With Mariana Alfaro

HOUSTON – Joanne Armstrong was tired of screaming at the television. It’s why she volunteered for Lizzie Fletcher in 2018. And it’s why she doesn’t want Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020.

Armstrong, a physician in her 50s, decided to channel her anger at President Trump two years ago by going door-knocking, for the first time ever, to help Fletcher, a Democratic congressional candidate in the suburban Houston district where she lives. In the midterms, Fletcher toppled nine-term Republican congressman John Culberson, a powerful appropriator, picking up a seat that had been comfortably in GOP hands after George H.W. Bush won it in 1966. 

Armstrong worries that Fletcher, still a freshman, would lose her quest for a second term if Sanders (I-Vt.) is at the top of the ticket and that Trump would handily win a second term. She said it was hard enough to convince voters to take a chance on a Democratic candidate last time when she could warn while canvassing about how Republicans were trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan, putting people with preexisting conditions at risk. But Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan also threatens to upend the system, jeopardizing people’s private health-insurance coverage. Houston is world-renowned for its medical centers, especially related to cancer treatment.

“People looked at Trump in 2018 and said this is not who we are. But Bernie also isn’t who we in Houston are,” said Armstrong. “I’m still tired of screaming at the TV after three years. I don’t want four more years.”

Texas is the second-biggest prize on Super Tuesday, behind California, with 228 delegates up for grabs. Houston, the fourth-most populous city in the country, has become a battleground within the battleground. Harris County, home to Houston, has more than 4 million residents, a bigger population than 26 states.

Joe Biden is flying here this afternoon for a rally at Texas Southern University. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) spoke to a crowd of 2,000 at an outdoor rally on Saturday night. Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg stumped here this past Thursday with the mayor of Houston, who endorsed him. Sanders visited the University of Houston last weekend, where he celebrated his triumph in the Nevada caucuses. 

Two polls published Sunday put Sanders ahead but by significantly different margins among likely voters in the Lone Star State, reflecting the degree to which the contest remains fluid and also how hard it is to predict what the electorate will look like in this evolving megastate. Sanders led Biden 34 percent to 19 percent in an NBC-Marist poll, with Bloomberg at 15 percent and Warren at 10 percent. But Sanders led Biden by only 4 percentage points, 30 percent to 26 percent, in a CBS-YouGov poll, which was within the margin of error, with Warren at 17 percent and Bloomberg at 13 percent.

But Sanders fares particularly poorly in the same well-to-do suburban areas that fueled the Democratic wave in the midterms and where Trump remains most vulnerable. The 7th District, where Fletcher already faces a tough reelection fight, is the sort of place that national Democrats fear they’d lose if Sanders leads the ticket. Mitt Romney carried the district with 60 percent of the vote in the 2012 presidential election, but Trump lost it to Hillary Clinton in 2016 with 47 percent. Establishment-minded Democrats worry that voters who don’t like Trump or Sanders might stay home, especially moderates who voted for candidates like Fletcher in 2018. They fear that Sanders would galvanize more Republicans than he’d bring in the new voters he promises to mobilize.

Armstrong is undecided but anxious to vote for a Democrat in Texas’s presidential primary on Tuesday who can block Sanders from winning the nomination. She really likes Warren, but she’s mainly concerned about beating Trump. She’s texted all weekend with friends as far away as New Jersey and Massachusetts to mull what she should do. “I would vote for Joe Biden. He’s not my first choice, but I would if I thought he was the only one who could beat Bernie,” she said. “I just don’t want Bernie. There’s a big contingent that doesn’t want Bernie, but they’re all splitting. … Do I vote my conscience, which is Warren? Or do I vote strategically, which is Biden?”

The Galleria, in the heart of Fletcher’s district, is one of the largest and ritziest malls in the United States. It has every fancy chain store you can think of, plus an indoor ice-skating rink. It was packed this weekend as I interviewed more than 30 voters.

Charlotte Sullivan, 70, the retired human resources director of an oil and gas company, plans to vote for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) because she seems reasonable and willing to compromise to get results. “I’m a fiscally responsible Democrat, and I don’t go for Bernie’s socialism,” Sullivan said as she shopped with her daughter. “I will go for Bernie if he’s the nominee because I cannot tolerate Trump at all. But Bernie has dug himself into a trench, and he’s not going to be able to get out of it.”

