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The Campaign

BIDEN DEALS SANDERS DEVASTATING BLOW: Former vice president Joe Biden cemented his status as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination with an astounding four-state sweep on Tuesday — a week after his strong Super Tuesday showing. 

Biden’s decisive wins in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Idaho — even as ballots in Washington and North Dakota are still being counted — solidified his lead in the battle for delegates. Sanders was dealt an especially tough blow in Michigan, a the Midwestern swing state the independent Vermont senator won in 2016 over Hillary Clinton. 

  • “It’s more than a comebackIt’s a comeback for the soul of this nation,” Biden said during a brief appearance at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia last night. “This campaign is taking off, and I believe that we are going to do well from this point on.”
  • He made an appeal to Sanders voters: “I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his campaign for their tireless energy and their passion. We share a common goal. And together, we’ll defeat Donald Trump.”

Biden’s dominant showing is likely to increase pressure on Sanders to drop out of the race. The calls already started, notable since the former veep’s campaign appeared all but dead just a few weeks ago: 

  • “I think when the night is over, Joe Biden will be the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination, and quite frankly, if the night ends the way it has begun, I think it is time for us to shut this primary down, it is time for us to cancel the rest of these debates, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), who endorsed Biden before the South Carolina primary told NPR. “Because you don’t do anything but get yourself in trouble if you continue in this contest when it’s obvious that the numbers will not shake out for you.”
  • “The math says Joe is our prohibitive nominee,” former presidential candidate and tech executive Andrew Yang said on CNN, throwing his support behind Biden.

Just look at Biden’s national poll numbers post-South Carolina, per our colleague Philip Bump:

It remains to be seen whether the iconoclastic Sanders will surrender in an effort to unite the party and commence the fight against Trump — or keep fighting. 

  • Sanders — at home in Burlington, Vt., after both candidates canceled their Ohio rallies because of concerns over coronavirus — did not speak or appear in public last night after the results came out.
  • The spin from Team Sanders ahead of Sunday’s debate in Phoenix: I, for one, am extremely excited about this debate all the moderates are panicking about. The delegate count difference is only about 150 points out of 4051 total,” Sanders spokeswoman Briahna Joy Gray tweeted last night. “America finally gets to see Biden defend his ideas, or lack there of, on Sunday.”
  • Remember: Sanders was accused of being a spoiler in 2016 when he refused to drop out of the race even as Clinton’s lead appeared insurmountable.

Still, Sanders faces increasingly long odds of mounting a comeback, especially with demographics of the contests ahead mostly favoring the former veep.  

  • Even key Sanders allies acknowledge this: “There’s no sugarcoating it. Tonight’s a tough night. Tonight’s a tough night electorally,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told her followers on Instagram Live.
  • The odds, from our colleague Dan Balz: “Biden remains well short of the 1,991 pledged delegates needed for a first-ballot victory at the national convention in Milwaukee in July. But with Tuesday’s results, he has solidified his lead in the delegate battle and, with the states that will hold their primaries in the next two weeks, that advantage inevitably will grow.”
  • Up next: “Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio hold primaries next Tuesday. Sanders lost all four to Hillary Clinton in 2016, in many cases by big margins. By the time those four states tally results next week, just over 60  percent of the pledged delegates will have been allocated. A week later comes the Georgia primary and probably another big Biden victory. Given the sudden momentum shift the campaigns have experienced, there is little to give Sanders any confidence that he can reverse the trends enough to overtake the surging Biden.”

Big states are coming up, but looks can be deceiving: Just under 600 delegates will be up for grabs next week, including Florida (219). And New York, voting in April, has 274 at stake. Yet the proportional approach Democrats use to award delegates make it very hard to build a lead in the race, but even harder to take it away.

  • From MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki: “You’re looking at a situation where a week from tonight, if these patterns hold, Biden could build a 250, 350 delegate lead. In a one-on-one race, it’s extremely difficult to erase that — and the only way to erase that is to start finding big states and to start winning landslides in them. Bernie Sanders hasn’t showed he can” do that.

The pressure on Sanders will only increase as “Democratic voters have demonstrated over the past week, in exit polls and at the ballot box, that they want to avoid the protracted primary battle of 2016 and quickly coalesce behind a nominee who can begin focusing on trying to defeat [Trump],” our colleagues Sean Sullivan, Matt Viser and Michael Scherer report. 

