Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) signaled Wednesday that he plans to stay in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination despite a widening gap in the delegate count following former vice president Joe Biden’s strong showings in another round of nominating contests.

At a news conference in Burlington, Vt., Sanders acknowledged the disappointing results but said that he looks forward to debating Biden one-on-one on Sunday and ticked off important issues he hopes they will discuss. On Tuesday, Biden prevailed in four states — Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho — while Sanders was projected to win North Dakota. The race in Washington state has not been called.

Biden and Sanders are scheduled to debate in Arizona ahead of Tuesday primaries there and in Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Georgia holds its primary a week later. Biden has shown particular strength in Southern states.

March 11, 2020 at 8:02 PM EDT
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Elections officials scramble for options as coronavirus worries mount

By Elise Viebeck

Elections officials have stocked up on hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Many are urging voters to cast absentee ballots or vote early to avoid crowds.

But as the coronavirus pandemic worsens, local and state officials are scrambling to identify other options if public health leaders ultimately determine that there are risks to visiting polling places — an assessment that could change the basic mechanics of running an election midstream in a presidential campaign year.

“If you’re talking about something on that level, then we’re clearly facing a crisis and not just an emergency, and public health and safety will have to dictate whatever we do,” said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who said he would follow the advice of public health officials and law enforcement.

“One of the very few things that would take precedent over a free and fair election is public health and safety, right?” LaRose said, adding that such a move would be a last resort.

Read more here.

March 11, 2020 at 7:51 PM EDT
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Biden campaign says it will be ‘nearly impossible’ for Sanders to catch up in delegate race

By Felicia Sonmez and Matt Viser

The Biden campaign on Wednesday mapped out its thinking on the delegate race, predicting that it will be “nearly impossible” for Sanders to catch up in the remaining primaries.

In a memo obtained by The Washington Post, the Biden campaign estimated that it has a 160-delegate lead after Tuesday’s contests — and, conservatively, will net another 150 delegates next week.

“The states that vote next -- Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Georgia -- have been some of our strongest, and we expect to significantly expand our delegate lead in those highly-supportive, delegate-rich states,” the memo reads. “Of 682 delegates awarded in those states, conservative estimates have us winning more than 400 delegates and netting more than 150 delegates.”

While there are scenarios in which candidates can net delegates quickly, the Biden campaign noted, “it is hard to imagine which upcoming states would provide Sanders this opportunity.” Public polling shows Sanders leading in just one of the remaining states, Oregon.

“Should our broad base of support remain – and we have seen no signs that would indicate otherwise -- it will be nearly impossible for Sanders to recoup his current delegate disadvantage,” the memo reads.

March 11, 2020 at 5:08 PM EDT
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Biden cancels more campaign events, citing public health concerns due to coronavirus

By Colby Itkowitz

In response to the worsening coronavirus outbreak, Biden’s campaign has canceled additional campaign events in Illinois and Florida to “minimize health risks for staff and supporters,” and will hold “virtual events” instead.

The decision comes as the former vice president plans to speak about the global pandemic Thursday. Ahead of those remarks, he has set up his own public health advisory committee with boldface names from the Obama administration, including Vivek H. Murthy, who was surgeon general under President Barack Obama, and Lisa Monaco, former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to Obama.

The committee will provide “science-based, expert advice,” Biden’s campaign said.

“The campaign’s top priority is and will continue to be the health and safety of the public,” it said. “Members of the committee will provide ongoing counsel to the campaign, which will in turn continue to update the public regarding operational decisions.”

The former vice president’s approach stands in contrast to Trump, who has said that he would continue holding rallies and attending public events and has played down the severity of the spreading virus. Trump is scheduled to give an address to the nation on the issue this evening.

March 11, 2020 at 2:45 PM EDT
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As others cancel large events, Pence to campaign next week in Wisconsin for congressional candidate

By Colby Itkowitz

Vice President Pence, who is running the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, is scheduled to attend a campaign event in Wisconsin next week for a congressional special election as Democrats and many organizations cancel large events.

The Republican congressional candidate running for the seat vacated by congressman Sean P. Duffy tweeted that Pence would be joining him for a get out the vote event at a hotel next Thursday. Pence’s office confirmed he’s still planning to attend. The special election is not until May 12.

Trump and many of his allies have refused to cancel rallies and other gatherings despite the warnings from public health officials about the danger they present during the global pandemic.

In a C-Span interview Wednesday, Pence was asked if he was personally concerned about attending these large events.

“I’m not concerned,” Pence said, “but we’ll follow the facts every single day about what makes the most sense for the American people.”

March 11, 2020 at 2:43 PM EDT
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Trump campaign claims without evidence that Biden was ‘looking for an excuse to get off the campaign trail’

By Felicia Sonmez

In a Fox Business Network interview Wednesday, Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany claimed, without evidence, that political considerations — and not coronavirus concerns — are the reason Biden has canceled his recent events.

“Joe Biden is looking for an excuse to get off the campaign trail, and let me just add, the media’s best hope is for Donald Trump to suspend his rallies,” McEnany said. “They’ve been wanting him to stop this, they know it’s his avenue to speak directly to the American people. So, we’re going to follow the president’s lead; we’re not going to cave to the media. And Joe Biden, we’re certainly not going to follow his lead as he tries to hide from the American people.”