Sullivan lives in the richest Zip code of Houston, a traditionally Republican neighborhood in Fletcher’s district that’s full of multimillion-dollar homes. “My neighbors will all vote for Trump before they’ll vote for Bernie, but they’d love to see someone moderate so they could make the switch,” she said. “If Klobuchar was the nominee, they’d vote for her.”

She looked at Bloomberg but concluded that he’s a Democratic version of Trump. “All my antennae go up,” Sullivan said. “It’s the feeling that tells me something’s not right about him. I’ve had very few circumstances in my life where that instinct took me in the wrong direction. My gut says, ‘Don’t go with Bloomberg.’”

Carol Alvarado, a Democratic state senator who represents Houston, endorsed Biden on Sunday after his sweeping win in the South Carolina primary. Democrats picked up a dozen state House seats in 2018 and could win control of the chamber if they gain nine more in 2020. Several of their best pick-up opportunities are around Houston. Alvarado, who chairs the Senate Democratic Caucus, identified certain seats in both the state House and Senate that they’re more likely to win if the former vice president is their standard-bearer.

“We could lose seats if we’re having to talk about democratic socialism,” she explained in an interview. “And if we lose those seats, that gives Republicans a larger majority – which matters for the next decade.” She’s referring to redistricting. The outcome of the 2020 state elections will impact who draws the boundaries that will be in effect until 2031. Alvarado said a Democratic-controlled legislature could also vote to expand Medicaid under the ACA, something Republicans have declined to do. “There’s just so much riding on this election for the future of Texas,” she said.

Houston is also the epicenter of the American energy industry, and Sanders’s plan to ban fracking and pass a Green New Deal makes moderates jittery. When you fly into town, you see the scope of the region’s dependence on fossil fuels in the form of tankers and refineries.

“People’s livelihoods are directly tied to that industry,” said Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Tex.). He represents a Fort Worth district, where he notes that many African Americans and Latinos depend on energy industry jobs that Sanders could put in jeopardy. He said union members also regularly express “worry and concern” to him that Sanders’s Medicare-for-all proposal would take away health-care benefits they’ve negotiated hard to secure from their employers.

Veasey lamented that Sanders being at the top of the ticket would make it harder to play offense against House Republicans like freshman Dan Crenshaw in the Houston suburbs. Veasey, who endorsed Biden in November,added that many of his Democratic colleagues would have little choice but to distance themselves from Sanders if he’s the nominee in order to get reelected. “There’s absolutely no question about that,” he told me on Sunday evening.

The CBS-YouGov poll released asked likely Democratic voters in Texas which candidate has the best chance of beating Trump, regardless of whom they support. Interestingly, Latino voters said Sanders has the best chance of winning the general, topping Biden by a 24-point margin. Black voters thought Biden had the best chance, besting Sanders by a 25-point margin. White voters were more evenly split: 32 percent said Biden, 28 percent said Sanders, 18 percent said Bloomberg and 13 percent said Warren.

Anthony Blake, a 35-year-old management consultant, will vote for Sanders in the primary. “Sometimes I think you’ve got to fight fire with fire, as terrible as that sounds,” he said. When I asked about the electability fears expressed by his fellow Houstonians, he pointed to several recent polls that showed Sanders leading Trump in head-to-head matchups and in many cases outperforming other Democrats. “The data doesn’t really show that,” he said, downplaying the concerns of elected lawmakers. 

Blake, a political junkie who is white, came to watch Warren’s outdoor rally on Discovery Green in the heart of downtown Houston on Saturday night. He observed that Sanders’s rally at the same venue last April drew a bigger and, he believes, more energetic crowd. He said he was especially impressed that the Sanders crowd included so many diverse faces, especially Latinos, and young people who told him they’ve never been engaged with politics. “I know they say it’s a fool’s errand, but Bernie’s going to bring new people out,” said Blake. “I’ve never seen energy like I have for Bernie.” 

He added that he comes from a conservative family. “They’ve been Republicans for 30 years now, but they dislike Trump,” he said. “They’re terrified of Bernie right now, but they’ll vote for him over Trump.” 

