With Mariana Alfaro
Joe Biden appears to have swept every county in Missouri and Mississippi on Tuesday, and he’s currently leading in 82 of the 83 counties in Michigan. The lone holdout is Ingham County, which includes the state capital of Lansing, where Bernie Sanders leads by just nine votes out of more than 52,000 ballots cast.
Four years after the independent senator from Vermont won a major upset in the Wolverine State over Hillary Clinton, beating her in all but 10 counties, Biden bested him statewide by 16 points. The decisive victory puts the former vice president on a trajectory to clinch the nomination without a contested convention.
Sanders avoided being swept by winning North Dakota, which offered only 14 delegates, the smallest prize of the six states that voted on what’s being referred to as Super Tuesday II. Washington state remains too close to call, with both candidates tied at 32 percent, as mail-in ballots are counted. Biden also won Idaho, another state Sanders claimed four years ago, which switched from caucuses to a primary.
The Michigan results recast the storyline of the 2016 election in a fresh light and undercut a central rationale of Sanders’s second bid for the nomination. The senator’s team incorrectly assumed coming into this cycle that the bulk of people who voted for him in 2016 agreed with his calls for political revolution when, in fact, many appear to have mainly been casting protest votes against Clinton. This was especially true among moderates, who wouldn’t naturally gravitate toward a self-described democratic socialist, and in rural areas.
In 2016, the exit polls showed that Sanders won 44 percent of Michigan primary voters who identified as moderate or conservative. On Tuesday, he garnered just 25 percent of this constituency, which accounted for 39 percent of the electorate, according to exit polling.
Three in 10 voters in Michigan’s open Democratic primary identified as independent. Sanders led Biden among this group by 5 points, 48 percent to 43 percent. But he beat Clinton by 43 points among indies. Meanwhile, Biden won self-identified Democrats by 22 points compared to Clinton’s 18 points.
Michigan is worthy of special attention because Sanders’s upset was so symbolically significant in 2016 but also because it was a harbinger of Donald Trump’s narrow victory that fall. Trump became the first Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988 to carry the state, and Democrats need these 16 electoral votes from the industrial Midwest in almost any realistic scenario that wins them the White House.
Here are five other notable factors behind Biden’s win in the Wolverine State:
1. Sanders’s advantage with the white working class has eroded. Biden won among voters who didn’t graduate from college by the same margin (14 points) as he did those who have degrees, according to the exits. Last time, Sanders won white voters in the state by 14 points. Exit polls show Biden led by 11 points among whites this time.
2. Turnout spiked, thanks largely to the suburbs. A key reason that Clinton lost Michigan four years ago was lower-than-expected turnout, especially in the suburbs around Detroit. In 2016, about 1.2 million ballots were cast in the Democratic primary. That rose to an estimated 1.7 million in 2020. This is among the sharpest increases in any of the 23 states that have voted over the last six weeks.
The biggest surge in turnout came in suburban areas like Oakland County outside Detroit, where Democrats also unseated a House Republican in the 2018 midterms. Biden won Oakland County by 22 points, whereas Clinton carried it by 5 points. To understand Biden’s win statewide, it’s equally important to consider that there were about 175,000 Democratic votes cast there in 2016 but more than 250,000 votes this year.
3. Women broke hard for Biden. He won among female voters by 23 points, and they made up 54 percent of the electorate. Men, who accounted for 46 percent of voters, were split more evenly, with 47 percent backing Biden to 43 percent for Sanders. The senator’s team saw this problem coming in their internal polling, and they tried to adjust accordingly. I wrote from Grand Rapids on Monday about how Sanders had sharpened his attacks on Biden’s record related to abortion rights in an unsuccessful effort to prevent women from coalescing behind Biden.
4. Biden’s firewall among African American voters held. He won black voters by 39 points, with higher turnout in urban Detroit. In Mississippi, black voters made up almost two-thirds of the electorate, with more than 8 in 10 going for Biden. In Missouri, Biden won 3 of 4 black voters.
