• What Is Sanders' Next Move?
• Next Democratic Debate Will Be Sans Audience
• Yang Endorses Biden
• Trump Administration's Handling of COVID-19 Has Been Nothing Short of Shameful
• Judge Says Democrats Should Get Mueller Evidence
The polls suggested that it was going to be a Biden kind of night on Tuesday, and it was, as he won at least four of the six states that were being contested, including the key state of Michigan. He also claimed a sizable majority of delegates. Here are the numbers as of midnight PT:
|State||Reporting||Biden Pct.||Biden Del.||Sanders Pct.||Sanders Del.|
Thus far, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, and Mississippi have been called for Biden; the other two states are not likely to be called until later this week. The issue, for those who are wondering, is that the states have to wait for any mail-in ballots to arrive; in most places that allow vote-by-mail, it is only necessary that the ballot be postmarked by Election Day. Generally, states wait a week or more before declaring the race over to make sure people aren't denied their vote because the Post Office is so slow.
Biden took roughly 60% the delegates that have already been awarded. Still remaining are 4 delegates in North Dakota, 53 in Washington, 6 in Idaho, 35 in Michigan, 20 in Missouri, and 9 in Mississippi. That's 127 in total; they figure to be split about evenly between the two candidates. If we add 63 to each man's total, as they currently stand, that would put Biden at 899 and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at 749 with 2,202 delegates left. To get to 1,991, Sanders would need close to two-thirds of the remaining delegates (65.9%). That's not an easy feat for any candidate under the Democrats' proportional system. Even in Sanders' home state of Vermont, he managed to claim only 68.7% of delegates. And Florida, Arizona, Ohio, and Illinois—the four states whose primaries are next week—ain't Vermont.
Biden, for his part, clearly believes the primary is over. In his speech on Tuesday night, he struck a presidential tone, as he implicitly poked Donald Trump, and made a nod to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party:
At this moment when there's so much fear in the country, when there's so much fear across the world, we need American leadership. We need presidential leadership that's honest, trusted, truthful, and steady. Reassuring leadership. If I'm given the honor of becoming your president, I promise you I'll strive to give the nation that very leadership every day, every day I have the privilege to hold office. That's the reason I'm running for president.
I believe we're in an incredible moment in American history, a phenomenal opportunity to deliver a bold, progressive vision to the American people. Guaranteeing that every American has health care, affordable health care, total health care. Not a privilege but a right. Building on Obamacare, providing every child access to good education regardless of their ZIP code, to deal with the moral depravity of our children who have to learn as they go to school—little children—to duck and cover, zigzag down a hallway because they fear someone with a semiautomatic weapon may be coming in. We have to stand up to the gun manufacturers and to the NRA, and I will do it.
Later in the speech, he complimented Sanders and thanked him for his efforts in bringing attention to important issues. This is what a pivot toward the general election looks like, folks.
And what of Sanders' speech on Tuesday? Well, there's nothing for us to say, because he didn't give one. Instead, he left his election night party early and hopped on an airplane to Vermont, saying he needed time to reflect. Sometimes, silence speaks volumes. Maybe the Vermont Senator believes the primary is over, too. (Z)
Tuesday was not the worst possible night for Bernie Sanders, but it wasn't far off. He may ultimately "win" Washington, and he will probably "win" North Dakota, but since Democrats don't do the winner-take-all thing, those wins will have virtually no effect on the delegate count. On top of that, it is clearer and clearer that the ceiling on his support is real, and that he isn't having much luck changing that. In fact, Tuesday night was the first night of voting this cycle that was head to head, and so the first that can reasonably be compared to 2016. And, as you can see, Sanders underperformed his 2016 numbers everywhere:
|State||Sanders 2016||Sanders 2020||Net|
The big drops in Washington and Idaho are due to those states' switching from caucuses to primaries. Let's consider Idaho, since 98% of the precincts have now reported. The total vote in 2016 was 23,705. This year it was more than 4x higher, at 98,490. This is in line with what we have been saying all along: Caucuses favor candidates with a small but extremely loyal base. To win a primary, you need more voters, including those who merely favor you over the other candidates, even if they wouldn't walk barefoot over wet grass, let alone broken glass, to take a selfie with you. We guessed last week that Biden would be a tougher matchup for Sanders than Hillary Clinton, and Tuesday night's totals suggest we were correct. Either that, or Sanders is a weaker candidate than he was in 2016. Either way, it doesn't make it look like he'll be claiming two-thirds of all delegates going forward.
