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Election highlights: Ohio judge rejects governor’s efforts to postpone Tuesday’s vote; Biden wins Washington primary

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/15/2020 John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez
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Less than 12 hours before voting was set to begin across Ohio, a judge rejected a temporary restraining order supported by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) seeking a delay in that state’s Tuesday primary, declaring that rescheduling the election would “set a terrible precedent.”

Earlier Monday, DeWine had said that no in-person voting would take place in the state’s primary, noting that proceeding as usual would not be in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines against gatherings of 50 people or more amid the coronavirus crisis.

Election officials in the three other states voting Tuesday — Arizona, Florida and Illinois — have said they will proceed with their primaries, though Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) questioned the wisdom of that during a post-debate interview Sunday.

Meanwhile, Edison Media Research projected that former vice president Joe Biden had won the Democratic primary in Washington state, which voted last Tuesday.

Following their first one-on-one debate, Sanders and Biden both held virtual events Monday on the eve of more key primaries in a Democratic presidential nominating contest transformed by the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic Party’s presidential delegate process | Election calendar | Where candidates stand on key issues

9:33 PM: Ohio officials warn again of risks of holding Tuesday’s primary but don’t say whether they will appeal

In a statement late Monday, Ohio officials reiterated their concern about the health risks of holding Tuesday’s primary but did not say whether they planned to appeal Judge Richard A. Frye’s decision.

“The only thing more important than a free and fair election is the health and safety of Ohioans,” DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said. “The Ohio Department of Health and the CDC have advised against anyone gathering in groups larger than 50 people, which will occur if the election goes forward. Additionally, Ohioans over 65 and those with certain health conditions have been advised to limit their nonessential contact with others, affecting their ability to vote or serve as poll workers.”

“Logistically, under these extraordinary circumstances, it simply isn’t possible to hold an election tomorrow that will be considered legitimate by Ohioans,” they added. “They mustn’t be forced to choose between their health and exercising their constitutional rights.”

By: Felicia Sonmez and Elise Viebeck

9:15 PM: DNC chairman urges states to increase vote-by-mail options before November

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said Monday night that he wouldn’t “second-guess” the decisions of state election officials to hold or delay primaries. But he urged states to widen vote-by-mail options before November.

“There’s actually a solution to this. ... The broader issue is we need to make it easier for people to vote,” Perez said in an interview on MSNBC.

Perez called for states to implement further measures for mail-in voting “wherever practicable.”

“That’s how you can solve the problem,” he said. “We have to walk and chew gum ... understanding that this is a very, very challenging moment.”

By: Elise Viebeck

9:10 PM: In tele-town hall, Biden tells supporters he’d do better job than Trump combating coronavirus

Joe Biden used a tele-town hall Monday night to outline steps he thinks the Trump administration should take to combat the coronavirus pandemic and to tell voters that if he were president, the nation’s response would be different.

“No president can promise to prevent future outbreaks,” Biden said. “But I can promise you this: If I am president, we will be better prepared to deal with future pandemics, because there will be others to come.”

As the nation responded to the pandemic, the Biden campaign began canceling public events last Tuesday, and staff began working from home on Saturday, joining other Americans who have tried to isolate themselves.

On Monday, Biden endorsers held tele-town halls for volunteers in four states that were supposed to vote on Tuesday: Ohio, Florida, Arizona and Illinois. Uncertainty hangs over Ohio’s primary, after a judge rejected a lawsuit by the state’s governor to delay its primaries.

On the conference call, former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy encouraged people worried about their health to vote by mail or do curbside voting — and offered health tips for people headed to polling places.

Early on in his town hall, Biden told listeners that he — like everyone else in the United States — was dealing with a new reality.

“I know this isn’t the way that any of us would prefer to connect and engage. … And I appreciate all of you for bearing with us as we figure out a new way to campaign,” he said.

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

9:04 PM: Sanders strikes reflective tone in ‘digital rally’ after recent losses

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose aides were looking to fire up supporters on the eve of Tuesday’s primaries, stuck a reflective tone during a “digital rally” broadcast online, looking back on the achievements and shortcomings of his campaign.

After losing badly in the second straight round of primaries last week, Sanders has been offering unusually blunt public assessments of his efforts, arguing that he has failed to convince Democrats he is a better bet than former vice president Joe Biden to beat President Trump, but has won the battle of ideas and the support of young people.