5. College students didn’t turn out in force for Sanders. Biden beat Sanders in Washtenaw County, which is home to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Sanders held a rally there on Sunday night that drew more than 10,000 people. Since his victory in the Nevada caucuses, where he fared especially well with younger Latinos, Sanders has not been able to expand the electorate with new voters enough to offset the surge in turnout among more traditional Democrats who harbor doubts about his electability.
To be sure, Sanders won 18- to 29-year-olds by 57 points. But they made up 16 percent of the electorate. Meanwhile, Biden won voters 65 and older by 51 points, according to the same exit polling, and they accounted for 20 percent of voters. He also won 45- to 64-year-olds, who accounted for 42 percent of voters, by 36 points. Older voters tend to view Sanders leerily, especially the democratic socialism he espouses and the political revolution he promises. It remains a problem for Sanders that he has not been able to make inroads with seniors, who most reliably turn out in primaries.
Quote of the day
“There’s no sugarcoating it,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), 30, who introduced Sanders at his rally in Ann Arbor. “It’s a tough night for the movement overall.”
What’s next for Sanders: Hard choices about the path ahead.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus prompted local public health officials to ask Biden and Sanders to cancel their planned rallies on Tuesday night in Cleveland. Biden flew to Philadelphia, where he spoke to members of his campaign staff and the press corps that travels with him, while Sanders went home to Burlington, Vt. His decision not to speak publicly last night after his defeats raised questions about the future of his campaign and his strategy going forward.
Andrew Yang, who supported Sanders in 2016, became the latest former presidential candidate to board the Biden bandwagon. “The math shows Joe is our prohibitive nominee,” the entrepreneur said on CNN, where he’s now a paid contributor. “We need to bring the party together. We need to start working on defeating Donald Trump in the fall.”
“The past week showcased how much the Sanders campaign is an unruly coalition rather than a tight operation, as allies voiced various conflicting theories about what he needed to do,” writes Sean Sullivan, who has been following Sanders full-time for a year. “Some said Sanders needs to show a more personal side, a recurring suggestion that Sanders has repeatedly been reluctant or unable to embrace. … The campaign has also experienced a push-and-pull over strategic decisions, debating in recent days whether to release internal polling showing a competitive race with Biden in Michigan, for example … In the end, the campaign did not release any polling data, opting not to risk setting expectations and then falling short.”
Sanders’s efforts to improve his standing among black voters have been especially awkward in recent days. “When the campaign scrapped plans for Sanders to spend time in Mississippi in favor of Michigan, it signaled to many Democrats that he was effectively giving up on black voters in the South,” Sean notes. “Sanders appeared [on Saturday night] in Flint, Mich., at an event billed as a town hall on racial justice. Yet of the 1,200 attendees, only about three dozen were black. Then the senator decided at the last minute not to deliver his planned speech contrasting his record with Biden’s on racial justice issues — because, a spokesman said, he wanted to let the African American panelists onstage speak about their own experiences. Still, the effect was to suggest that Sanders continues to be uncomfortable delving personally into issues that affect black people’s lives.”
There are few game-changing opportunities left for Sanders. “The candidates are scheduled to face off in a two-hour debate on Sunday night in Phoenix, perhaps the last chance for a shift,” Sean, Matt Viser and Michael Scherer report. “Next Tuesday, four more states will vote: delegate-rich Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona. A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee said Tuesday there were no plans to cancel the Arizona debate, though organizers continue to speak daily with local health officials. The DNC did alter the format, however, by banning the live audience that has attended each of the previous debates.”
What’s next for Biden: A front porch campaign?
Biden canceled a Thursday rally in Tampa. Instead, he will deliver an address on how he would respond to the coronavirus from his hometown of Wilmington, Del. The former vice president has been shortening his stump speech, which he now mostly reads from a teleprompter. His advisers are trying to limit his opportunities for gaffes and keep him as above the fray as possible. If the coronavirus outbreak keeps him off the trail, perhaps he could try to replicate the strategy of giving speeches and greeting people on his front porch that allowed James Garfield to win the 1880 election.