Put another way, there is no clear path forward for Sanders. There's also no real argument that he is the stronger matchup against Donald Trump. Biden is clearly doing better in the critical states of the Upper Midwest, and in the would-be-nice-to-win states of the South, particularly North Carolina and Florida. Things are closer to even in the Southwest, though Biden won Texas by 4 points, and polls suggest he's going to win Arizona by an even larger margin. If you can't swing the swing states, you can't beat Trump, no matter how well you do in California and Colorado.
In theory, Sanders does have one Hail Mary pass left in the form of the next (and last?) Democratic candidates' debate on Sunday (though maybe not; see below). In any event, there are several reasons that the Vermont Senator might very well throw in the towel today or tomorrow, despite his reputation for being willing to fight hopeless battles. The first is that the behind-the-scenes pressure on him to bow out will be...substantial. Normally, Sanders does not care too much about such things, but he is still a politician who presumably still has things he wants to accomplish, and alienating Democrats by playing Don Quixote will not help on that front, long-term. Second, and in a related point, Sanders will be able to extract maximum platform and other concessions from Joe Biden right now; the longer this goes on, the less leverage the Senator has. It is exceedingly unlikely that Sanders wants to be veep or in the cabinet, but he could make a deal with Biden to give Sen. Elizabeth Warren a major position such as secretary of the treasury or a platform plank promising to revive the Glass-Steagall Act.
However, it is the third consideration that we think might be the X-factor, and might be the thing that causes Sanders to yield sooner rather than later: COVID-19. The disease has rather significantly complicated the campaign process, as most sorts of campaign events (rallies, speeches, meet-and-greets) present some meaningful level of danger to both the candidates and their supporters. It is one thing to keep tilting at windmills when the only damage is that it makes the establishment cranky. It's another entirely when doing so puts people at risk. In view of this, both candidates canceled rallies in Ohio on Tuesday. How can Sanders hold these events as long as there's a risk to attendees? And how can he possibly move the needle if he's not even able to campaign? One has to imagine that those are the very questions he went home on Tuesday night to reflect upon. (Z)
Speaking of COVID-19 and campaign events, the DNC announced on Tuesday that, as a safety precaution, there would be no audience for the next Democratic debate. Just Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and the moderators and stagehands.
This is a development that many debate viewers will undoubtedly cheer, as the debate audiences have been somewhat-to-very disruptive, and have given what is supposed to be a serious process the feel of a college basketball game. It's also pretty retro. When John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon debated in 1960, and established the tradition, it was a much more formal sort of affair. Just the candidates, the moderator, a panel of three questioners, and the stagehands. There was no hand-raising or "ooh! ooh! oohing!" and the questioners asked substantive and challenging questions about things like farm subsidies, foreign policy, and the place of religion in American politics. Oh, and they got the thing done in an hour. You can watch the first one here, if you'd like. There were four in total; remarkably, during the third one, the two candidates weren't even in the same state. JFK was in New York City and Dick Nixon was in Los Angeles. That wouldn't happen today, obviously.
Anyhow, the odds are pretty good that the event goes forward. Both the Sanders and Biden campaigns declared, on Tuesday night, that their candidates expected to be in Phoenix on Sunday. That said, it is not quite a slam dunk. Even a stripped-down debate is going to require a fair number of personnel, and so will carry at least some small amount of risk. Meanwhile, if Sanders goes on the attack, he might save his campaign, but the likelier result is that he merely wounds Biden, and thus helps Donald Trump. And if Sanders does not go on the attack, then how can he possibly change the trajectory of the race? The Vermont Senator might decide he's in a lose-lose situation. Biden, for his part, has no particular need to debate, especially since debates don't especially play to his strengths. It's unlikely he would go full Donald Trump and just announce he's not coming and if you don't like it, then too bad. But it's not impossible Biden could say "I just don't feel I can ask my staff to take the risks involved with participation, and so I would ask the American people to cast their votes based on the 10 debates we've already had." We shall see what happens in the next 48 hours. (Z)
In terms of his platform, and the demographics and the enthusiasm of his base, Andrew Yang would seem to have more in common with Bernie Sanders than with Joe Biden. However, it would appear that Yang picked up a trick or two during his brief political career, because he waited until the Democratic nomination was all-but-decided on Tuesday night, and then hitched his wagon to the frontrunner, endorsing Joe Biden, and telling Sanders supporters that the #1 job has to be defeating Donald Trump, and that everyone on the left needs to line up behind the Democrats' nominee.
