Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former vice president Joe Biden hit the campaign trail Monday on the eve of another day of key contests in the Democratic presidential primary, amid mounting concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Six states will vote on Tuesday: Idaho, Mississippi, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington. Biden picked up key endorsements in recent days as two of his formal rivals — Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), threw their support behind his campaign.

Both Sanders and Biden have said they are heeding the advice of public health officials as the number of confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed 500 on Sunday. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is also competing for the Democratic presidential nomination.

President Trump, meanwhile, is holding a fundraiser in Florida, in a departure from his typical practice of holding a “Keep America Great” rally on the eve of a Democratic primary or caucus.

March 9, 2020 at 10:07 PM EDT

In dual endorsement, Harris and Booker say Biden is ‘best shot’ to beat Trump

DETROIT — Speaking at one of Joe Biden’s biggest events so far, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told Michigan voters that Democrats need to rally around the former vice president if they want to defeat President Trump in November.

Harris endorsed Biden on Sunday morning. Booker endorsed him 24 hours later, and then made his first campaign appearance with the former vice president in Flint earlier Monday.

“There is one man now who’s ready to go to the center of the arena, who is our best shot to beat Donald Trump,” Booker told a roaring crowd of 2,000 in Detroit.

Biden, he said, “is the best one to bring dignity back to that office. He is the best one to stand up for all of us in America … We can’t pray that he wins. We can’t hope that he wins. We can’t wish that he wins. We’ve got to vote him in.”

A few moments later, in her first public comments at a Biden campaign event, Harris said she believes that “there is a conscious attempt to try and disillusion us, to try and have us believe that the system will never work for us.”

She told the crowd she got to know Biden through his late son Beau, who was attorney general of Delaware when she held the same office in California. Later, she contrasted Biden with Trump.

“Donald Trump, he does not see people. The only people who he sees [is the person] he sees when he looks in the mirror,” she said. “We need a president who sees us, who understands us.”

The event was briefly interrupted by protesters against the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and later by people calling for more green jobs.

The senators’ dual endorsements mirrored the rapid-fire endorsements a week ago, when Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) former South Bend Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke endorsed Biden in the hours before the Super Tuesday primaries.

Since then, Biden has had a delegate lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in what has become a two-man race.

In Detroit, Biden said how grateful he was that his former opponents had endorsed him — and how bittersweet it must be for them to be in this position.

“The fact is that this is hard,” Biden said after being introduced by Booker. “This is hard. I’ve been on the other side of this, where I’ve stood up and endorsed a candidate after I was not the nominee. No matter what anybody says, it’s not an easy thing to do.”

By Cleve Wootson
March 9, 2020 at 9:28 PM EDT

Sanders defends policies, addresses coronavirus at Fox News town hall

Bernie Sanders tried to dispel the notion that he’s too liberal to be on the presidential ticket, slammed President Trump’s response to the coronavirus and defended the costs of his policies during a Monday evening town hall hosted by Fox News at the University of Michigan.

Sanders began the event — which started around the same time as Trump and Vice President Pence spoke to the nation about the coronavirus — by reiterating his concerns about the administration’s response to the outbreak, arguing that it has neglected to prioritize science.

He used the topic as a segue into broader discussions on his policies about health care and paid medical leave, which, he asserted, should be available to all Americans. Sanders was also pressed on the cost of his policies, which some have estimated would run into tens of trillions of dollars.

Sanders frequently invoked other countries that enact similar policies while downplaying fears that he’s “too liberal” for some voters — including when one audience member asked how he could be sure democratic socialism won’t have negative results.

“When we talk about democratic socialism, I talk about Finland, Denmark, Sweden — countries all over the world who have used their government to improve the lives for working families, not just those up top,” Sanders said.

He also trod carefully around questions on Biden, including one about the former vice president’s “mental acuity.” Sanders refused to speak directly against Biden but cited instances where Biden has given speeches that lasted less than 10 minutes. Sanders, in contrast, asserted that a recent speech of his own lasted 45 minutes.

“I’m not here to criticize Joe, but I think the American people in this incredibly complicated and difficult moment in our history are entitled to thoughtful answers to the crises we face,” Sanders added.

As the event came to a close, Sanders talked about his list for a potential running mate. Noting that it was it was premature to say with certainty, Sanders added, “I think my gut feeling is, it must be a woman.”

“I would look to women first,” he said. “Women, by the way, who hold my political views.”