  • “In one sign that most of the party is prepared to unify behind whichever candidate emerges, about 9 in 10 of Biden’s supporters said they would support the party’s nominee, according to early exit polls in Michigan, Missouri and Washington. Across those three states, at least 8 in 10 Sanders voters said they would vote for the Democratic nominee in the general election.”
  • $$$: “In a sign of further consolidation, Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC focused on the presidential race, announced Tuesday that it would prepare advertising to defend Biden against Republican attacks over the coming months, as his campaign continues to compete in the primaries,” our colleagues report. “American Bridge, another group working to defeat Trump, also promised on Tuesday night to shift its efforts to support Biden.”
  • “Tonight the voices of Democratic voters are loud and clear: They want Joe Biden to be our standard-bearer,” American Bridge president Bradley Beychok said.

The People

Tuesday’s results reinforced the depth of Biden’s electoral coalition — and Sanders’s challenges in expanding his coalition to include some of the Democratic Party’s most important constituencies. 

  • “Biden assembled a strong electoral coalition that combined his party’s most loyal constituencies — including African Americans, women and union members — with a new wave of moderate white voters who have aligned themselves with the Democrats as refugees from President Trump’s Republican Party,” per the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.

Sanders did maintain the support of young voters: Even in his moment of triumph, however, Mr. Biden made little headway with the youngest and most liberal primary voters, who remained steadfastly behind Mr. Sanders even as his national prospects have dimmed,” per Martin and Burns. 

The coronavirus effect: As it spreads quickly across the U.S., Biden was able to score another crucial victory over Sanders. 

  • “Roughly half of Democratic primary voters in Michigan as well as in Washington state said they trust Biden most among the Democratic candidates to handle a major crisis,” according to CNN’s Jennifer Agiesta, Grace Sparks and Ryan Struyk. “In Michigan, where the exit poll reflects only those who voted on Election Day, about a third say they trust Sanders most to handle a crisis.”
  • “In Missouri, preliminary exit poll results show Biden’s edge on this measure is wider: About 6 in 10 say they trust him most to handle a major crisis, while about a quarter named Sanders,” per CNN.

RIP Sanders’s firewall: His loss in Michigan does not bode well for his chances in other upcoming contests in the Midwest. 

  • “Michigan and Missouri were very close between Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2016, but the margins Tuesday were so big that Biden was called the winner in both shortly after polls closed. He wound up winning both by double-digit margins,” our colleague Aaron Blake notes. 
  • Michigan in a nutshell: “The key test for both candidates Tuesday was Michigan because it provides an important barometer for how they would do in one of the typically Democratic, industrial Midwestern states that Trump won,” Sean, Matt and Michael note.

Sanders is currently only leading one county in the state: He won all but 10 counties in 2016.

  • “Biden also pulled even with Sanders among white voters, who made up a majority of those casting ballots in the Michigan Democratic primary. In 2016, Sanders won among white voters by 14 percentage points,” our colleague Claudia Deane reported in our election live blog. “Biden also was fueled by a strong lead among black voters in Michigan, winning about 2 in 3, a familiar pattern for those watching the vote among this key Democratic constituency in earlier primary states.”
  • Ouch: The loss in not just Michigan — but also Missouri — also suggests that Sanders’s success in 2016 had less to do with his appeal to working-class white voters and more to do with to anti-Clinton sentiment.

A deeper dive into Missouri and Mississippi: Biden’s strength with not just African Americans voters — but also among older white voters — was very apparent in these two states. 

Biden is currently leading in every county in Missouri. Sanders lost the state by about only 1,500 votes in 2016.

Biden won just over 7 in 10 votes from African Americans in Missouri, similar to the share he got last week in Virginia and Alabama.

Black voters made up more than two-thirds of the electorate in Mississippi. Biden won support among 8 in 10 black voters, our colleague Patrick Moynihan reports. 

  • Also “fueling Biden further was support from 7 in 10 white voters, a group more typically aligned with Sanders,” Patrick notes.

Here’s how Biden did across Mississippi:

Outside the Beltway

U.S. CORONAVIRUS CASES SURPASS 1,000: “The virus has been detected in nearly 40 states and the District of Columbia. A growing list of at least 19 states have declared a state of emergency, including on Tuesday Colorado, North Carolina and Michigan, the latter of which reported its first two cases,” our colleagues Adam Taylor and Teo Armus report.