That means that eight of Biden's former rivals for the nomination have now endorsed him. There are two left, besides Sanders of course, that he'd really like to get: Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) endorsement might curry some progressive support, and Julián Castro's might help with Latinos, particularly in Texas. Hard to say which one Biden would like to have more, but there's a pretty good chance he gets both before the month is out. (Z)
We try our best around here to be fair and balanced. Certainly, we try much harder than the well-known news outlet that once had "fair and balanced" as its slogan. That said, we are also willing to say it when the emperor appears to have no clothes. And when it comes to the COVID-19 response, Donald Trump and his team have displayed a dismaying combination of incompetence, tone-deafness, and outright corrupt venality.
There has been no shortage of schadenfreude on the Internet about the particular nature of this crisis; what could be worse for a wealthy germophobe president who is in the hospitality business and is seeking reelection than a virus that's wrecking both tourism and the stock market in an election year? And obviously, Trump has had his share of disasters, but few—if any—like this. Generally, his disasters are self-created, and can be resolved by him backing down, or toning down the rhetoric. Think government shutdowns, "caravans of immigrants," pi**ing contests with Kim Jong-Un, or the Iran situation.
This one isn't going to be resolved so easily, though one can argue that it is also—to a substantial extent—self-created. At this point, most folks know that Trump slashed funding for the officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) whose job is to watch for possible pandemics, and try to head them off at the pass. A story in The Atlantic headlined "Incompetence Exacerbated by Malevolence" details how the underfunded CDC was caught flat-footed, without enough information, and with limited (and often unreliable) testing materials. The CDC still hasn't caught up, which means that people who need to make important decisions (say, university presidents, corporate CEOs, or hoteliers) are left making their best guesses.
And it gets worse than that. New reporting from The New York Times, particularly this piece published over the weekend, and this one published Tuesday, make it clear that the administration engaged in a dangerous combination of denial and magical thinking over the course of the past few months. Warned about the emergent threat back in December, Trump & Co. insisted that their immigration policies would keep the disease from reaching the United States. In order to keep that narrative alive, the administration even denied physicians permission to start testing for COVID-19 en masse. Eventually, a few doctors in Washington defied the White House, and uncovered several infected people (who were then quarantined). Absent those acts of rebellion, there's every chance the disease would be more widespread than it already is. And even once it was clear there was an actual problem, the administration tried to cover it up, for fear of political damage and economic instability. For example, the AP reports that there was a discussion among administration officials several weeks ago about the possibility of warning senior citizens not to fly, but that idea was quickly discarded.
This week, COVID-19 officially reached D.C. At least one person who attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland last week has been diagnosed, and several prominent Republicans who interacted with this person have now quarantined themselves, most notably Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and—in today's reminder that karma is apparently real—Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who just last week mocked COVID-19 by wearing a gas mask while voting for emergency disease prevention funding. Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) is also on the quarantine list. Trump himself was at CPAC, and though he was apparently not in the vicinity of the COVID-infected individual, he did interact with Cruz, Gaetz, and Meadows. That would suggest that, just maybe, Trump oughta get himself tested. Thus far, however, he has refused because he says he's "feeling great."
Indeed, Trump's own response to the whole situation has been a case study in the various things that a president should not do in these situations. Sometimes, the Donald has decided to do some posturing, and to brag how well his administration has things under control. For example, this tweet:
We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus. We moved VERY early to close borders to certain areas, which was a Godsend. V.P. is doing a great job. The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to make us look bad. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2020
Another response, reflected in that tweet, has been finger-pointing, as Trump has variously blamed the media, Congress, and the Democrats for the whole mess. There's also been a possible undercurrent of racism, as the administration has tried (without much success) to "rebrand" COVID-19 as the Wuhan coronavirus, thus tacitly reminding people that the Chinese are really to blame here.
Occasionally, Trump's behavior has been truly head-scratching. He declared that anyone who wants to get tested for COVID-19 can get tested (not true, as supplies are inadequate, and not helpful, as medical professionals are already overwhelmed). He wondered why we can't just use flu vaccines to prevent COVID-19, and even said that he did not know people can die from the flu. A strange bit of ignorance, since among the folks who died of flu is...Trump's own grandfather. According to government estimates, about 34,200 people died of the flu in the 2018-2019 flu season, and that was just a normal year without an especially virulent strain of flu floating around. And speaking of ignorance (and head-scratching), White House media maven Dan Scavino tweeted, and Trump re-tweeted, this:
Who knows what this means, but it sounds good to me! https://t.co/rQVA4ER0PV— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2020
Did both of them really miss the obvious inference here? Certainly the Internet didn't; "Nero" trended on Twitter for more than 24 hours after that tweet.