By Michael Brice-Saddler
March 9, 2020 at 8:06 PM EDT

Volunteers offer hand sanitizer to attendees at Biden event in Detroit

During former vice president Joe Biden’s appearance in Detroit on Monday evening, some volunteers were instructed to dollop hand sanitizer onto people’s hands as they walked into the gymnasium where he was speaking.

Attendees were spotted dutifully rubbing their hands together as they walked inside, single file. Biden told reporters on Sunday that his campaign is heeding the advice of experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The campaign has not said anything about its internal deliberations about holding large events.

Monday’s rally in Detroit, which was slated to feature new endorsers Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) appeared to be Biden’s largest event so far with a crowd that stretched around the block waiting to get in.

By Cleve Wootson and Michael Brice-Saddler
March 9, 2020 at 5:50 PM EDT

Biden says he’s thought about recent big endorsers as vice-presidential picks

Joe Biden told NBC News on Monday that he has “thought about” several of his recent endorsers — including Democratic Sens. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) — as potential candidates for vice president.

Although Biden indicated that it was premature to state definitively who he would tap for vice president, he added that the senators “are all capable of being president.”

“I have thought about it and I can tell you one thing. Whomever the vice president is, is going to be someone that has a relationship like Barack and I had where we are on the big issues strategically aligned,” Biden told NBC News’s Gabe Gutierrez. “We can disagree on tactics but we have to have the same strategic objectives, number one. And number two, my administration, were I fortunate enough to win the nomination, be elected, is going to look like the country from the vice presidency all the way through my cabinet and White House staff.”

Correction: A previous version of this post said Biden was speaking to Lester Holt of “NBC Nightly News.” He was speaking to NBC News’s Gabe Gutierrez.

By Michael Brice-Saddler
March 9, 2020 at 4:38 PM EDT

Sanders says Trump’s ‘reckless statements’ on coronavirus have fostered confusion

Flanked by public health experts Monday while speaking at a roundtable on the coronavirus in Detroit, Sanders took several shots at the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak, asserting that essential decisions and statements are being made “based on tweets that have no scientific basis.”

Sanders said people in the United States and around the world want to see an administration based on science — not “politics designed to protect the wealthy and powerful.” He cited specific comments that Trump has made in recent days as coronavirus cases in the United States have continued to climb, including the president’s assertion that he has a “natural ability” to understand the virus.

“Donald Trump does not have a natural ability to understand the coronavirus, and his reckless statements are confusing people in this country and all over the world,” Sanders said.

He took aim at Trump’s coronavirus task force, headed by Vice President Pence. He suggested that Pence is not suited to be in charge and added that Trump’s team “should be a 100 percent nonpolitical task force led by the best scientists and experts, not politicians.” Sanders said he was also alarmed by Trump’s suggestion that people can go to work while infected with the virus and get better.

Trump has since argued that those comments were misconstrued.

“Here you have an incredibly infectious disease, and the whole world is wrestling with the spread of that disease,” Sanders said. “To suggest to people that when you are sick you go to work might be the stupidest advice ever made by a president of the United States.”

Referencing the medical experts that surrounded him, Sanders stressed the importance of reliable health care. He noted that some people in the United States have refrained from going to the doctor because they cannot afford it, while others have continued to work even if they have shown symptoms.

Sanders punctuated his concern by referencing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s remark that a potential coronavirus vaccine may not be affordable to everyone when it is available.

“When the vaccine is developed … obviously it should be made free to every person in this country and every person in the world,” Sanders said.

By Michael Brice-Saddler
March 9, 2020 at 4:01 PM EDT

Booker implores voters in Michigan to rally behind Biden

FLINT, Mich. — Booker made his first public comments after endorsing Biden, telling people they needed to support a man who can “heal this country.”

Booker endorsed Biden earlier Monday, a day after Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the other black senator who ran for the Democratic nomination in this campaign, did the same thing. Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who is also black, endorsed Biden last week. All three have dropped out of the primary race.

Booker made his comments at a Flint community center, to a group of elected leaders and activists.

“When you look out at the future of the country and you see that we have the potential to [elect] a Joe Biden, who is truly the statesperson in our party, who is truly the one who’s telling us to stand together not to stand apart,” Booker said, “I am with a person who I know will see us, will see all of us — our dignity and our grace — will see the potential of every child despite their background.”

Biden told Booker he appreciated his endorsement, especially given that the senator from New Jersey had a short time ago sought the same office.