On Monday night, he renewed those arguments in a bit more detail than he has before, and issued a stern warning to party leaders not to overlook the youth vote.

“It really does stun me to what degree the Democratic establishment continues to ignore the needs and the ideas of younger people,” said Sanders.

The senator said that “in many ways we won the ideological struggle,” pointing to the growing popularity of policy ideas he has long championed. And he claimed victory in the “generational battle,” touting his dominance among younger Democrats.

But speaking in stark terms, Sanders admitted, “We’re doing poorly with older people.” He added, “I gotta work on that.”

He said that most people feel “Joe Biden is the more electable candidate,” a verdict with which he did not agree. He acknowledged his struggles to bring out new, nontraditional voters in large numbers — a core part of his professed strategy — but expressed hope they would show up in November.

The “digital rally” featured musical performances from Neil Young and the Free Nationals, as well as appearances by actress Daryl Hannah and Sanders campaign officials speaking in short video entries from the states set to vote on Tuesday. They encouraged voters to support the Vermont senator.

Polls show Sanders trailing Biden by wide margins in the states headed to the polls on Tuesday — Florida, Arizona and Illinois. Officials in Ohio are in a legal battle over whether its primary will be delayed over the concerns about the novel coronavirus.

Sanders spoke at length about the virus, saying that it has reinforced the need to enact a Medicare-for-all system in which the government is the sole insurer. He also said it was a moment to consider and rectify economic inequities that could become more severe during the crisis.

“One of the great concerns that I have is we live in a moment of unfettered capitalism,” Sanders said.

By: Sean Sullivan

8:20 PM: Uncertainty looms over Ohio primary as state judge rejects governor’s efforts to postpone Tuesday’s vote

Less than 12 hours before voting was set to begin across Ohio, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard A. Frye rejected a temporary restraining order supported by DeWine seeking a delay because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. Frye said that rescheduling the election would “set a terrible precedent.”

“There are too many factors to balance in this uncharted territory,” he said at a court hearing Monday evening.

A spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said his office was figuring out what to do and whether there is enough time to file an appeal.

“That’s the million-dollar question right now,” said Bethany McCorkle, Yost’s communications director. “People are trying to figure out where that would be appealed and if there’s time.”

Mike West, communications manager for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, said that officials in his county have refrained from calling or emailing poll workers to tell them the election was off, since the situation was pending court approval.

“We were very careful not to stop doing our work to prepare for tomorrow’s election, because we wanted to wait for the official ruling,” he said.

“Now we’re waiting to see if there’s a response to the ruling,” he said.

Joanna Connors in Cleveland contributed to this report.

By: Felicia Sonmez and Elise Viebeck

7:52 PM: Arizona officials insist their primary will go on as planned

Hours after Ohio officials moved to postpone the state’s presidential primary from Tuesday to June, Arizona officials insisted their contest would go on, arguing it may not be safer to delay voting given the uncertain spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We understand the apprehension that voters have right now,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said in a Monday afternoon news conference in Phoenix. “This decision was not made lightly. And what it comes down to is that we have no guarantee that there will be a safer time to hold this election in the near future.”

“There are thousands of workers in communities across the state that must continue the job of counting the ballots in the days following the election,” Hobbs added. “The longer we wait the more difficult and dangerous this will become.”

Her comments came as Arizona officials announced an additional six new cases of coronavirus, bringing the overall state total to 18. In recent days, county election officials across the state have moved to relocate or close polling sites in communities deemed vulnerable to the virus, including in retirement communities around Maricopa County. And some other locations have been forced to close, including those in public schools across the state that have been shuttered for at least two weeks as the state tries to curb community spread.

That has raised local concerns about voter turnout. On Sunday, Brianna Westbrook, a vice chair of the Arizona Democratic Party who is also co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Arizona campaign, posted (and later deleted) a message on Twitter calling to “push back the election a few weeks until it is safe.”

On Monday, Hobbs insisted election officials are planning to do everything they can to protect both poll workers and voters on Tuesday, including the distribution of hand sanitizer at voting sites. She said workers will try to keep voters a safe distance apart and to get people “in and out quickly.”

“Our democracy has risen to challenges in the past and it must continue to do so,” Hobbs said.

