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The Campaign

FOLKS, BIDEN IS BACK: Joe Biden's campaign came roaring back to life last night, marking the continuation of the former vice president's remarkable comeback after his candidacy was declared all but over just a few weeks ago. 

Powered by African American, suburbanites and older voters, Biden won Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pulled off wins in his home state of Vermont, Colorado, and Utah — with the support of Latino and young progressive voters. 

We're still waiting on the results of Super Tuesday's biggest prize — California — where Sanders is likely to win. But Biden's blowout performance in other states means we don't know who will emerge from last night's contest with the most number of delegates. It's Biden's pragmatic “fight for the soul of America” against Sanders's populist “revolution” in what's shaping up to be a two-man race. 

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) walked away from the night with disappointing finishes, raising the question of whether and when the two candidates will drop out. Warren, embarrassingly, even lost her home state.

The dramatic shift toward Biden was driven by late-deciding voters who prioritized electability. It didn't seem to hurt that he appears to have consolidated the so-called moderate lane as former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) dropped out and endorsed him

  • Roughly 6 in 10 Democratic voters said that beating Trump was more important than policy agreement — and a majority of those voters favored Biden, according to our colleague Dan Keating.
  • “Joe Biden is mopping the floor in states that he never visited, where he opened zero field offices, and where he spent next to nothing on TV,” our colleague Matt Viser tweeted.
  • Biden's “win in Virginia testified to the rapid reversal of fortunes,” our colleagues Matt Viser and Chelsea Janes report. “Despite having held only one rally there — and opening only one field office and spending far less than some of his rivals — Biden was on course to win every congressional district and carry the state in a landslide. As soon as polls closed in North Carolina — a state with a strong dose of suburban women and African American voters, both targets for the party and groups that lean toward Biden — he was declared the winner there as well.”
  • Looking ahead: “For the foreseeable future, the calendar will not get easier for Sanders,” our colleague Dan Balz points out. “In coming weeks, the states holding contests, with some exceptions, were ones that he lost to Hillary Clinton four years ago. In some of the states he won in 2016, the shift from caucuses to primaries could hold down his delegate totals even if he were to win again."

Biden's South Carolina win foreshadowed Tuesday's results: the former vice president's median support among African American voters in Super Tuesday states stood at 57 percent.

  • “In all but one state where polls have closed and there were enough black voters to accurately poll, early data suggests that [Biden] dominated,” our colleagues report. “He got roughly 7 in 10 black voters in Alabama, and 6 in 10 in Virginia and North Carolina. The outlier: Massachusetts. There, black voters made up about 1 in 10 voters, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) looked to be pulling roughly even with the former vice president.”

While Sanders did well with young voters, they failed to create the groundswell the Democratic socialist has been banking on. The senator also didn't do as well with this demographic as he did in 2016. 

  • Underperforming: “….Sanders’s candidacy is predicated on the idea that he will expand the Democratic voting base, a promise that would seem to suggest that he’d gain support over time, not lose it. All of that, again, was before voting began Tuesday. On Tuesday night, Sanders continued to underperform relative to four years ago," according to our colleague Philip Bump.
  • We don't have final vote counts yet, but a big problem for the Sanders *theory* of this race is that when turnout is high, he wins,” our colleague Dave Weigel tweeted. “Turnout is way up, but the most reliable new voters are Biden-curious suburbanites.” 

Important: We don't have a final delegate count – there are no total results in California and Texas – but Biden's unexpected dominance puts him in far better shape and clearly limited Sanders delegate hauls. And as you'll hear from us often, delegates are the only true thing that matters, because getting a majority (1,991) is how you win the nomination.

  • This was supposed to be Sanders's night: As MSNBC's Steve Kornacki pointed out early this morning, the conventional wisdom just days ago was Sanders would end Super Tuesday with a delegate lead, perhaps even an insurmountable one.
  • Instead, Biden, as Kornacki added, was powered “by virtue of landslides here for Biden in the southeast and basically trench warfare everywhere else when it comes to delegates, except Colorado …" setting up the former vice president to be prepared for even the worst result in California.
  • TL;DR, Blowouts matter: Just like Obama in 2008, Biden looks poised to net a lot of delegates by virtue of lopsided wins in many of last nigt's contests.

Here's the count so far: 

  • It may be days before California's full results are in and we can have a complete delegate picture.

VIRGINIA: Biden's decisive win in Virginia presented a clear snapshot of his broad appeal – and voters preference for the candidate most likely to beat Trump in the fall. Also, turnout in Virginia almost DOUBLED from 2016. 