In a sober-minded speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, Biden praised Sanders supporters “for their tireless energy and their passion.” The remarks appeared crafted to exude inevitability, that he will win the nomination, and to convey a presidential aura. “We share a common goal,” Biden said to Sanders backers, “and together we’ll defeat Donald Trump.”
Biden’s allies are going further in trying to push Sanders out of the race. “I think it is time for us to shut this primary down,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D), who delivered a pivotal endorsement before South Carolina’s primary, told NPR. “It is time for us to cancel the rest of these debates because you don’t do anything but get yourself in trouble if you continue in this contest when it’s obvious that the numbers will not shake out for you.”
“Even if Sanders chooses to keep running far into the spring, Biden will have to begin to make a swift pivot toward the general election, with the goal of turning a campaign operation that has drawn criticism even from prominent supporters into a machine capable of waging a general election against the Trump forces,” Dan Balz writes. “He will need to scale up his operation, sharpen his message and reach beyond to voters who either shifted to Trump in 2016 or sat on the sidelines.”
The latest on the coronavirus
Confirmed cases in the U.S. topped 1,000.
“Five more deaths — including two in Washington state and one each in California, New Jersey and South Dakota — were reported Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 31,” our colleagues report in a coronavirus live blog. “A growing list of at least 19 states have declared a state of emergency, including Colorado, North Carolina and Michigan, the latter of which reported its first two cases.”
- The National Guard was deployed to New Rochelle, N.Y., to stem the spread of the virus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) took the drastic step of creating what he called a “containment zone” within a one-mile radius of this suburb after 104 residents tested positive. (Ben Guarino, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Laura Meckler and Katie Zezima)
- Students at the University of Dayton in Ohio clashed with police in riot gear last night after they were ordered to leave campus over virus fears. (Journal-News)
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has restricted gatherings of more than 250 people in three counties around Seattle. (Seattle Times)
- A meeting for managers at the Boston-area biotech company Biogen late last month has been linked to dozens of infections across the country. (WSJ)
- More passengers are expected to disembark from the Grand Princess cruise ship, which is docked in Oakland, Calif. More than 1,400 people left the ship as of last night out more than 3,000 who were onboard. (Teo Armus)
- Wall Street is poised for losses today. The Dow tumbled 700 points, or about 3 percent, at the open. (Taylor Telford and Thomas Heath)
- Coachella, the California musical festival, was postponed from April to October. The news come days after Austin’s SXSW festival was canceled, sending a shock through the city’s economy. (Sonia Rao)
- A quarter of Florida’s population is older than 60, and many people have chronic illnesses that make them more vulnerable to the disease, putting the state’s health system at risk of being overloaded. The virus is already having a major effect on the state's largest industry – tourism. (Lori Rozsa, Tim Craig and Joel Achenbach)
Shortages are causing problems.
The nation’s face mask stockpile hasn’t been substantially replenished since 2009. The reserves weren’t significantly restored after the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown report.
- CDC Director Robert Redfield said he is not confident that labs in the U.S. have an adequate stock of the supplies used to extract genetic material from any virus in a patient’s sample — a critical step in coronavirus testing. (Politico)
- Two Trump allies got tested despite the shortage. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the incoming White House chief of staff, said their tests showed no infection. They also said they were exhibiting no symptoms of respiratory illness, raising questions of why they were tested at all. (Mike DeBonis and Carolyn Johnson) Gaetz told the Pensacola News Journal that he slept in a Walmart parking lot on Monday night after potentially exposing Trump to the coronavirus because he didn't want to accidentally spread the virus to anyone else.
- A coronavirus conference was canceled because of the coronavirus. The Council on Foreign Relations canceled a “Doing Business Under Coronavirus” roundtable in New York that was scheduled for Friday. (Bloomberg News)
The total number of cases worldwide surpassed 120,000.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the “virus has arrived,” warning that up to 70 percent of her country could end up infected. There are more than 80,000 cases in China and more than 10,000 in Italy. Both Iran and South Korea have around 8,000 confirmed cases and other nations are suggesting they will reach similar levels soon. China announced an increase in cases of the virus that had been imported from outside the country, with one case apparently coming from the U.S., per our live blog. Some residents can go back to work in the Chinese province of Hubei, where the outbreak started, but travel restrictions remain.