By: Holly Bailey

7:28 PM: Biden wins Washington primary

Biden is projected to win the Washington primary, among the six contests held last Tuesday.

The state awards its 89 delegates proportionally, meaning Biden will not win them all when the final numbers are tallied.

The Pacific Northwestern state votes entirely by mail, and a substantial number of voters sent in their ballots early, making it possible that the reshuffling of the race around Super Tuesday didn’t figure in the choices of a set of voters.

During the 2016 primary, Washington held caucuses, which handed Sanders a thumping victory over Hillary Clinton. The state switched to a government-run primary ahead of the 2020 cycle.

See the full results here.

By: Isaac Stanley-Becker

6:34 PM: Florida governor says the primary will be go forward Tuesday: ‘We’re not going to panic’

Tuesday’s presidential primary in Florida will proceed as scheduled, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Monday afternoon, even as Ohio officials said they were seeking to postpone their Tuesday contest until June. Kentucky also announced it was pushing back its May 19 primary to June 23.

“We’re not going to panic,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Tallahassee.

Florida ballots are filled out with ink pens — voters color in a small oval across from a candidate’s name. In most counties, the only race on the primary ballot is the presidential contest.

“Health officials say, given the nature of the primary and the way you do one oval most of the time for most counties, that can be done safely,” DeSantis said.

Election supervisors across the state have said voters can use their own pens — with black or blue ink — to fill in the oval that marks their vote. Pens at polling places will be sanitized after each use, as will voting equipment, they said.

“It’s one little oval that you’re going to do,” he said. “Most of the votes have probably already been cast.”

Secretary of State Laurel Lee said nearly 2 million ballots have been cast already.

“We are confident that voters can safely and securely go to polls and cast ballots in tomorrow’s election,” Lee said.

She said voters who do not want to go to a polling place can designate a person and sign an affidavit to pick up and return a ballot to their local supervisor-of-elections office before polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

DeSantis said canceling the election would send the wrong message.

“The signal it sends is that somehow we’re paralyzed, and I don’t think that’s the case,” he said. “We’re taking prudent steps. People are taking it seriously, and I think we can do it in a levelheaded way.”

By: Lori Rozsa

4:34 PM: Sanders, top surrogate question whether Tuesday primaries should be held

The Sanders campaign has sent mixed signals about whether voters should go to the polls Tuesday.

On Sunday night, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Sanders whether the primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio should take place.

“That is a very good question,” Sanders replied, adding: “I’m thinking about some of the elderly people sitting behind the desks registering people to enroll, that stuff. Does that make a lot of sense? I’m not sure that it does.”

Sanders’s comments have been echoed by at least one aide. Briahna Joy Gray, national press secretary for the Sanders campaign, attacked Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders on Twitter on Sunday night. On CNN, Symone Sanders has said the CDC said that “it’s safe out there for Tuesday.”

“The only guidance we have so far is that we should not gather in groups of 50 people or more,” Gray tweeted. “I’m sure it’s an honest mistake, but this is a public health crisis.” Her comment drew accusations that she was seeking to suppress the vote.

Bernie Sanders spokesman Mike Casca did not respond to a request seeking clarity on the campaign’s position on voting Tuesday. Nina Turner, a national co-chair for the Sanders campaign, said people “need to do what the medical professionals say do.”

RoseAnn DeMoro, a close Sanders friend and the former head of a nurses union, said she thought it was “insane” that the primaries had not been moved. “I think the primaries are putting people in harm’s way,” she said. If there are issues with the vote on Tuesday, it could “in part” delegitimize the process, DeMoro said.

Asked for the Biden campaign’s stance, a spokesman pointed to a statement from deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield last week urging voters who are feeling healthy and are symptom-free, with no reasons to believe they were exposed to the virus, to vote Tuesday. Those who are not, are exhibiting symptoms or are otherwise at risk should explore remote voting options, the statement said.

Ohio’s DeWine said Monday that he would seek to delay in-person voting in his state’s primary, set for Tuesday.

By: Sean Sullivan

4:15 PM: Floridians donate hand sanitizer to polling sites ahead of Tuesday’s vote

Reports that Florida election officials don’t have enough hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to stock their voting locations for Tuesday’s presidential primary has prompted donations — from voters.

