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 in the race
The presidential race is in a holding pattern as Bernie Sanders contemplates whether to stay in, and President Trump hunkers down in Washington to confront the coronavirus.
Last week, Joe Biden was denouncing the president’s herky-jerky response to the virus and offering his own proposals on how to handle it. How does he adjust now that Trump has changed his tune and is working on a bipartisan plan to address the crisis?
For now, Biden is at home in Delaware, coping with a campaign lull that might otherwise be a prime opportunity for some high-dollar fund-raising, except that — oh, right — the stock market is tanking.
Both he and Trump are probably wondering right now just how badly the virus will cut into their campaign war chests.
The next few Democratic primaries have been pushed back, and none are scheduled for the next couple of weeks. In Wisconsin, Democrats sued on Wednesday to force election officials to push the contest back from April 7.
Trump signed emergency legislation on Wednesday providing benefits, virus testing, and food and health care aid. The bill was written in the Democratically controlled House and quickly approved by the Republican-led Senate, but the G.O.P. is fully expecting to get the last word on this. The Senate is working with Trump to offer a stronger bill, with loans to businesses and direct cash payments to taxpayers. The stimulus is expected to cost $1 trillion, outmatching even the $800 billion package that President Barack Obama signed in 2009.
After Sanders lost three primaries by double digits on Tuesday, the watchword for him was “assessing.” Both he and his campaign manager separately said that’s what they were doing on Wednesday. Sanders remains devoted to pressing for his core principles: universal health care, higher taxation on the wealthy, a Green New Deal and withdrawing from foreign wars. But he faces a wrenching decision about whether to go on when victory seems mostly out of reach and voters could be imperiled just by showing up to the polls.
On Wednesday Sanders testily dismissed a question from a CNN reporter about the fate of his candidacy, saying that he was “dealing with a” — freaking, let’s say — “international crisis.”
Trump’s path to the Republican nomination has gone from virtually assured to virtually guaranteed. There’s a difference! And its name is Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, who was Trump’s last challenger until he dropped out of the race on Wednesday. In a statement announcing the end of his campaign, Weld didn’t name Trump directly but said that “we will truly have lost our compass” as a nation if the president refuses to abide by “the rule of law under our Constitution.”
Photo of the day
Bernie Sanders left the Capitol after the Senate passed a coronavirus relief bill.
Covid-19 has come to Congress.
The coronavirus has officially spread to the center of American politics.
Two members of Congress were informed on Wednesday that they had tested positive for the disease: Representative Mario Díaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida, and Representative Ben McAdams, a Democrat from Utah.
Both had experienced symptoms and were already on the mend by the time their test results came back. Díaz-Balart was on the House floor as recently as early Saturday. He is now working from his apartment in Washington and does not plan to go home, to avoid spreading it to his family.
More than half a dozen members of Congress have gone into self-quarantine after being exposed to someone with the virus.
But Congress continues to go about business more or less as usual — albeit with added hygienic precautions. This week, Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, said Congress should curtail its activities.
“This is a building that has a lot of outside interaction, there are cases on the Hill now, and some of us are coming from the epicenters of the virus where flying back and forth seems distinctly unwise,” she said. “Mitigation requires action that may feel early to some, but must be undertaken early to be successful. I do think it’s time.”
A ‘revolution’ mourns.
Sanders’s political demise is starting to feel inevitable, even to some of his most enthusiastic supporters. For a campaign that has played out loudly on Twitter, it’s now a time of public mourning.
From his rise to national prominence in 2015, Sanders represented more than his own candidacy: He is the candidate whom most young voters align with, and the one whose policies are explicitly aimed at fundamentally reshaping American politics.
As he contemplated whether to stay in, the #DearBernie hashtag was trending on Twitter on Wednesday. The range of responses reflected the spectrum of anguish and defiance among his supporters.
In a message that was liked over 3,700 times, one supporter wrote: “#DearBernie, I need you to stay in this race. The future of my grand nieces & grand nephew is at stake. I want them to have a healthy planet to live on.”
The activist and writer Shaun King sounded resigned to the political reality, but committed to carrying through the ideals espoused by the Sanders campaign.
“#DearBernie,” he wrote, “What I love and respect about you the most is that you don’t start and stop caring about issues in a run for President. EVERYTHING you fight for while you are running, you fought for when you weren’t running and will fight for after you are running. Never change.”
Biden, not exactly as much of a cause célèbre on Twitter, is working to win the confidence of young voters, who continue to break decisively against him — even in primaries where he has won the overall vote by a wide margin.
“Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of these issues, and together they’ve shifted the fundamental conversation in this country,” he said in his victory address on Tuesday. “Let me say especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you.”