The NBC-Marist poll showed 1 in 4 likely voters in Texas remained undecided. Sarita Gomez-Mola, 70, is among them. The foreign-language interpreter, who lives in the 7th District, said she will cast her ballot for whomever she concludes on primary day has the best chance of blocking Sanders from clinching the nomination, which she acknowledged may be Biden. A friend visiting from New York encouraged her to think about Bloomberg, but she’s “angsting” over which of the Democratic alternatives to Sanders could best unify the party.

“Will the Sanders voters support Bloomberg? I worry,” she said. “But Bernie cannot hijack the Democratic Party. He’s divisive, and we’re lurching from one extreme to the other. There would be nothing but gridlock. If Barack Obama couldn’t get his priorities passed, how is Sanders going to?”

Gomez-Mola’s husband is a geologist who works for an oil company. “All his colleagues are Trumpers,” she said. “They will all vote for Trump, no matter who he’s up against.” Likewise, she said, she’ll vote for any Democratic nominee over Trump. “I was born in Cuba, and I’m very afraid of Sanders because of all the changes he wants to make,” said Gomez-Mola. “But even if Fidel Castro came back from the grave and was the nominee, I’d support him over Trump. Castro was my nemesis all my life, but Trump is just that bad.”

This is exactly what the Sanders campaign is counting on. The senator’s strategists express confidence that dislike for Trump is so strong among Democrats that even moderates will coalesce and consolidate behind Sanders if he wins the nomination. 

The 7th District is a majority-minority district: 43 percent white, 31 percent Latino, 13 percent black and 11 percent Asian. One in five residents of this district has a postgraduate degree. Another 30 percent have a bachelor’s.

Salvador Delmundo, 56, is an ordained minister who works as a chaplain at one of the hospitals in the district. His political evolution over the past 20 years tracks with the community’s broader shift. He was a Republican who voted for George W. Bush when he carried the district with 66 percent in 2004, but Obama’s barrier-breaking candidacy lured him away. Now he considers himself a “middle-of-the-road” Democrat. “Over the last 10 to 15 years, what was good for me and my wife was developing a deeper appreciation and understanding of the importance of diversity,” he explained as he ate a cheesesteak in the food court while his wife shopped.

Delumndo emphasized that winning as a Democrat in these parts is still an uphill battle that requires carefully challenging deeply ingrained mindsets. “The hurdle before Sanders is educating the general American public about what socialism is,” he said. “I have a lot of ‘friends’ – and I say friends with air quotes – saying that North Korea shot dead a coronavirus patient, and that’s what they do to people in socialist countries. It’s totally crazy, but that’s what they say.”

Delmundo and his wife considered Biden, Sanders and Warren before deciding to vote for the senator from Massachusetts because she seemed like a bridge between the left and the middle of the party. “We decided Warren was in the middle between Biden and Sanders,” he said. “That said, regardless of who wins the primary, we’re going to go with the Democratic nominee.”

Fletcher has not endorsed in the presidential race, and she declined an interview request to discuss her thinking. A spokeswoman said she didn’t have open events over the weekend. She’s been building a large war chest, with close to $2 million cash on hand. Around the district, she’d been emphasizing a drug pricing bill she sponsored, which the House passed and got pigeonholed in the Senate, to show she’s focused on pocketbook issues. 

The 2020 election will be the first in modern Texas history where ballots no longer include the option to just vote the Republican or Democratic line straight down the ticket. “Political consultants here don’t know how to model for this,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “It stands to reason that drop-off will be higher down the ballot, and that’s causing some anxiety on both sides.” 

Henson thinks Fletcher might be “somewhat more insulated” than other Democrats in frontline House races if Sanders is the nominee. She’ll be well funded, has time to build out her own field operation and represents an informed electorate capable of distinguishing between her and Sanders. “There’s also a lot of ifs about what kind of a campaign Sanders is going to run if he’s actually the nominee,” said Henson.