- China’s next challenge is repairing the broken links in the world’s supply chain. (Anna Fifield)
- Italy’s lockdown has stripped the country of its most basic routines and joys. (Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli)
- U.K. health official Nadine Dorries tested positive for the virus, and the Bank of England announced that it would cut interest rates by from 0.75 percent to 0.25 percent, a record low for Britain’s central bank. (BBC)
- Bahrain’s Ministry of Health said of the 165 of its citizens just flown back from Iran, 77 of them tested positive. (Paul Schemm)
- Coronavirus cases in Africa passed 100. Nearly all are imported from Europe’s hotspots. (Max Bearak)
Allergy season is coming in full force.
“Doctors worry allergy sufferers will conflate their routine reactions to pollen with coronavirus symptoms and overwhelm an already-strained health care system with panicked visits,” Sindya Bhanoo reports, especially in D.C., where pollen counts are already at moderate to high levels. “Because of warmer temperatures, allergy season started in February this year instead of March … so Washington-area residents are already exhibiting symptoms. Data show that some people infected with the coronavirus experience similar symptoms, such as coughing, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat. … Allergies, which are an overreaction of the immune system to foreign particles, should not trigger chills, body aches or fevers … Those are the classic signs of a viral infection, such as covid-19. In addition, while patients with coronavirus can have nasal congestion, it is not common. The World Health Organization found that only about 5 percent of the coronavirus patients in China had nasal congestion. About 14 percent had a sore throat.”
The uneven federal response
Trump discussed his ideas for economic stimulus with Senate Republicans.
Visiting the Capitol on Tuesday, Trump said he “wants to dramatically reduce the payroll tax through at least the end of the year, a plan that could deliver a massive — but expensive — boost to many businesses and voters as he heads into the November presidential election,” Erica Werner, Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim and Robert Costa report. “But his proposal was not warmly received by Republicans, and it was also panned by Democrats, leaving policymakers searching for any common ground as the coronavirus’s outbreak continues to take its toll on the economy. One area of consensus, though, could be around the issue of paid sick leave for employees, an idea Democrats support and in which Trump has shown some interest. But in the past the two sides have taken different approaches, and it’s not clear whether agreement can be reached. … One senator at Tuesday’s lunch meeting with Trump said the president also floated the idea of allowing Americans to delay filing their tax returns in April … and providing aid to the travel industry.
"In addition to large tax cuts, Trump talked with Republican senators about what steps they could take to extend emergency aid to U.S. oil and gas companies hurt by the drop in oil prices. … The payroll tax cut alone could reduce taxes by around $400 billion through the end of the year. White House officials would not say whether they had any plans to offset those losses, which would cause the budget deficit to grow by about 40 percent. …
"Top House Democrats, meanwhile, said Tuesday they planned to move quickly on a relief package that narrowly targeted individuals and families affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The measures floated by [Nancy] Pelosi and other leaders included an expansion of unemployment insurance, food stamps and other public assistance programs as well as allowing for more sick and family leave. The legislation could be released as soon as Wednesday with a vote coming as soon as Thursday.”
Providing federal assistance to oil and gas companies would face resistance from those who support direct aid to workers. “The federal assistance is likely to take the form of low-interest government loans to the shale companies, whose lines of credit to major financial institutions have been choked off,” Jeff Stein, Will Englund, Steven Mufson and Costa report. “But help for oil and gas producers may prove a politically difficult lift for the administration, in part because they faced sagging prices even before the coronavirus outbreak, some experts said. It may be hard to sort out which sectors are deserving of help … Some economists also oppose providing assistance to companies rather than ensuring it goes to workers hit by a downturn.”
The administration wants federal workers to be ready to telework full time.