“The fact is that this is hard,” Biden said after being introduced by Booker. “This is hard. I’ve been on the other side of this, where I’ve stood up and endorsed a candidate after I was not the nominee. No matter what anybody says, it’s not an easy thing to do.”

He then repeated a call he has made several times over the past few days — for other Democrats to coalesce around him.

“We want you. We need you. There’s a place in our campaign for you,” he said. “This is going to be a unified effort of the Democratic Party, to win back. We have to be unified.”

By Cleve Wootson
March 9, 2020 at 2:50 PM EDT

Second poll shows Biden leading Sanders by double digits in Michigan

A new Monmouth University poll found that Biden is leading Sanders by 15 points in Michigan — the second of two surveys released Monday showing the former vice president with a double-digit advantage in the state.

Biden takes 51 percent to Sanders’s 36 percent in the new poll, a clear lead but one that is smaller than the 24-point advantage shown in an Epic-MRA-Detroit Free Press poll also released Monday.

As with the earlier poll, the Monmouth survey should also be viewed in light of the fact that public polling in Michigan in 2016 was notoriously unreliable.

The new Monmouth poll showed a big gender gap in preferences, with Biden leading by 20 percentage points among women while Sanders led by 10 points among men. Women have consistently made up a majority of voters and accounted for 55 percent in Michigan’s 2016 primary.

On Super Tuesday, Sanders did seven points better among men than women (32 percent vs. 25 percent median across states), while Biden received similar support among both groups (36 percent among men vs. 37 percent among women).

The Monmouth poll also measured general-election support among registered voters statewide. Biden led Trump 48 percent to 41 percent, while Sanders topped Trump 46 percent to 41 percent.

By Scott Clement and Felicia Sonmez
March 9, 2020 at 1:54 PM EDT

Sanders says he’d generate more enthusiasm than Biden as Democratic nominee

At a campaign rally in St. Louis on Monday afternoon, Sanders took aim at Biden on several issues, including on Social Security, trade and his support for the Iraq War. Sanders took care to note, however, that both he and Biden have pledged to support each other regardless of which one of them wins the Democratic nomination, “because we want to beat Trump, that goes without saying.”

Ultimately, Sanders argued that he, not Biden, is the candidate best positioned to generate voter enthusiasm in November.

“My point here is not to criticize Biden,” Sanders said. “My point here is to ask you to think that in a general election, which candidate can generate the enthusiasm and the excitement and the voter turnout we need?”

Sanders contended that young voters, who have been a central part of his political base, will turn out in droves in November if he is the nominee — and that will boost down-ballot candidates, as well.

“Our campaign is the campaign that in the general election can bring millions of young people to the polls, which will not only impact the presidential election, it will impact Senate elections, congressional elections, governors’ elections, all elections,” he said.

At the rally, Sanders also seized on Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s recent remark that he can’t promise that any potential coronavirus vaccine will be available to the public at an affordable price.

Sanders didn't mention Azar by name at the rally. But he noted that “Trump's people” have said they can't guarantee the affordability of any vaccine, prompting boos from the crowd.

“I mean, this is how sick the system is. So let me tell you, [when I’m] elected president, everybody in this country will get that vaccine absolutely free,” Sanders said to cheers from the audience. “And should anybody — is that a radical statement? I mean, that is the most obvious statement that anybody could make.”

By Felicia Sonmez
March 9, 2020 at 1:40 PM EDT

In Michigan, thousands of early voters cancel their ballots amid fluid Democratic race

Nearly 29,000 early voters in Michigan either had second thoughts — or want their ballots cast for someone who is still in the race.

Unlike other states, where early voting prevents a ballot redo, Michigan allows those who had cast ballots by absentee to cancel those votes — or, in the parlance of the state, to “spoil the original ballot.”

Voters who already had submitted a ballot had until 2 p.m. Saturday to cancel the ballot by mail — or 4 p.m. Monday if done in person. They then could recast their vote.

Nearly 713,000 absentee ballots have been cast, up nearly 80 percent over the early ballots cast in 2016, according to figures provided by the Michigan secretary of state’s office.

While part of the increase may be due to increased enthusiasm, this also is the first major election in the state where voters can cast absentee ballots without providing a reason for doing so.

By Matt Viser
March 9, 2020 at 1:10 PM EDT

Sanders sharpens his pitch to women as moms in Michigan oscillate between him and Biden

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Sanders has massively stepped up efforts to woo female voters since Biden took the lead in delegates and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) dropped out of the race.

The independent senator from Vermont unveiled a “reproductive health care and justice for all” plan Saturday evening. He’s attacking the former vice president for supporting the Hyde Amendment, which banned Medicaid funds from being used to cover abortions, until reversing himself under pressure last year. He’s reading aloud a quote from the 1970s in which Biden said that Roe v. Wade “went too far.”

Read more here.

By James Hohmann
March 9, 2020 at 12:35 PM EDT

‘I wish he would just be quiet,’ Biden says of Trump’s coronavirus response

As Trump tweeted dismissively about the coronavirus and ignored public health officials’ advice Monday morning, one of the Democrats seeking to oust him in November had some advice for the president: Stop talking.

“I wish he would just be quiet,” former vice president Joe Biden said in an interview with MSNBC. “I really mean it — that’s an awful thing to say about a president, [but] I wish he’d be quiet. Just let the experts speak and acknowledge whatever they suggest to him is what we should be doing.”

Biden, who is battling Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Monday’s stock market rout was a reflection of the public’s lack of trust in Trump.

“I think there’s no confidence in the president, in anything he says or does,” Biden said. “He turns everything into what he thinks is of political benefit for himself, and he’s actually imploding in the process. But there’s a lot of innocent bystanders that are being badly hurt.”

By Felicia Sonmez
March 9, 2020 at 11:50 AM EDT

Biden makes no mention of coronavirus in visit to Michigan community health center

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A day before the Michigan primary, Biden lauded administrators at a community health center, saying his health-care plan would expand similar centers across the country.

But the made-for-TV news conference was more remarkable for what it didn’t include — any mention of the coronavirus, which has stoked health and economic fears.

Instead, on Monday, Biden talked about the benefits of public health centers.

“The expansion of health centers was one of the Obama administration’s crowning achievements,” he said. “In eight years, we were able to double the number of centers.”

As he has campaigned through Missouri, Michigan and Mississippi, Biden has offered no guidance on how his administration would handle the outbreak or a similar one.

Biden and Sanders have both said they’re listening to the guidance of public health officials.

Trump, meanwhile, is holding a fundraiser in Florida, in a departure from his typical practice of holding a “Keep America Great” rally on the eve of a Democratic primary or caucus.

By Cleve Wootson
March 9, 2020 at 10:47 AM EDT

Poll shows Biden opening wide lead over Sanders in Michigan

A new poll suggests Biden is poised for victory over Sanders in Michigan, a state both candidates are fiercely contesting ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

The Detroit Free Press survey shows Biden winning the support of 51 percent of probable Democratic primary voters in the state, compared with 27 percent for Sanders. The poll was conducted March 4-6 and has a 4.9 percentage point margin of error.

It’s worth viewing the poll’s results with some skepticism, however.

Michigan polls in 2016 were often inaccurate and underestimated Sanders’s support. The Free Press noted in its report Monday that it published a poll ahead of the 2016 Democratic primary showing Clinton leading Sanders by 25 percentage points. Sanders went on to win the state by less than two percentage points.

Michigan’s open primary — and the short period of time between the contest and Super Tuesday — also make it difficult for pollsters to identify who is most likely to vote.

By Felicia Sonmez and Scott Clement
March 9, 2020 at 10:07 AM EDT

Bloomberg gives $2 million to boost black voter registration efforts

Less than a week after leaving the presidential race, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg gave an additional $2 million to register 500,000 black voters before the November election.

The donation announced Monday, which follows $15 million voter registration commitment he made last year, will go to Collective Future, a nonprofit arm of the Collective, a political action committee that supports black candidates nationwide.

The money will be spent to hire more than 30 field organizers and 96 “field fellows” through local community organizations in eight states, including the presidential swing states of Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina, said Collective President Quentin James. The program will also register voters in South Carolina, Texas, Georgia and Alabama.

“Some people may still have issues around his record as mayor or whatever the issue is, but for us this is bigger than some of the personal opinions,” James said Monday. “This is about power in our community. And unfortunately we have been stripped of that.”

Bloomberg previously announced a $5 million contribution to a voter protection initiative run by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D). He is also setting up a new independent political organization to absorb his campaign staff in six swing states, so they can support Democrats in the general election. That group will probably serve as a vehicle for advertising to support Democrats this year.