Many House Republicans who lost in 2018, including Culberson, survived when Trump was at the top of the ticket two years before because voters saw them as distinct from the GOP nominee. Two years later, this was a harder sell because they’d mostly voted in lockstep with his agenda. House Democratic strategists hope to benefit from a similar dynamic in 2020 if Sanders wins the nomination because he’s seen as an outsider taking over the party. National Republican strategists counter that they expect Trump to outperform his 2016 numbers in the district no matter the Democratic nominee, so long as the coronavirus doesn’t push the economy into recession, because voters here have benefitted disproportionately from the 2017 tax cuts and various business-friendly policies, such as deregulation.

Six Republicans are running in their own primary on Tuesday to challenge Fletcher this fall. The national party favors Wesley Hunt, an African American in his 30s who piloted Apache helicopters in Iraq as an Army captain after graduating from West Point. He’s trying to break 50 percent to avoid a runoff. His closet competitor is former Bellaire mayor Cindy Siegel, who has spent more than half a million dollars and launched attack ads against Hunt. 

Two years ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee intervened to boost Fletcher over the more liberal Laura Moser in the primary. National party operatives even took the unusual step of publishing a tranche of opposition research against Moser because they thought the moderate Fletcher would have an easier time ousting Culberson. (We wrote several Big Ideas about the ensuing kerfuffle.)

Moser voted early for Sanders, but interestingly she doesn’t believe the polls that show him ahead in the Texas primary. Many Democrats she knows in the district planned to vote for Bloomberg a few weeks ago, but she said he’s faded since his bad debate performance in Las Vegas. Moser said she does not know anyone who loves Biden, but she expects many will vote for him anyway to stop Sanders. And Warren remains popular among many of the most devoted volunteers on her congressional campaign. “I was sort of supporting Warren for a lot of the primary, and it was basically my mother’s book club at her events,” Moser explained on Sunday afternoon. “Then I went to a Bernie event, and they were all 20-years old, Muslims, Latinx and people I hadn’t seen at political events before. That’s why I decided to go all in for Bernie.”

Democrats haven’t won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, and Moser said she’d be surprised if that changes this November. “I don’t think Texas is going to flip this year anyway, but if it doesn’t, it’s not Bernie’s fault,” she said. “The whole point is either new people come – or they don’t. It’s a very hard gamble. But the old thing isn’t working. … If the people Bernie is betting on actually come out, we have a lot of them in Texas. But will they come out? I don’t know. … I really banked on those people coming out in my race. And they didn’t. … The infrastructure is not fully there yet. People aren’t used to mattering, and people aren’t used to voting. That’s changing, but it takes time.”

More on 2020

Buttigieg ended his presidential bid.

“The normally stoic Buttigieg appeared to be steadying himself throughout his farewell remarks in his hometown of South Bend, bringing to an end what was for a time an electrifying candidacy,” Chelsea Janes and Amy B Wang report. “‘After a year of going everywhere, meeting everyone, defying every expectation, seeking every vote, the truth is that the path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy, if not for our cause,’ Buttigieg said. … Despite attracting enormous attention, significant support and often enthusiastic crowds, Buttigieg was not polling well in the upcoming primary states and never found a way to reverse the antipathy he generated in the black community. Earlier Sunday, his campaign held a call with reporters in which senior adviser Michael Halle and deputy campaign manager Hari Sevugan made the case that while Buttigieg likely wouldn’t win any of the 14 states that vote Tuesday, he could still accumulate enough delegates to keep Sanders’s lead to a minimum. … LGBTQ leaders had no doubt that Buttigieg’s candidacy had widened the path for gay Americans in politics and other areas of life in the United States. … The crowd interrupted him with a new chant: ‘2024! 2024!’”

Quote of the day

“We sent a message to every kid out there wondering if whatever marks them out as different means they are somehow destined to be less than. [They saw] that someone who once felt that exact same way can become a leading American presidential candidate — with his husband at his side,” Buttigieg said in his concession speech. 

Sanders is hoping California will deliver him the nomination.