  • “Voter turnout in Virginia surged on Super Tuesday, surpassing the robust 2008 levels and delivering Biden a convincing victory — and a commanding share of the 99 delegates that were up for grabs there,” our colleagues Reis Thebault and Lenny Bronner report.
  • “In 2016, about 14 percent of registered voters, or about 785,000 people, participated in the Democratic primary. This year, 23 percent, or about 1.3 million people, cast ballots, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.”
  • Biden expanded the electorate – not Sanders: “Of the voters who sat out the 2016 primary and cast ballots in 2020, Biden won nearly 60 percent, according to a Washington Post statistical model.”
  • Not just Virginia: “In three southern states today -- Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama -- Biden had double-digit advantages among moderate and conservative voters and also voters who consider themselves somewhat liberal," our colleague Jocelyn Kiley reports.
  • Late deciders dominate: About half of Biden's supporters made up their minds to support the former vice president at the very last minute, according to preliminary exit polling from the night.
  • “Biden won about 6 in 10 of the late deciders in Virginia and North Carolina. In Virginia, about half of the voters made up their minds at the last minute. In North Carolina, almost 7 in 10 had made up their minds before the last few days,” our colleagues
  • Electability over everything: “Most Virginia voters opted for pragmatism. A majority sought a candidate who they think can beat Trump over one who agrees with them on major issues, according to exit polls. Biden won about 6 in 10 of those votes, while Sanders got about 2 in 10,” our colleague Gregory S. Schneider reports from Richmond. 

MASSACHUSETTS: Biden beat Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in her home state due to late deciders – half of whom made up their mind in favor of the vice president within the past few days. Warren finished third behind Sanders in the one state she was projected to win. 

  • “Though Ms. Warren declined to call Massachusetts a must-win for her, losing a home state is always a disappointment for a presidential candidate. It also gives rivals a chance to say that a candidate who can’t win over their own constituents should depart the race,” the Wall Street Journal's Joshua Jamerson reports. 

MINNESOTA: Klobuchar delivered a victory for the vice president in her home state – even though Sanders won Minnesota's caucus in 2016. Sanders was defeated by Biden in Oklahoma as well, another state he won four years ago. 

  • “Klobuchar had been leading in the polls until she left the race and threw her support behind Biden on Monday,” our colleagues Isaac Stanley Becker and Felicia Sonmez report.
  • Why it matters: "The Midwestern state is seen as central to the party’s chances in November. Minnesota has not backed a Republican for president since Richard M. Nixon in 1972, but Donald Trump came closer in 2016 to breaking that blue wall than any Republican nominee in years."

TEXAS: Biden surprised many by beating Sanders in the Lone Star State – although the Vermont senator narrowly trailed the ex-vice president there, and still stands to gain delegates. Biden spent primary eve rallying in Houston and Dallas. 

  • How things shook out: “…preliminary exit polls show voters divided between Sanders and Biden along views toward socialism, race and whether to return to Obama-era policies or adopt a more liberal approach,” our colleagues Scott Clement, Emily Guskin, Dan Keating, Claudia Deane and Jocelyn Kiley report.
  • Sanders fared best with Latinos while Biden led with African Americans: “The Texas electorate was a snapshot of the Democratic party’s racial and ethnic diversity on Super Tuesday, with no one group dominating the ballot box,” according to Scott, Emily, Dan, Claudia, and Jocelyn. “According to early exit polls, just over 4 in 10 Texas primary voters were white; Sanders and Biden ran even among this group. Meanwhile, Sanders led by a double-digit margin among Hispanics in the preliminary exit poll data, with more than 4 in 10 backing him, and about 1 in 4 backing Biden. Biden led by a still-larger margin among black Democratic voters in Texas, with 6 in 10 supporting him compared with about 2 in 10 for Sanders."
  • Bloomberg spent big in the state – “sinking $57 million into TV ads and visiting Texas seven times since his campaign began in late November,” according to the Houston Chronicle's Jeremy Wallace – but he came in third place behind Biden and Sanders.

Bloomberg won't leave empty-handed: The multibillionaire spent close to the GDP of American Samoa on ads for his campaign, which seems fitting as that appears to be the only place he will win after appearing on the ballot for the first time. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Bloomberg led the island's caucus with nearly 50 percent of the vote — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), who was born in the territory, is in second with about 29 percent of the vote. American Samoa awards six delegates.

Bloomberg, who spent A LOT in Super Tuesday states, looks poised to have met the 15 percent threshold in some of them, which will increase his delegate haul. But it's nowhere near the night he set out to have, our colleague Michael Scherer reports

Missing the caucuses?: Sanders romped through caucus states in 2016 while amassing delegates. But the party has moved away from caucuses with four states holding primaries last night after conducting caucuses four years ago. “In all four, — Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Utah — Sanders is looking at either smaller delegate hauls or outright defeat,” our colleague David Weigel reports. If this trend continues, Sanders will have to find a new way to horde delegates.