Biden and Sanders called off their Tuesday night campaign rallies in Ohio after Mike DeWine, the state’s Republican governor, suggested that the campaigns to do so in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

McEnany also defended Trump’s decision to continue holding large campaign rallies despite the advice of experts, including Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“The president is the best authority on this issue,” McEnany said. “He takes into consult the words of everyone around him. That would include [Health and Human Services Secretary] Alex Azar; that would include Dr. Fauci; that would include others. So, I’ll leave it to the president. Right now, we’re proceeding as normal.”

She also said that there is no need for Trump to stop shaking hands with supporters, arguing that it’s part of the president’s job.

“He’s taking precautions, he’s washing his hands — we’re all doing that, but he’s a man of the people, he talks to the people, he shakes their hands. That’s the nature of the business,” she said.

March 11, 2020 at 2:23 PM EDT
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Sanders says many Democrats support his policies but still voted for Biden. He’s right.

By Scott Clement

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Sanders explained his struggles in Michigan and other states Tuesday by saying that while voters agreed with what his campaign stands for, many of them voted for Biden because they thought he had a better chance to defeat Trump. Exit polling confirms this dynamic played out on the issue of health care in Michigan.

In Michigan, network exit polling found nearly 6 in 10 primary voters said they support replacing all private health insurance with a single-payer system run by the government, a core Sanders proposal. But nearly half of single-payer supporters — 27 percent of the electorate — said Biden has the best chance of defeating Trump in a general election. This group voted for Biden over Sanders by 72 percent to 22 percent.

Beyond Michigan, majorities of Democrats in nearly every primary state so far have supported adopting a single-payer health-care system, though Sanders has been unable to translate that into many victories. In the highly competitive Texas primary last week, exit polls showed 64 percent of Democratic voters supported a single-payer system, but this group favored Sanders by a modest 14 percentage-point margin, while Biden won opponents of single-payer health care by 33 points and ultimately prevailed in the state.

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.

March 11, 2020 at 2:12 PM EDT
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Senate GOP chairman abruptly postpones vote on subpoena targeting Bidens

By Mike DeBonis

A top Senate Republican abruptly canceled plans to subpoena records and testimony related to a Ukrainian firm that once employed Biden’s son as a board member.

The decision by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, comes as Democrats have attacked the probe as being politically motivated, especially as Biden surges in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and the chance to face President Trump. Some have warned that it could play into Russian efforts to spread disinformation ahead of the presidential election in November.

In a message Wednesday to members of the panel, sent roughly an hour before a planned vote, Johnson said he would indefinitely postpone the subpoena for documents and testimony from Andrii Telizhenko, who worked for a U.S. lobbying firm that acted on behalf of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden.

Johnson said he was doing so “[o]ut of an abundance of caution, and to allow time for [senators] to receive additional briefings.”

Read more here.

March 11, 2020 at 2:08 PM EDT
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Sanders also pushed Clinton on key issues before ending his bid four years ago

By John Wagner

Sanders’s signal at a news conference Wednesday that he will seek to push Biden on issues of importance to his supporters was reminiscent of a tactic he took with Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential contest.

Long after Sanders no longer had a viable path to the nomination four years ago, he continued to hold off on endorsing Clinton, seeking negotiations between the campaigns on several policy issues — including higher education and health care — and input on the Democratic Party platform.

Sanders won several concessions.

Clinton adopted some key elements of a college affordability plan that had been a rallying cry for Sanders. Her plan stopped short of the free-college-for-all idea pushed by Sanders, but it came close — proposing to eliminate college tuition for students from many middle-class families who attend public colleges and universities, as part of a broader goal of making higher education debt-free for all Americans.

After nudging from the Sanders camp, Clinton also announced her support for a “public option” in health insurance and proposed additional funding for community-based centers, which was championed by the senator from Vermont.

Those steps fall well short of the single-payer Medicare-for-all program that was the centerpiece of Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign. But Sanders praised Clinton for “an important step forward” toward universal health care.

During his remarks Wednesday, Sanders ticked off a long list of issues on which he suggested he’d like to see bolder approaches from Biden — including some of the same ones on which he prodded Clinton four years ago.

Also mentioned in Sanders’s remarks: climate change, criminal-justice reform, immigration, childhood poverty, homelessness and campaign finance reform.

March 11, 2020 at 1:58 PM EDT
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Bernie Sanders’s biggest problem in the delegate race

By Aaron Blake

Sanders is on course to lose the 2020 Democratic nomination, and there are a whole host of reasons that’s true. I and many others have spotlighted the inability of the senator from Vermont to expand his appeal beyond young voters and to black voters. He seems to have run into a hard ceiling yet again, and in a two-person race that spells doom — barring some extraordinary shifting in the weeks ahead.

But one big reason Sanders is losing has gotten short shrift: the switch from caucuses to primaries.

Read more here.