In the end, though, the #1 thing that Trump's behavior has been is selfish. Not only has he thus far refused to be tested for COVID-19, he continues to shake many hands despite his staff's begging him to stop. If the President is indeed infected, he could be the vector that leads to hundreds or thousands of additional cases. Perhaps worst of all, however, is that when HHS Secretary Alex Azar made an announcement on Tuesday that people should avoid large gatherings, he pointedly refused to answer questions about whether or not the President's rallies are included. And, as if on cue, shortly thereafter, Trump announced plans to hold a rally in Wisconsin on March 19. That is both risky and stunningly bad optics.
We've already heaped a fair bit of criticism on the administration, but keep your seat belt buckled, because we've got more. Surely, with any other president who has had the honor of holding that office, the most important goal would be to bring the crisis to as quick and painless an end as possible. However, the President—and many of his supporters—see opportunity here. As in the tweet above, Trump has been bragging about how well his immigration policy and his wall have helped protect Americans against COVID-19 (which even Trump's handpicked CDC director said was nonsense). The immigration hardliners in the White House (translation: Stephen Miller) think that maybe they can crack down even more now. Trump, for his part, thinks that maybe he can institute some even harsher anti-China trade policies, or that he might be able to score another tax cut to goose the economy (though even Republicans in Congress aren't so sure about that).
Leading evangelicals who support Trump also see an opportunity here, although they can't quite get on the same page when it comes to their messaging. About half of them are declaring that COVID-19 is a plague sent by God to punish the U.S. for gay marriage, or abortion, or daylight saving time, or whatever. The other half are declaring that the U.S. has been spared the worst of COVID-19 because God smiles on Donald Trump due to his support for Israel and his cutting funding for Planned Parenthood. It is a shame that the Lord never seems to speak up anymore and clarify what His message is; if you read the Bible, he chatted with the Israelites all the damn time.
In short, while Trump hasn't shot anyone on Fifth Avenue as yet, it's very possible that the mismanagement of COVID-19 by him and his staff could result in hundreds, or even thousands of deaths (or more). In the end, between the economic upheavals we talked about yesterday, and the less-than-impressive political dimensions, COVID-19 could prove to be the ultimate test of Trump's teflon, and whether anything can actually weaken his base of support. (Z)
In view of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, not to mention Ukrainegate, the Mueller report may seem like yesterday's news. However, it's also today's news, as a panel of judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled by a vote of 2-1 (we bet you can guess who appointed the 1) that House Democrats should be given access to the evidence that the former special counsel collected.
It's not yet clear, of course, what will happen next, as the wheels of justice move slowly. Maybe there will be an appeal, and if there is, maybe the Supreme Court will take it. Or maybe not. If the Democrats do get their hands on the information anytime soon, it's not entirely clear what they will do with it. There was once talk of a second impeachment, but that seems kind of unlikely with the election drawing so near. Maybe they will just use it for campaign ads. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar10 Sanders Needs to Hope State Pollsters Are Wrong...
Mar10 ...And National Pollsters, Too
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Mar10 Democrats' Senate Hopes Are Looking Up
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Mar09 Harris Endorses Biden
Mar09 The Race for Veep Has Begun
Mar09 Biden Scales Up
Mar09 Close Trump Associate Is Recruiting Former Spies to Infiltrate Liberal Groups
Mar09 U.S. Officials Warn of Virus-Related Disruptions Ahead
Mar09 Romanoff Beats Hickenlooper in Colorado Caucuses
Mar09 Romney Is His Old Self Again
Mar08 Sunday Mailbag
Mar07 "Mick the Knife" Gets Cut
Mar07 Saturday Q&A
Mar06 A Million Selfies, All for Nothing
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part I: Biden vs. Clinton in Words
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part II: Biden vs. Clinton in Numbers
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part III: The Polls
Mar06 Where Do We Go From Here?, Part IV: Sanders Game Changers
Mar06 Trump Gives Democrats a Late Christmas Gift
Mar05 Biden Has More Delegates Now
Mar05 Bloomberg Calls It Quits
Mar05 What Happens Next?
Mar05 Takeaways from Super Tuesday
Mar05 Who Voted for Whom?
Mar05 What Happens to Delegates When Candidates Drop Out?
Mar05 Other Key Races
Mar05 Bullock May Run for the Senate after All
Mar05 New York State Cancels Republican Primary
Mar04 A Whole New Ballgame
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Mar04 Some Election Websites Are Running Unprotected, Obsolete Software
Mar04 Los Angeles County Used an Insecure Voting System
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Mar03 Everybody Is Endorsing Biden
Mar03 What to Watch for on Super Tuesday
Mar03 Supreme Court Will Hear Obamacare Case
Mar03 Dow Rallies
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Mar03 Another Israeli Election, Another Hazy Result
Mar02 Buttigieg Bows Out
Mar02 Sanders Raises an Incredible $46.5 Million in February
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