“There are 415 delegates at stake here Tuesday, the largest haul on a day when 14 other states and territories will also go to the polls,” Scott Wilson reports. “The campaign has a state organization far larger than those of his opponents — 22 offices and more than 100 paid staffers. And it has been targeting Latinos, Asian Americans and young voters, key demographics in the Democratic electorate. … A Suffolk University/USA Today poll showed Sanders with a double-digit lead. He was at 35 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, well ahead of [Bloomberg] at 16 percent, [Biden] at 14 percent and [Warren] at 12 percent. … Officials say they’re confident. ‘The campaign really prioritized California in a way that we hadn’t before,’ said Rafael Návar, the Sanders campaign’s state director. ‘Most people looked at the first four states. I looked at it as five states, and so California had a prioritization from the start.’

One key rival for Sanders is Warren, who is hovering around the 15 percent vote threshold, according to some recent polls. … Julián Castro … recently appeared at a Warren event in San Francisco that drew about 150 staff members, volunteers and others. It seems part of an effort to cut into Sanders’s lead among Latinos, especially older ones less liberal on issues of ethnic identity and more suspect of Sanders’s Medicare-for-all proposal. Several polls show Sanders drawing nearly half the state’s Latino support. … Some of his better-funded rivals have also looked hopefully toward television. California is a place where intensive advertising usually proves essential in winning statewide races. But those rich enough to afford big buys in multiple markets are then often resented, especially the self-financed candidates. … But it’s not clear whether endorsements or heavy spending will dent Sanders’s lead, nor whether Biden’s surge in South Carolina will itself alter the trajectory of California. Biden has spent little time in the state, traveling here more for fundraising than for organizing.”

Biden moved aggressively to capitalize on his South Carolina win. 

“Several influential Democrats from Super Tuesday states also gave Biden a lift on Sunday as they announced their support, including former senator Barbara Boxer of California. In Virginia, Rep. Jennifer Wexton — who won her suburban district in 2018, turning the seat blue for the first time in 38 years — endorsed Biden, calling him a ‘steady, empathetic leader,'" ,” Robert Costa reports. “For many Biden allies, Bloomberg — the billionaire centrist whose name will appear on ballots for the first time Tuesday — remains the biggest headache, and they are hopeful that he may soon decide to bow out. On Sunday, they passed around a clip from MSNBC in which David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, said, ‘The reality is Bloomberg needed Biden to lose South Carolina to have any chance.’ … Although Biden’s campaign would welcome a narrowed field, several allies are also informally telling allies of Klobuchar and Warren to consider staying in the race until Tuesday night, to deny Sanders a major delegate haul in the Super Tuesday states of Minnesota and Massachusetts …

Bloomberg has attempted to make inroads with African American voters but has encountered continued problems over his past support of stop-and-frisk, a police strategy that opponents say is a form of racial profiling. Before announcing his candidacy, he apologized for defending the practice. As Bloomberg spoke Sunday in Selma, Ala., at Brown Chapel AME Church, about 10 people stood and silently turned their backs to him. They returned to their seats after the former mayor stepped away from the podium. The incident caused a stir in the church, but Bloomberg continued his remarks without interruption. Other attendees continued to listen, some cheering and applauding.”

Obama called Biden to congratulate him on winning South Carolina, Bloomberg News reports. Two people familiar with the former president’s thinking said he still doesn’t plan to make an endorsement early in the nominating process. Costa reports in his story that, in interviews with more than a dozen operatives, lawmakers and campaign aides, it was clear that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Obama, among others, are reluctant to do anything at this point that would seem heavy-handed.

A Klobuchar rally in Minnesota was canceled amid protests. 

“Klobuchar canceled a rally in her home state Sunday night as several dozen protesters chanted ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Klobuchar has got to go’ and ‘Free Myon’ — referencing the case of a black teenager convicted of murder after a flawed police investigation,” Politico reports. “WCCO-CBS Minnesota reported that the protesters made their way into the rally and on stage, where they continued chanting. After a 40-minute delay, the rally was canceled. A campaign spokesperson told the press: ‘The campaign offered a meeting with the Senator if they (protesters) would leave the stage after being on stage for more than an hour. After the group initially agreed, they backed out of the agreement and we are canceling the event.’”

Sanders said he would only pick a running mate who backs Medicare-for-all.

He told the San Francisco Chronicle his running mate must support his signature issue: "'We will pick somebody who knows the experience of working families in this country, who has a history of fighting for those families, and somebody whose politics are similar to mine,’ [Sanders said]. … Sanders sounded a warning against the party trying to deny him the nomination if he comes to Milwaukee with a plurality of pledged delegates. ‘I think that would look terrible, and I think that would lay the groundwork for a Trump victory,’ Sanders said in the interview. ‘It would reflect on the Democratic Party in a very, very terrible way.’ … He attributed Biden’s dominance among black voters to the endorsement he received from South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn … ‘Clyburn played a very significant role,’ Sanders said. But, he added, ‘there is a difference in how African Americans vote in California, Michigan or North Carolina.’”  

The coronavirus response shows a common thread between Warren and Bloomberg. 

“Both are using this moment to paint themselves as highly competent technocrats who would use data to guide policy,” Annie Linskey reports. “Bloomberg’s coronavirus response came in the form of a taped three-minute address aired on two networks Sunday night, thanks to a $1.5 million ad buy. … Bloomberg’s plan to address the virus includes inviting doctors who’ve been pushed out of government back to their old jobs … Warren released her first proposal to address the coronavirus last week and was quick to point out that she was offering a plan before any of the other candidates — and even before the White House … she previewed her ideas, saying she wants the federal government to provide all Americans with free screening for the virus and free vaccines if one is developed."

Trump’s campaign manager hijacked social media to win the 2016 election. He’s trying to do it again.

Brad “Parscale relied on Facebook to help him accomplish several campaign objectives, including persuasion, fund-raising, and G.O.T.V., or ‘get out the vote.’ Finding and motivating likely voters through traditional means, such as TV ads or door-to-door canvassing, is expensive and time-consuming compared with social media,” the New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz writes in a new profile. “‘We have almost two hundred and fifteen million hard-I.D. voter records in our database now,’ Parscale claimed last year, although his definition of ‘hard I.D.’ is not clear. Even if Trump were banned from every social network, his campaign would be able to reach supporters by text. According to Parscale, the campaign is on track to send ‘almost a billion texts, the most in history’—and texts are far more likely to be opened than e-mails, social-media posts, or news articles. ‘We’ve been working on this around the clock for three years,’ a senior official who works on the 2020 digital campaign told me. He acknowledged that the campaign doesn’t have the same scrappy, subversive energy as in 2016—'It’s hard to feel like a total underdog when you have the White House’—but, he added, ‘we’re not slowing down. We’re ramping up.'" 

A North Carolina Democrat running for Senate is frustrated with both parties.

“Democrat Erica Smith, a two-term North Carolina state senator, was so inspired by women who beat the odds and won seats in Congress in 2018 that she decided to run in this year’s U.S. Senate race. The party establishment chose another candidate,” Vanessa Williams reports. “The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed Cal Cunningham, a former state lawmaker and an Army veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who had run unsuccessfully for the Senate a decade ago. Smith was disappointed but didn’t bow out … Smith got an unexpected and unwelcome benefactor: a Republican-affiliated political action committee that started running ads touting Smith as the ‘true progressive,’ while suggesting Cunningham does not support addressing climate change and LGBTQ rights. Smith, 50, who is African American, says she feels she has been disrespected by both political parties: Republicans who are using her to damage the perceived front-runner in the primary and Democratic leaders who endorsed Cunningham because they didn’t think she could win.”

The coronavirus

The coronavirus may have spread undetected for weeks in Washington state. 

It "has been circulating undetected and has possibly infected scores of people over the past six weeks in Washington state, according to a genetic analysis of virus samples that has sobering implications for the entire country amid heightening anxiety about the likely spread of the disease,” Joel Achenbach, Katie Mettler, Lena Sun and Ben Guarino report. “The researchers conducted genetic sequencing of two virus samples. One is from a patient who traveled from China to Snohomish County in mid-January and was the first person diagnosed with the disease in the United States. The other came from a recently diagnosed patient in the same county, a high school student with no travel-related or other known exposure to the coronavirus. The two samples look almost identical genetically, said Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle … ‘I believe we’re facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State that was not detected until now due to narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China,’ [Bedford said].

“Officials in Seattle and King County on Sunday announced that four more people have tested positive for the coronavirus, including the second person in the state to die of the virus. That brings the outbreak in Washington state to 13 cases. Of the four new cases, the three surviving patients range in age from their 70s to 90s, have underlying health conditions and are in critical condition, health officials said. … Health officials in Washington state and across the nation said they expect that numbers will continue to rise in the wake of the decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week to widen testing guidelines. Over the weekend, new cases were reported in Americans who had recently traveled to South Korea and Italy, including one person in Rhode Island, the state’s first case. … Late Sunday, the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced two ‘presumptively positive’ cases of the coronavirus, in Manatee and Hillsborough counties, and declared a public health emergency.” In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed the state’s first case of the virus.

Kirkland, Wash., has suddenly become the epicenter of the virus. 

“One church canceled Communion on Sunday and banned handshakes and hugs. More than two dozen firefighters, and some police officers, are under quarantine. The hospital urged visitors to stay home. And Lake Washington Institute of Technology said it is shutting down for two days to disinfect the campus,” Maria Sacchetti and Ashley Nguyen report. “This outdoorsy city of 90,000 just northeast of Seattle, known for its piney woods, water sports and a Google campus with a meandering bike path running through it, has become the epicenter of the U.S. response to the deadly coronavirus as it begins to spread along the West Coast. … With a quarter of the city’s 100 firefighters under quarantine, Kirkland city officials scrambled to prepare amid a host of unknowns. It remains unclear how many residents have been exposed to the virus, though its spread seems inevitable."

Rumors and chaos in Alabama point to the big issues facing the government.

“Not long before local leaders decided, in the words of one of them, that federal health officials ‘didn’t know what they were doing’ with their plan to quarantine novel coronavirus patients in [Anniston, Ala.], a doctor here set out in a biohazard suit to stage a one-man protest along the highway with a sign. ‘The virus has arrived. Are you ready?’ it asked. The town didn’t think it was,” Todd Frankel reports. “Residents already were unnerved by strange stories posted on Facebook and shared via text messages about helicopters secretly flying in sick patients, that the virus was grown in a Chinese lab, that someone — either the media or the government — was lying to them about what was really going on. The quarantine plan hastily hatched by the federal Department of Health and Human Services was soon scrapped by Trump, who faced intense pushback from Alabama’s congressional delegation … 

“‘I was shocked,’ Anniston Mayor Jack Draper said. ‘I was shocked by the lack of planning. I was shocked by the manner in which it was presented to us.’” HHS planned on housing patients at an old FEMA facility in town, which doesn’t have any special capabilities for handling infectious diseases, local officials said. “Meanwhile, federal officials never contacted the town’s hospital, Regional Medical Center, about handling covid-19 patients, said Louis Bass, the hospital’s chief executive."

HHS is investigating problems with the CDC’s first round of diagnostic tests.

“It is unclear which senior health officials, at which agencies, knew about the CDC test problems and when they learned of them. HHS is convening a team of scientists from outside the CDC to investigate the test development and its flaws, according to an HHS spokesperson,” Politico reports. “It remains unclear why CDC developed its own coronavirus test, rather than relying on one distributed by the World Health Organization, but some experts suggest the agency wanted a test that would do a better job of ruling out other viruses.”

The CDC has failed to release crucial information that doctors say could save lives.

“Several US patients have recovered from coronavirus, but so far, the CDC has shared detailed clinical information about only one of those patients. That information includes what treatments the patients received and how they fared,” CNN reports. “The federal agency possesses such information about several US coronavirus patients, but has not released it. That means doctors who now unexpectedly find themselves treating new coronavirus patients aren't able to benefit from the findings of doctors who preceded them.” 

The virus continues spreading globally. 

“South Korea said Monday it has confirmed 599 new cases, far higher than the daily tally reported in China,” Adam Taylor, Teo Armus, Simon Denyer and Rick Noack report. “With 4,335 confirmed infections and at least 22 deaths, South Korea has the second-largest national caseload. However, it has tested more than 100,000 people, far more than most nations. … Italy now has more than 1,600 confirmed cases, while Iran surpassed 1,500, with 66 deaths. … Elsewhere, Indonesia, one of the few large nations thought to be free of the virus, announced on Monday that it had two confirmed cases. … In China, the number of new cases was 202, bringing its total to 80,026, including 2,912 deaths.”

Divided America

A court ruled that Ken Cuccinelli’s appointment as head of USCIS was unlawful. 

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss, an Obama appointee, said Trump’s “appointment last year of [Cuccinelli] to be head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was a violation of federal vacancy laws, and that Cuccinelli lacked the authority to issue policy directives tightening asylum rules,” Nick Miroff reports. “The ruling amounts to a rebuke of Trump’s stated preference for filling top administration jobs with officials serving in an ‘acting’ capacity. … The Trump administration is expected to appeal the decision." 

The Supreme Court will hear a third challenge to ACA.

This time, it will be at the request of Democratic-controlled states that are fighting a lower court decision that said the entire law must fall. “The court’s review will come in the term that begins in October, which would not leave time for a decision before the November presidential election,” Robert Barnes reports. “The law remains in effect during the legal challenges.”

Trump is winning a war on American institutions.

The Atlantic’s George Packer tells the story of how Erica Newland, a Yale Law School graduate, fell out of love with her job at the Justice Department: “Newland went to work at the Department of Justice in the last summer of the Obama administration. … She decided to serve under Trump. She liked her work and her colleagues … Things got worse in the second year. … No one risked getting fired. No one would become the target of a Trump tweet. The danger might be a mediocre performance review or a poor reference. … She hated going to work. … At night she slept poorly, plagued by regrets. Should she have pushed harder on a legal issue? … How could she live with the cruelty and bigotry of executive orders and other proposals, even legal ones, that crossed her desk? She was angry and miserable, and her friends told her to leave. …

“As the executive orders and other requests for the office’s approval piled up, many of them of dubious legality, one of Newland’s supervisors took to saying, ‘We’re just following orders.’ He said it without irony, as a way of reminding everyone … When she gave him a look he added, ‘I know that’s what the Nazis said, but we’re not Nazis.’ …  On October 27, an anti-Semitic extremist killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Before the shooting, he berated Jews online for enabling ‘invaders’ to enter the United States from Mexico. … Newland, who could imagine being shot in a synagogue, felt that her office’s work was sanctioning rhetoric that had inspired a mass killer. She tendered her resignation three days later.”

The Navy SEAL acquitted of killing an ISIS prisoner talked to “60 Minutes” about his case. 

Edward Gallagher, the former SEAL, “acknowledges that people either love him as an American hero or despise him as a war criminal.” Correspondent David Martin told Gallagher that his picture with the dead prisoner is a “trophy photo if I ever saw one.” “Yeah, that what it was taken as,” Gallagher said, before adding he was “trying to make it look tough. I know how bad it looks when it gets out into the public, which it never was supposed to. … It was like a joke text. Dark humor.”

Charlottesville won’t celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. It will instead celebrate the end of slavery. 

“His name still adorns much of the city, from the public library to a private winery. And from the foot of a mountain dedicated to him, his statue still gazes out over the university he founded. But lately, in ways both small and seismic, Thomas Jefferson’s town has started to feel like it belongs to someone else,” Michael Miller reports. “For the first time since World War II, Charlottesville won’t honor the Founding Father’s birthday this spring. Instead, on Tuesday, the city will celebrate the demise of the institution with which Jefferson increasingly has become associated: slavery. Liberation and Freedom Day, as the new holiday is known, will commemorate when Union troops arrived here on March 3, 1865, and freed the enslaved people who made up a majority of Charlottesville’s residents.”

Social media speed read

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) is battling pancreatic cancer, but he decided to make the pilgrimage back to the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Ala., on the anniversary of his vicious beating on Bloody Sunday:

All the candidates wished Buttigieg well as he dropped out, even Klobuchar, who clashed often with the 38-year-old:

Former candidate Marianne Williamson, who endorsed Sanders last week, offered this analysis:

Chasten Buttigieg commemorated his husband’s historic bid:

Now that Buttigieg is gone, Biden gets a new title:

Videos of the day

John Oliver tackled the coronavirus and examined the ways it has highlighted government weaknesses around the world: 

Trevor Noah shared his extended thoughts on Bloomberg: