Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.
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Where things stand
Unemployment is skyrocketing, with some experts’ projections surpassing the worst numbers of the Great Depression. And for the first time, lawmakers in Washington are talking seriously about responding with a government jobs program, along the lines of what President Franklin Roosevelt enacted in the 1930s. House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a $760 billion proposal, billed as the “Moving Forward Framework,” to create jobs through a national infrastructure program. There was increasingly bipartisan agreement that the $2 trillion stimulus enacted last week could prove insufficient as the effects of the coronavirus ripple outward for months — and possibly into next year.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, warned this week that he didn’t want Democrats to use the crisis to pass “unrelated policy items.” In any case, it’s unlikely that Speaker Nancy Pelosi could persuade a Republican-led Senate to follow her lead on crafting a law of this magnitude. Instead, this bill (and any others like it that Democrats pass in the House) may be fairly symbolic: a token that signals Democrats are serious about creating a jobs program. On Tuesday President Trump backed the idea, saying on Twitter that an infrastructure bill “should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!” Of course, Trump has often talked about infrastructure spending, and spoke for years about instituting an “infrastructure week” to discuss the issue in Washington, but it came to no end.
With the national stockpile of medical supplies nearly depleted, Trump urged state governments to “make a deal” with commercial manufacturers and persuade them to produce more medical supplies. He has been reluctant to broadly use the federal Defense Production Act to compel companies to make supplies, even though the law has been invoked hundreds of thousands of times during his presidency. Later, when asked why he hadn’t issued a national stay-at-home order, Trump said he preferred to leave that to the states, as well. “We’re really here to help governors,” he said. “They’re the front line of attack.”
Until yesterday, Florida’s Ron DeSantis was the most prominent governor of a hard-hit state who had still not issued a shelter-in-place order. That was despite the high number of older people who lived in the state. When DeSantis, a Republican, took that step yesterday — after a phone call with Trump, his political mentor — his mandate contained exceptions for religious gatherings, something many other states didn’t offer. In recent weeks, DeSantis has emerged as a kind of Trump-friendly foil to Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York and the most prominent face of Democratic efforts to fight the virus. While Cuomo has focused on restricting residents’ movement within his state, DeSantis has concentrated more on barring out-of-state visitors. But even as other states have struggled to gain access to resources in the federal stockpile, The Washington Post recently found that Florida, Trump’s adopted home state, had received all of the medical supplies it had requested.
Trump told reporters he would “absolutely” be willing to take a call from Joe Biden, should the Democratic presidential candidate have advice to offer. Biden has repeatedly invoked his experience helping to fight the spread of Ebola and swine flu in the Obama administration. After the White House adviser Kellyanne Conway challenged Biden to “call the White House today and offer some support,” Biden’s campaign issued a statement on Wednesday saying, basically, sure. At his daily news conference, Trump effectively said the same — if not exactly with enthusiasm. What are the chances this back-and-forth actually leads to a productive phone call? Let’s just say it’s uncertain.
Photo of the day
President Trump reading his notes at Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing at the White House.
Biden says he’ll pick a female running mate. Who could it be?
Biden served as President Barack Obama’s vice president for eight years — and as he moves closer to landing the Democratic presidential nomination himself, he is giving real thought to his own potential running mate, which he has said will be a woman.
It’s a subject on which his allies have strong — and sharply divergent — opinions, according to interviews with nearly two dozen Biden donors and other supporters. Some argued that Biden, if he wins the nomination, should prioritize selecting a woman of color as his running mate. Others said that regional considerations, like ties to the industrial Midwest, should hold greater weight.
Biden has indicated that he’ll consider a long list of contenders, including former rivals like Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, all of whom are senators — as well as governors like Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Other possible contenders often mentioned by allies include two Latina leaders from the West: Catherine Cortez Masto, a senator from Nevada, and Michelle Lujan Grisham, the governor of New Mexico. Stacey Abrams, the 2018 candidate for governor in Georgia, is frequently floated, too.
One complication in all of this is the uncertain status of the Democratic National Convention — it is scheduled for July, but Biden urged late Wednesday for it to be pushed back to August.
Here is what’s clear: Biden takes the subject of a running mate very seriously — and he and his team are preparing to accelerate the process.