On Politics: Biden Gets Out the Broom

On Politics: Biden Gets Out the Broom

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  • Joe Biden took all three prizes in yesterday’s Democratic primaries, handily winning Florida, Illinois and Arizona. At a time when everything seems to be up in the air, it was a rare moment of clarity: Biden won decisive victories in three different parts of the country, putting him firmly on track to become the party’s presidential nominee.

  • Ohio had been scheduled to vote yesterday too, but its governor postponed the state’s primaries amid concerns over the coronavirus. Even in the three states that went forward, hundreds of polling places were closed after volunteers stayed home rather than risking their health at crowded voting sites.

  • In a close race, this could have contributed to disastrous ambiguities. (Remember Iowa? Imagine if those caucuses had taken place during a pandemic.) But the results on Tuesday were overwhelming enough that the winner was never in doubt. As of early this morning, Biden was up by double digits in each race, with a large lead in most key demographics, according to exit polls. He’s on pace to take home roughly twice as many pledged delegates as Bernie Sanders from Tuesday’s contests.

  • Sanders made no announcement Tuesday night about the future of his campaign — though things are looking pretty bleak right now. Instead, he gave a video address early in the evening that outlined how he would confront the coronavirus. Moments before primary results arrive is an unusual time for a policy speech, but Sanders called for increased access to virus testing, free health care and sending $2,000 a month to every family in the country.

  • The one group among which Biden continues to show consistent weakness is young people. Even in Florida, where he beat Sanders by well over two-to-one, Biden trailed by 13 points among voters under 45, according to exit polls. If he wants to win in November, Biden will need to ensure that young liberals — a key Democratic constituency — are willing to show up for him.

  • Biden appeared to acknowledge that in his victory speech Tuesday night. Speaking from his home in Wilmington, Del., he name-checked income inequality and climate change, and then made a direct appeal. “Let me say especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you,” Biden said. “I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do.”

  • Five states have now pushed back their primaries. Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana and Kentucky were joined on Tuesday by Maryland, which announced that it would move its primary to June 2.

  • In a small slice of good news for progressives on Tuesday night, Marie Newman upset Representative Dan Lipinski in a Democratic primary in Illinois. Lipinski’s opposition to abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act had made him deeply unpopular in his party.

  • Could Arizona vote for a Democrat in the general election, while Florida breaks for a Republican? Arizona hasn’t gone blue in a presidential election in over 20 years, whereas Florida has been consistently purple. But polls taken just before the primary suggest Arizona could tilt away from President Trump in November — while Florida is looking more favorable to him. In a Monmouth University poll of Arizona this week, Biden got 46 percent to Trump’s 43 percent in a head-to-head matchup. But in Florida, where a Univision poll showed that 54 percent of voters approved of the job Trump is doing, the results in a Trump-Biden head-to-head contest were virtually flipped: 48 percent for Trump, 45 percent for Biden.

A poll worker wore gloves for protection against the coronavirus outside a voting site at Woodmere Park in Venice, Fla.

Trump expressed support for an aggressive package to confront the coronavirus on Tuesday, announcing at a news conference that he would expand the availability of virus testing while endorsing a plan to send stimulus checks to all Americans.

Trump has spent weeks shifting his stance on the virus. At first he expressed doubt that it posed much of a threat, then he offered conflicting information in a nationally televised address — eliciting criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.

But on Tuesday, the president appeared more committed to providing relief. In his remarks, he balanced his tendency to make bombastic promises with an apparently newfound desire to project calm. Trump even went out of his way to salute the efforts of Democrats, singling out Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, who spoke to the president on Tuesday about his state’s efforts to slow the virus’s spread.

“There’s great spirit, tremendous spirit, and I can say that for Republicans and Democrats,” Trump told reporters. “I can say that with respect to Governor Cuomo.”

As coronavirus legislation races through Congress, partisan politics have become scrambled. Republican lawmakers, eager to provide relief in an election year, are now endorsing social-aid packages that conservatives would usually consider anathema.

The Democratic-controlled House passed a bill this week that provides for paid leave, unemployment insurance, free coronavirus testing, and food and health care aid. But the Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, not typically known for his advocacy of big-ticket spending, said on Tuesday that he hoped the Senate would approve that bill before moving on to craft other legislation of “much larger proportions.”

The Trump administration appears to be on board, too. At Trump’s news conference on Tuesday, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, advocated a $1 trillion piece of legislation, including $250 billion worth of checks for all Americans.

There’s not much of a campaign trail to speak of these days: The candidates are on lockdown because of the virus. Still, our reporters are closely watching all the race’s developments, and they’re in touch with people in and around the major Democratic campaigns.

After the results had been called last night, we checked in with reporters covering Biden and Sanders to get their take on how things are looking. Here’s Thomas Kaplan, who has been covering Biden:

Joe Biden’s campaign finished Tuesday night in a position that was almost unthinkable just a few weeks ago. He possesses a commanding delegate lead, he can point to a diverse coalition of voters who have turned out to support him, and he can increasingly turn his attention toward facing Trump in November.

It is a staggering turnaround: Just five weeks ago he finished in fifth place in New Hampshire, and now the primary race is all but over, with Biden on top. It was telling that his primary-night speech on Tuesday included an explicit appeal to supporters of Sanders. In the weeks to come, he faces the challenge of winning over progressive Democrats who have been wary of his candidacy — particularly young voters.

And here is Sydney Ember, our Sanders reporter:

Bernie Sanders and his advisers were considering his next steps on Wednesday morning after he suffered significant losses in the Florida, Illinois and Arizona primaries. As Biden continues to widen his delegate lead, some Sanders allies were beginning to acknowledge that his path to the Democratic nomination had become almost impossibly narrow — even as they recognized that he is singularly focused on keeping his political movement alive.

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