“The Trump administration is racing to develop contingency plans that would allow hundreds of thousands of employees to work remotely full time,” Lisa Rein reports. “The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees policy for the workforce of 2.1 million, has urged agency heads in recent days to ‘immediately review’ their telework policies, sign paperwork with employees laying out their duties, issue laptops and grant access to computer networks. … That emergency decision follows similar steps by more than a dozen Seattle-area federal field offices, the Interior Department in Denver and NASA’s Silicon Valley research center, which either have closed or shifted to telework as some employees tested positive for the virus. On Tuesday, the International Trade Administration started sending staffers home to self-quarantine if they had traveled out of the country. The State Department told its staff to set up emergency teleconference drills — and alternate who comes into the office to use classified systems, to ensure that colleagues gather only in small groups. … The Trump administration scaled back working from home as a regular practice at multiple large agencies."
The CDC blocked thousands of flu samples from being tested for coronavirus.
“For months, as part of a research project into the flu, [infectious disease expert Helen Chu] and a team of researchers had been collecting nasal swabs from residents experiencing symptoms throughout the Puget Sound region. To repurpose the tests for monitoring the coronavirus, they would need the support of state and federal officials. But nearly everywhere Dr. Chu turned, officials repeatedly rejected the idea, interviews and emails show, even as weeks crawled by and outbreaks emerged in countries outside of China,” the NYT reports. “By Feb. 25, Dr. Chu and her colleagues could not bear to wait any longer. They began performing coronavirus tests, without government approval. What came back confirmed their worst fear."
A GOP congressman criticized Trump's proposed CDC cuts.
“This was the day Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) has been warning about,” Aaron Blake reports. “Back in 2017, when the Trump administration first proposed steep cuts to programs that handle disease outbreaks, Cole said, ‘I promise you the president is much more likely in his term to have a deal with a pandemic than an act of terrorism. I hope he doesn’t have to deal with either one, but you have to be ready to deal with both.’ Now that the potential pandemic has come, Cole is re-upping his long-standing criticisms of the Trump administration’s posture toward preparedness. … At a House subcommittee hearing featuring [the CDC director], Cole offered some veiled rebukes of how the administration has worked with people like him on this issue."
Other developments that shouldn't be overlooked
An intelligence official claimed there’s no evidence Russia has taken steps to help any 2020 candidate.
In closed briefings to the House and Senate, “the head of national counterintelligence, William Evanina, appeared to be tempering an assessment delivered to lawmakers in the House last month that Russia had developed a ‘preference’ for [Trump],” Ellen Nakashima and Seung Min Kim report. “Evanina told senators that the Russians ‘continue to be broadly engaged in social media activities designed to divide us further, to discredit our electoral system and to disrupt our election,’ said one official present at the all-members meeting. In the Senate, Evanina’s carefully worded answer came in response to the first question asked — by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) — and ‘felt orchestrated,’ said a second official, who was briefed on the meeting. ‘Both question and response were clearly pre-drafted.’
“The intelligence officials who gave the briefing, including National Security Agency Director Paul M. Nakasone and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, did not give senators an impression that the Trump administration has a solid grip on dealing with foreign interference in the coming election, said a third official briefed on the session. … In the House, [Pelosi] and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the Intelligence Committee chairman, challenged the briefer on what struck them as an effort to play down the assessment given last month by Shelby Pierson, the intelligence community’s point person on foreign election threats, a fourth official said. …
"Senators also were disconcerted that [Richard] Grenell, as the head of the intelligence community, was not present … The heads of other agencies, including acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf, were there, and Grenell had been scheduled to appear, according to a list of participants circulated to lawmakers on Monday. But Grenell declined to go to the Hill, citing apprehension about his preparedness to address sensitive subjects that tend to upset the president, according to three people familiar with the matter.”
Russia’s parliament offered a path for Vladimir Putin to stay in power for an additional 12 years after his term expires in 2024. The plan, floated and supported by Putin’s ruling United Russia party, is part of a sweeping rewrite of Russia’s constitution and would reset the current term limits to zero. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
The D.C. Circuit ruled that DOJ must disclose Bob Mueller’s secret grand jury evidence to the House.