The latest numbers:

TELE-COMMUTING, CANCELLATIONS AND A CONTAINMENT ZONE: A New York suburb is now in a 1-mile containment zone. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is reportedly set to restrict gatherings of more than 250 people in Seattle, one of the nation’s largest cities. Both Democratic presidential candidates cancelled rallies planned in Ohio last night, a move Biden said came at the behest of its Gov. Mike DeWine (R). Coachella is postponed until October. This weekend’s Democratic debate will come without an audience or spin room

And changes to everyday life in the U.S. – and on the campaign trail – may just be beginning.

  • What’s happening: We would like the country to realize that, as a nation, we can’t be doing the kinds of things we were doing a few months ago,” Anthony Fauci, the veteran director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters at the White House. “That it doesn’t matter if you’re in a state that has no cases or one case, you have to start taking seriously what you can do now. That if and when the infections will come — and they will come. Sorry to say, sad to say they will.”
  • Fauci added that nationally “this risk is relatively low,” but that everyone should heed the federal government’s guidelines.

More details:

The Trump administration is racing to develop contingency plans for federal workers to work from home: The federal government wants hundreds of thousands of workers to prepare to work remotely full-time. This would be “an extreme scenario to limit the coronavirus that would test whether the government can carry out its mission from home offices and kitchen tables,” our colleague Lisa Rein reports.

  • Many private companies have already sent their workers home: “But some corners of the federal government, the country’s largest employer, are only now confronting what could be an unprecedented shift in how they serve the public — for weeks or even months,” our colleague writes. “Close to half the federal workforce was eligible to telework when President Trump took office, on average one or two days a week, for snow days or sporadically,” but the Trump administration later scaled back the practice for multiple agencies.

New Rochelle, N.Y., is effectively on lock down: “New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took the country’s most drastic steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus, ordering the closure of schools and other gathering places within a one-mile radius of this New York suburb,” our colleagues Ben Guarino, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Laura Meckler and Katie Zezima report from city of 79,000 people.

  • Cuomo said the state had to act quickly to stop the virus after more than 104 New Rochelle residents tested positive: “The creation of what he called a ‘containment zone’ for two weeks will keep about half the city’s 10,500 students at home and will allow the National Guard to sanitize public spaces,” our colleagues write.

The stock markets rallied: “The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 1,167 points, or 4.9 percent, recovering more than half its losses from Monday — the blue-chip index’s worst day since the 2008 financial crisis. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite also finished with near 5 percent gains,” our colleagues Taylor Telford and Thomas Heath report.

  • Most of the gains occurred in the final hour of trading: This was based “on word that the White House was making progress on economic measures to help workers and industries affected by the virus,” our colleagues write.
  • But losses may return today: “As of 6 a.m. ET Wednesday, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures indicated a loss of more than 500 points at the open. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures also pointed to losses. ,” CNBC’s Silvia Amaro and Fred Imbert report. 

At The White House

TRUMP’S ECONOMIC PITCH IS MET WITH BIPARTISAN SKEPTICISM: The president’s proposal to dramatically reduce the payroll tax through the end of the year “was not warmly received by Republicans, and it was also panned by Democrats, leaving policymakers searching for any common ground as the coronavirus’s outbreak continues to take its toll on the economy,” our colleagues Erica Werner, Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim and Robert Costa report.

  • Some of the ideas the president presented don’t appear to be carefully vetted: “One senator at [the] lunch meeting with Trump said the president also floated the idea of allowing Americans to delay filing their tax returns in April, reimbursing people or companies for sick leave and providing aid to the travel industry,” our colleagues write of Trump’s closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans.
  • Other ideas on the table: Trump is also eyeing emergency aid to U.S. oil and gas companies hurt by a drop in prices, our colleagues Jeff Stein, Will Englund, Steven Mufson and Robert Costa report.

The only real area of agreement seems to be on paid sick leave for employees: But “the disunity left it uncertain how or whether Congress and the administration will be able to come together on any economic proposal to help boost consumer and investor confidence,” our colleagues writes.

  • Some companies are already overhauling their sick leave policies: “Walmart, Uber and Apple are among those announcing new policies that they say are designed to keep employees and customers safe from the coronavirus,” our colleague Abha Bhattarai reports.

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