“Voter suppression efforts across the country have been a barely disguised effort to keep Black Americans and other Democratic-leaning voters from the polls,” Bloomberg said in statement Monday. “I‘ve always believed we need to make it easier for all citizens to register and vote, not harder.”

James said the Bloomberg money would be focused on building partnerships with local organizations, like historically black colleges and black churches, to get more people to register. He praised Bloomberg for not taking any time off after announcing the end of his campaign Wednesday.

“I think what’s amazing is he hasn’t taken a beat,” James said. “He could have taken a week, he could have taken a couple of weeks off.”

By Michael Scherer
March 9, 2020 at 9:41 AM EDT

Twitter’s first ‘manipulated media’ flag on Trump aide ignites fact-checking debate

Social media sites are once again at the center of a debate over online speech after Twitter applied its new “manipulated media” label for the first time Sunday to a deceptively edited video of former vice president Biden.

White House social media director Dan Scavino posted the video, and it was later retweeted by Trump. Scavino also shared the same video on Facebook. This morning, the company labeled it to reflect that independent fact-checkers found the altered video contained “partly false information,” and the company is “reducing its distribution,” according to Facebook spokeswoman Brittany Uter.

Read more here.

By Cat Zakrzewski
March 9, 2020 at 8:17 AM EDT

Buttigieg says he hopes to see gender, racial diversity on Democratic ticket

Former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), who recently ended his presidential campaign and endorsed Joe Biden, said Monday that he is hopeful the eventual Democratic nominee will choose a running mate who is not a straight white man.

“I do think it will be very important to have diversity on the ticket and diversity in the future Cabinet,” Buttigieg said in an interview on NBC’s “Today."

He stopped short, however, of saying the nominee has an obligation to do so.

“I’m not going to place obligations on the future nominee,” he said. “But certainly as a voter and as a Democrat, I would expect to see that kind of diversity on the ticket.”

As for his plans now that he has dropped out of the race, Buttigieg said that he intends on traveling and thanking supporters “in the immediate term,” and will be guest hosting ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on Thursday.

He demurred when asked by host Craig Melvin whether he plans to invite Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) — with whom he famously clashed during the Democratic debates — on as a guest.

“I’m hoping to catch up with her soon,” Buttigieg said.

By Felicia Sonmez
March 9, 2020 at 8:16 AM EDT

Booker endorses Biden for president

Booker threw his support behind Biden in the Democratic presidential primary Monday, hailing him as a candidate who will help unite the country.

The New Jersey senator’s endorsement of his former rival comes as other Democratic lawmakers consolidate support behind the former vice president. It also comes on the eve of nominating contests in six states including Michigan, a key general-election battleground.

Read more here.

By Felicia Sonmez
March 9, 2020 at 8:15 AM EDT

Where are the candidates on primary eve?

Both Biden and Sanders are spending Monday in Michigan, a state that will be a key battleground in the race against Trump in November.

Biden is making campaign stops in Grand Rapids and Flint, followed by a fundraiser and a get-out-the-vote event in Detroit. He will be joined by Harris at the latter event.

Sanders is headlining a campaign rally in St. Louis at noon. Later, he holds a public health round table in Detroit to discuss the global coronavirus outbreak and the steps the United States should take to address it.

By Felicia Sonmez
March 9, 2020 at 8:14 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton says she will support Sanders if he wins the nomination but does not commit to campaigning for him

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said she will support Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) if he wins the Democratic presidential nomination, but she did not commit to campaigning on his behalf.

Clinton weighed in on the 2020 Democratic race in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that aired Sunday. Her comments came amid an increasingly tense race between Sanders and Biden for the party’s nomination to face Trump in November.

“I will support the nominee of the Democratic Party,” Clinton said when asked whether she would campaign for Sanders. Pressed again, she suggested that the decision would be up to Sanders.

Read more here.

By Felicia Sonmez
March 9, 2020 at 8:14 AM EDT

Sanders says he will press ahead with campaign rallies amid coronavirus crisis

Sanders said Sunday that he is moving forward with plans to hold campaign rallies ahead of Tuesday’s primaries in six states, despite mounting public concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

With the outbreak in the United States now affecting 30 states, some political organizations have reassessed their plans for conferences and large-scale events.

The AFL-CIO, the largest group of labor unions in the country, announced that it is canceling its presidential forum, which had been scheduled for Thursday in Orlando. Sanders and Biden had been planning to attend.

Read more here.

By Felicia Sonmez, Juliet Eilperin and Paige Winfield Cunningham