Jeff Sessions's return is in jeopardy: The Alabama Republican's Senate campaign is officially in overtime, Al.com's John Sharp reports. Sessions's bid to reclaim his old Senate seat is now subject to a runoff as neither he nor former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville were anywhere near the necessary 50 percent to avoid a runoff — in fact, Tuberville was leading early this morning by about 3 points with just over 90 percent of the vote in. 

A Bush won't be returning to Washington: Pierce Bush, the grandson of the late-President George H.W. Bush, failed to make a runoff for a House seat representing the greater Houston area — though it is not the same congressional district the 41st president once held, the Texas Tribune's Kiah Collier reports. He is the first member of his family to lose a race in Texas in more than four decades.

The Policies

TRUMP’S RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS IS STILL CONFUSING: Even after Vice President Pence took over “the effort has been undermined by mixed messages, contradictions and falsehoods — many of them emanating from the president himself, including this week when he repeatedly spread false information about just how soon a coronavirus vaccine would be available,” our colleagues Philip Rucker, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Ashley Parker report.

A health and PR crisis: “Officials are insisting on message discipline among government scientists and political aides alike, part of what they say is a responsible effort to try to calm jittery Americans and provide uniform and transparent information,” our colleagues write.

  • An example, the White House panned the use of “pandemic”: “More politically minded officials were frustrated that Anthony Fauci, the veteran director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — had used the word ‘pandemic’ without giving anyone on [Pence’s] staff a heads-up,” our colleagues write of an episode last week when Fauci talked to NBC News.

Pence says every American can now get tested:

  • “When I talked to some state officials, there was a sense that the tests would not be administered to people that were mildly symptomatic,” Pence told reporters. “We’re issuing clear guidance that subject to doctors’ orders, any American can be tested,” per our colleagues Seung Min Kim, Maria Sacchetti and Brady Dennis.
  • Washington state, where all the deaths so far have occurred, confirmed three additional fatalities, bringing the total to nine.
  • Officials in the United States have confirmed nine deaths and more than 100 cases, while Iran and Italy have each recorded almost 80 deaths and more than 2,200 cases. India reported a sharp rise in cases Wednesday after Italian tourists tested positive, Adam Taylor reports. Follow our live blog for real-time updates all day.

States and cities are weighing closures, though there's no federal guidance.

  • “The general rule is, use common sense,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, according to our colleagues Toluse Olorunnipa, Heather Kelly, Hannah Natanson and Julie Zauzmer.

The current number of U.S. cases:

Federal Reserve's cut fails to cut it: “The Federal Reserve  took the emergency step of cutting the benchmark U.S. interest rate by half a percentage point, an attempt to limit the economic and financial fallout from the coronavirus,” our colleague Heather Long reports.

  • A cut like this hadn't been made since the financial crisis: “The cut led to a stock market rally, but it was short-lived,” our colleague writes. It did not last. “The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day down 786 points, or nearly 3 percent, and the bond market flashed a warning sign as the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond fell briefly below 1 percent for the first time ever."

At The White House

TRUMP TALKS TO TALIBAN IN HISTORIC CALL: “Trump said that he had spoken with the senior Taliban leader, a phone conversation that is apparently the first direct verbal communication between a U.S. president and the Afghan insurgent force since the more than 18-year-old war in Afghanistan began,” our colleague Anne Gearan reports.

  • More on the conversation: “We’ve agreed there’s no violence, we don’t want violence; we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “They’re dealing with Afghanistan, but we’ll see what happens. We had actually a very good talk.” The president previously said he wants to meet with Taliban leaders in person.
  • Despite Trump’s hopes, violence has resumed: The “Taliban has [carried] out 33 attacks in the past day, according to the Interior Ministry,” CNN’s Jennifer Hansler reports. “Six civilians were killed and 14 others were wounded in those attacks, she said, and Afghan security forces killed eight Taliban insurgents, and injured and arrested another 15.”

The future of America’s longest war: Trump’s call comes after the two sides signed a peace deal over the weekend that calls for a full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months. But that accord faces a number of challenges including Afghani opposition to a controversial prisoner swap and additional intra-Afghan talks, our colleagues Sarah Dadouch, Susannah George and Dan Lamothe previously reported.

Republican hawks are also raising concerns: “Defense hawks, in particular, are concerned the agreement sets the stage for a full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan within months, that thousands of Taliban prisoners could be released in the coming weeks and that enforcement mechanisms are being kept from the American public,” the Hill’s Juliegrace Brufke and Rebecca Kheel report.

  • One of those vocal opponents is the No. 3 House Republican: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has become a go-to messenger for her caucus, is viewed as a potential future speaker and like her father has been unapologetic in her support for a neoconservative foreign policy. “I've expressed my serious concerns about the lack of verification mechanism, about the commitment and the agreement that we would go to zero and primarily about the fact that what we have here are a number of promises by the Taliban,” Cheney told the Hill.