“The divided ruling, which can be appealed, is a victory for Democratic lawmakers in one of a set of separation-of-powers lawsuits filed before the House voted to impeach Trump in December and before the Senate acquitted him,” Ann Marimow reports. “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a lower court order that gives Congress access to certain secret material from [Mueller’s] investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. … Judge Judith W. Rogers found the House in its impeachment investigation was legally engaged in a judicial process that exempts Congress from secrecy rules that typically shield grand jury materials from disclosure. Grand jury records, she noted, are court records — not Justice Department records — and have historically been released to Congress in the course of impeachment investigations involving three federal judges and two presidents. … Judge Neomi Rao [a Trump appointee] dissented."
Lawmakers proposed bipartisan limits on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“House Democrats and Republicans proposed a surveillance bill Tuesday that would extend provisions used for counterterrorism investigations while putting new restrictions and safeguards on the FBI to address criticism of how agents investigated a Trump campaign adviser in 2016,” Devlin Barrett reports. “To address those concerns, the new bill would require the attorney general to sign off on any FISA surveillance targeting a federal officeholder or a candidate for federal office. … [The bill] would step up internal reviews and data reporting requirements on FISA cases; increase the potential prison sentence for unauthorized disclosures about FISA surveillance; and require FISA applicants to assure the court they have provided information that might call into question their factual assertions ... The bill would also bring to an official end a controversial phone records collection program that the government has abandoned as costly and ineffective.”
Sonia Sotomayor recused herself from a case with consequences for the electoral college.
The justice will “not participate in one of the two cases the Supreme Court will hear in April to decide whether the Constitution forbids states from dictating how members of the electoral college cast their votes for president,” Robert Barnes reports. “The clerk of the court informed lawyers in the case Tuesday that Sotomayor realized she is friends with one of the parties in one of the cases, from Colorado. Sotomayor will still participate in the other case, from the state of Washington.”
Social media speed read
Trump endorsed former attorney general Jeff Sessions' opponent in the Alabama GOP Senate runoff:
Tommy Tuberville (@TTuberville) is running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Alabama. Tommy was a terrific head football coach at Auburn University. He is a REAL LEADER who will never let MAGA/KAG, or our Country, down! Tommy will protect your Second Amendment....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 11, 2020
The stage was set up for Sanders's rally in Ohio before it was canceled:
If the Bernie Sanders rally in Cleveland is really canceled - nobody told the crew setting up. They are just hanging the banner now. pic.twitter.com/w6uFgP5Y3I— mark naymik (@marknaymik) March 10, 2020
Ohio's governor defended the decision to ask the candidates to cancel their events:
The truth is that #COVID19 is dangerous. We can't ignore it. We can't wish it away. We have to call it as it is.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 10, 2020
The New York City mayor and former 2020 contender called on Elizabeth Warren to endorse Sanders:
I deeply respect @ewarren. Our nation our party are better more progressive because of her leadership. Now our progressive movement needs her more than ever. Senator, if the shoe was on the other foot @BernieSanders would have endorsed you already. Please join us!— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) March 10, 2020
A man sent anti-Muslim tweets to a Virginia congressional candidate, who responded by helping pay down his medical bills:
Last week a Conservative constituent sent me deeply hurtful anti-Muslim tweets😓— Qasim Rashid for Congress (@QasimRashid) March 9, 2020
I replied by donating to his GoFundMe to help cover his crushing medical debt
He wrote me a thoughtful & compassionate apology & asked me to visit him
Today I met my new friend Oz😊#WinTheHearts pic.twitter.com/LUEp0LSzDf
The University of Dayton's student newspaper shared images from the clash between students and police after the campus was closed to contain the coronavirus:
We have video of police officers shooting what appears to be non-lethal weapons at students. pic.twitter.com/kgSasTUtC6— Flyer News (@FlyerNews) March 11, 2020
Videos of the day
Stephen Colbert said Andrew Cuomo's coronavirus measures in New York resemble those one would take during a zombie apocalypse:
Trevor Noah explored the consequences of “social distancing”:
Seth Meyers checked in on a Trump policy that may be enriching his family: