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
Need evidence that the coronavirus is forcing us to appeal to our better natures? Just look in one of the unlikeliest places on earth: the United States Capitol. Early Wednesday morning, the White House and Senate announced that they had reached a deal on a roughly $2 trillion stimulus bill, after Republicans agreed to add oversight requirements to a $500 billion corporate aid fund. Nothing has been voted on quite yet, but officials say that can happen within the week. The bill arrives after weeks of disagreement — over how to contain the virus, what to call it and how bad a threat it poses. But for the moment, the tune has changed. Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economic adviser, called this “the single largest Main Street assistance program in the history of the United States.”
And President Trump continues to argue for accelerating the return to business as usual. On Tuesday he said that he “would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go, by Easter,” contrary to top health officials’ warnings that this would be far too quick, and would endanger more lives. Until this month, the economy was Trump’s biggest argument for re-election; now, unemployment could rise to one-quarter of the working population. “I gave it two weeks,” Trump said at a town-hall-style event hosted by Fox News on Tuesday, referring impatiently to the partial economic shutdown. “We can socially distance ourselves and go to work.” But at a news conference later that day, his tone softened, and he said his priority was Americans’ health and safety.
Standing beside the president at that news conference, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, offered a softer version of the Trump approach. Fauci suggested that perhaps certain parts of the country with low incidences of the virus could be restriction-free, while more virus-prone areas kept a shutdown in place. The hardest-hit area right now is New York City, which is being treated as an epidemiological hot zone; more than 25,000 cases of the virus have been documented in the state, with a vast majority of those occurring in the city and surrounding areas. The Trump administration on Tuesday advised anyone leaving New York City to self-quarantine for 14 days.
America, meet Dan Patrick, your first national martyr of economics. Yesterday, we told you how Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas and his state’s chairman for the Trump campaign, supported the president’s notion to restart the economy far ahead of the dates advised by medical professionals. But on Tuesday, Patrick, 69, went further, saying that older people like himself might be willing to die to get the economy rolling again. “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival, in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in,” Patrick said.
Photo of the day
President Trump participated in a Fox News virtual town-hall-style event from the Rose Garden of the White House on Tuesday.
Why is June 2 suddenly the day to watch on the primary calendar?
With the coronavirus pushing back still more of the presidential primary race, June 2 has emerged as a newly all-important day.
Ten states and the District of Columbia are now planning to hold their primary elections then, including Ohio and New Jersey, the seventh and eighth most delegate-rich states on the Democratic primary calendar. That’s a very late date, just one week before the cutoff mandated by the Democratic National Committee.
Could June 2 now become Bernie Sanders’s last stand? And what would it mean for unity at the convention among the Democrats if competitive primary contests are still happening just over a month before?
Why is June 2 such a popular date on the Democratic primary calendar all of a sudden? And do Democratic officials even think it’ll be a firm date, considering how up-in-the-air everything is right now with the virus?
At last count, six states including Pennsylvania, Delaware and Indiana have pushed back their primary elections to June 2, joining New Jersey and several others already scheduled for then. Regarding your other question, they do seem to think it’s firm as of now, but really anything seems possible in this climate. June 2 is just about the last date that primaries could be held under current rules. The Democratic National Committee requires all primaries to take place by June 9, although two states, Kentucky and Louisiana, have already pushed past that day because of fears about the coronavirus.
Joe Biden has struggled to stay in the public eye, now that he’s seen as almost assuredly the Democratic nominee, and the virus has overtaken Americans’ attention. Could you see the lack of primary elections over the coming weeks contributing to that problem for him?
Yes, I think it must be a real concern for the Biden campaign. Some polls have shown Trump’s favorability rising since he has held near-daily appearances at the White House to respond to the virus. An important series of wins in the next month or two would have brought media attention and, maybe more important, added pressure on Bernie Sanders to concede and begin coalescing Democratic support around the presumed nominee.
Speaking of Bernie Sanders, he needs to win by better than three-fifths in the remaining states to actually capture the nomination — which seems like a stretch. But with 11 nominating contests now occurring on a single day, does June 2 present a real opportunity for Sanders to broaden his message and mount a surprise last strike?
Never say never. But the problem for Sanders is that his hoped-for coalition has not materialized. He lost firewall states like Texas and Michigan. It’s hard to imagine Democrats overnight turning away from Biden to embrace an alternative most have made up their minds about.