March 11, 2020 at 1:23 PM EDT
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Sanders says his ideas are winning but he is losing electability debate

By Sean Sullivan

Sanders said Wednesday that he plans to remain in the Democratic presidential race, even as he acknowledged he is losing the fight to convince voters that he is the most electable candidate against President Trump.

“While we are currently losing the delegate count … poll after poll, including exit poll, show that a strong majority of the American people support our progressive agenda,” Sanders said in brief remarks to reporters in Burlington, Vt.

Sanders also underscored his support among young people, and warned Democrats that the party would need to win their support to be competitive in the future.

In a striking admission of failure, Sanders said that “while our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability.” And he previewed a round of questions he said he planned to ask Biden at the debate, including queries challenging his plans on health-care and climate change.

Sanders took no questions.

March 11, 2020 at 12:30 PM EDT
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Sanders to say he’s not dropping out of the race

By Sean Sullivan

Sanders is expected to say Wednesday that he plans to stay in the Democratic presidential race against Biden, despite another difficult round of losses, according to two people with direct knowledge of his plans.

The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive situation, stressed that Sanders is the ultimate decider and that plans could be fluid and are always subject to change. But they underscored that he intends to look ahead to Sunday’s debate against Biden at a 1 p.m. news conference in Burlington.

A Sanders spokesperson did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Sanders lost several more states to Biden on Tuesday, including Michigan, a state seen inside his campaign as perhaps the last best chance to stage a comeback against Biden.

Watch the news conference here.

March 11, 2020 at 12:11 PM EDT
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Coons says Biden, not Sanders, is the candidate exciting key groups of voters

By Seung Min Kim and John Wagner

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Biden’s top surrogate on the Hill, said the former vice president proved Tuesday with an “impressive” showing that he, not Sanders, is the candidate exciting key blocs of voters.

“This election is essentially two different candidates with two different theories about what it means to excite the base, what it means to bring people out, what it means to win an election,” Coons said. “Biden has now proven that he’s the one who is reassembling the Obama-Biden coalition. He is exciting and motivating exactly the same suburban voters who led us to take back the House in 2018.”

Coons argued that Sanders did not live up to his own billing in Tuesday’s contests.

“If you look at Bernie’s results in these same states four years ago, and last night, although he is the candidate who keeps saying, ‘I can energize and bring out a new generation,’ that’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is Biden is bringing out and energizing new voters.“

Coons said Sanders needs to make his own decision about whether he should stay in the race but praised Biden for remarks Tuesday in which he “made a strong statement recognizing Senators Sanders’s leadership, welcoming his voters, saying how much he appreciates his positions and looks forward to working with him and his supporters.”

“I think this is the beginning of that reconciliation conversation,” Coons said.

March 11, 2020 at 11:59 AM EDT
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Biden super PAC says primary is functionally over, lays out path to White House

By Colby Itkowitz

Unite the Country, the super PAC working to elect Biden, released a memo declaring “the functional primary phase of this election is over,” but said it would continue investing in the primary to ensure Biden goes to the Democratic convention with enough delegates to seal the nomination.

In the past 10 days, the super PAC has raised $10 million, the memo says.

It also describes the coalition of voters needed to beat Trump in November, while throwing a bit of shade at Hillary Clinton for failing to do in 2016 what Democrats did in 2008, 2012 and 2018.

The super PAC says its focus will be to “engage the voices and energy of younger voters” and “fully engage our base constituencies: Black and Latino voters.”

But it also says Democrats must “renew the conversation with voters in rural and suburban communities, voters who in many cases voted for Barack Obama once, if not twice, and voted for Democrats in 2018, but not in 2016.”

“The 2016 election was decided in a handful of communities, inside a handful of states, by voters who in many cases either voted for Obama, then Trump — or voters who voted for Obama and stayed home,” the memo reads. “Moreover, many of those same voters turned out in 2018 and voted for Democrats up and down the ballot.”

March 11, 2020 at 11:08 AM EDT
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Rep. Richmond says ‘the math speaks for itself’ when asked whether Sanders should exit

By Mike DeBonis and John Wagner

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.), a Biden campaign co-chair, said Wednesday that “the math speaks for itself” in the Democratic nominating contest and that it would be helpful to unify the party, but stopped short of saying Sanders should exit the race.

“I’m not in the life-coaching business,” Richmond said. “Senator Sanders is a public servant. He’s running for president. I think that he’ll make a decision on his own. But in my opinion, I think the math speaks for itself. And I think that if anybody has a clear path to the nomination, it will probably be Joe Biden right now.”

Richmond said that he doesn’t believe Sanders’s continued presence in the race damages Biden or the Democratic Party, noting that no one thought it would be a quick process.

“But the sooner we can unify, the sooner we can focus on the present danger, which is Donald Trump,” he said, citing the president’s handling of the novel coronavirus and the economy, among other issues.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), another Biden campaign co-chair, echoed Richmond’s comments about whether Sanders should stay in the race.

“Well, I don’t think it’s for me to tell him what to do,” she said. “I do think that the fact that he has said, just like the other candidates, that they want to unite is the most powerful message at this time. … [T]o the extent that we can come together quicker, we’re stronger and united as we go to November.”