Biden promising changes to his staffing at the urging of key endorsers like South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, his campaign has made few changes to its staffing at a senior level thus far -- only bringing in former Beto O'Rourke campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon to replace Greg Schultz as campaign manager in mid-March.

"The campaign is working to grow and scale to reflect the general election," Rufus Gifford, who served as finance director for President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign and is a top Biden fundraiser, told ABC News. "I think that that's what they're up to these days."

While Biden quickly amassed the support of his former competitors throughout March and April, his campaign has been slower in bringing in talent from other campaigns now free to join the presumptive nominee's effort to beat President Donald Trump come November.

"This is the earliest a primary has been settled in recent history, the Biden campaign should be taking advantage and staffing up yesterday. Especially digital as it's been THE game in town for nearly 2 months now," Rodericka Applewhaite, the former senior researcher for rapid response for Pete Buttigieg's campaign, tweeted Tuesday.

The Biden campaign has defended its "scrappy" digital team, and said a hiring process is currently underway to expand the campaign for the general election matchup.

"We are building on to all aspects of the campaign, especially digital, and have begun to hire additional people," an aide for the Biden campaign told ABC News.

Some Democrats believe the Biden campaign has time to scale up for the general election, but acknowledge any major build out has to take into account the new normal the coronavirus has brought.

"You've got to organize people online and bring on people, in my opinion, sooner rather than later who are focused on voter contact done virtually. That's one of the rare things that, regardless of whether we are in a pandemic world or a 'post-pandemic world,' it's still going to be a valuable tactic; you can be sure of that," Addisu Demissie, who served as the campaign manager for Sen. Cory Booker's presidential campaign, told ABC News.

The increased staffing comes as the campaign has also stepped up their fundraising efforts throughout April, holding 11 virtual fundraisers so far, and raising an impressive $1.1 million during the most recent event.

Biden also posted his best fundraising month of the campaign in March with a $46.7 million haul, and formally agreed to fundraise jointly with the Democratic National Committee Friday, which will allow the two entities to amass resources for the general election fight against Trump.

"I think fundraising is No. 1, 2 and 3. I think there's a lot of, obviously, planning that needs to go into the convention and beyond, but the reality is the meat of this campaign is going to take place in September and October -- that's how it always is," Demissie said.

"What's most important is loading up the coffers, getting your plans in place, moving your pieces into position so that you're ready for the critical two months leading up to Election Day."

Questions about Biden's fundraising prowess followed him throughout his campaign, as the former vice president was consistently out-raised and outspent by competitors throughout the primary, despite being the last man standing in the race.

Now, Biden starts the march to the general election with a daunting gap between his campaign's funding and Trump's reelection juggernaut, which raised $212 million in the first quarter of the year and ended March with over $240 million in the bank.

The money gap heading into a general election fight is not lost on Biden's supporters.

"You don't want to take a victory lap and think that it's gonna be easy from this point forward. Donald Trump and the Republicans have been raising money since the day he was inaugurated for his reelection campaign. He's raising money and spending money at a steep clip. And so, we start at a disadvantage financially," Gifford said, adding that Biden's March fundraising haul left him feeling "more optimistic than [he has] over the course of this campaign."

Time appears to be on the former vice president's side. Biden clinching the title of presumptive nominee by early April marks one of the earliest ends to the Democratic primary in recent history. He has already secured endorsements from prominent progressive Democrats, like Sanders, Warren and rising progressive leaders like New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland and California Rep. Ro Khanna and signaled a willingness to incorporate more left-leaning policies in his platform, in an effort to win over skeptical progressive Democrats.

However, as Biden continues to try to grow support across a broad Democratic base, he'll do so while continuing to grapple with the impact of coronavirus on the race, having to translate his "tactile" campaigning style and talent for connecting one-on-one to the virtual world.

Biden's campaign continues to try new ideas to highlight Biden's strength as a candidate, like "virtual rope lines," some Democrats argue the uncertainty has only exacerbated an existing weakness within the Biden campaign, which failed to prioritize digital efforts in the organization from the start.

"They're doing tons of stuff; you know they're spending on acquisition, they got new digital ads every day, they're taking advantage of the president's press conferences to make sure they're churning out content as quickly as they can on that," a digital strategist for one 2020 campaign told ABC News.

"There's so much good to tell, but that good doesn't have an overarching strategy," they said, adding that it's a sign that Biden's team is "just shotgun blasting."

With one year under its belt, and 192 days to go until ballots are cast in the 2020 election, the decisions the campaign makes in the coming months as it scales up loom even larger, and adaptability amid the uncertainty may be prized over other concerns.

"We need to be flexible enough to adapt to a changing world and that makes it really, really difficult," Demissie said. "So I think if I were them ... I would definitely keep my powder dry a little bit, I would try to do more with partners, and more fundraising ... and less that commits you to a path that you may not be able to walk down."

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events