A county commissioner in Okaloosa County, who is also an officer of the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, took up a collection of sanitizers and wipes to be distributed to 32 polling locations on Tuesday.

Those spots wouldn’t have been equipped otherwise, according to the county’s elections supervisor, Paul Lux. In addition, Lux’s warehouse foreman took a trip through the local Walmart over the weekend, on the off-chance that the shelves had been restocked.

“He just happened to make a second lap as they were putting out more sanitizer,” Lux said. “He grabbed all of them.” Then, encountering other shoppers who were also on the hunt for sanitizer, the worker decided to share his stash, leaving with just four bottles.

Meanwhile Lux, along with election supervisors in neighboring Santa Rosa and Escambia counties, all received notice late Sunday from the state Division of Emergency Management that supplies would be made available immediately.

The problem: They would be ready for pickup in Orlando, about seven hours away.

“Thankfully, my emergency management personnel immediately dispatched somebody to Orlando last night to pick up the supplies and come back,” Lux said. “Not only for my county but the two counties west of me as well.”

Lux said Florida regulations do not require polling locations to offer restrooms, so in some places hand-washing is not an option, making the sanitizer all the more necessary.

By: Amy Gardner

4:14 PM: Trump says he thinks it’s ‘unnecessary’ to postpone elections due to coronavirus, contradicting DeWine

At Monday’s coronavirus task force press briefing, President Trump weighed in on Tuesday’s primaries, saying he doesn’t believe it’s necessary for states to cancel in-person voting.

Trump’s remarks come shortly after Ohio’s DeWine announced that he will recommended a voting extension through June 2.

“I think postponing elections, it’s not a very good thing,” Trump told reporters. “They have lots of room in the electoral places. … But I think postponing is unnecessary.”

Trump said he would ultimately leave the decision up to each state, but he noted that “postponing an election is a very tough thing.”

By: Felicia Sonmez

3:35 PM: Despite headwinds, allies pushing for Sanders to stay in race

Some of Bernie Sanders’s confidants are pushing him to continue his long-shot campaign for the Democratic nomination despite growing head winds and a coronavirus crisis prompting states such as Ohio to rethink or delay their primaries.

In interviews, three longtime allies argued Sanders has clear justification to keep running. None could say what the Vermont senator ultimately will decide. Sanders has scheduled a remote rally for Monday evening.

“There are millions of people who are depending on him to continue. … You know, there are only two people left. Do the voters in those states deserve to have a choice? I would say yes,” said Nina Turner, a national co-chair of the Sanders campaign and one of the candidate’s trusted advisers. “And it keeps the issues he’s fighting for up front.”

Larry Cohen, who chairs a nonprofit organization established by Sanders, said he wants to see Sanders continue the fight to accumulate delegates, which he hopes will give the movement some power to shape the party’s stance on health-care and climate change. He also said he thought contesting each race could help influence the party at local levels.

“It’s crucial to continue the primary process,” Cohen said.

RoseAnn DeMoro, a close Sanders friend and the former head of an influential nurses union, said Sanders needs to fight on because she does not have faith in Biden. “Biden is a bureaucrat and Bernie’s a leader,” she said, adding, “I think it would be crazy for Bernie to get out at this moment.”

Inside the Sanders orbit, there was private concern Sunday’s debate did not do enough to cause a major shift in the race, as some had hoped it would.

But the campaign has sought to project a positive outlook, distributing talking points Sunday night to supporters suggesting Sanders made clear “he’s the best candidate to take on Donald Trump,” and presented a strong argument for how to combat the coronavirus.

By: Sean Sullivan

3:28 PM: No in-person voting will take place in Tuesday’s primary in Ohio, governor says

At a news conference Monday, DeWine recommended a voting extension through June 2. He said a lawsuit will be filed to enact the change.

“We cannot conduct this election tomorrow,” DeWine said, noting that in-person voting would not conform with the CDC guidelines against gatherings of 50 people or more.

Last week, DeWine became the first governor to shut down schools statewide. On Sunday, he announced that all of Ohio’s bars and restaurants will be closed until further notice.

“We cannot tell people to stay inside, but also tell them to go out and vote,” DeWine said in a tweet after Monday’s news conference. He added: “I’m making this recommendation because we must also look out for our poll workers. … I believe when we look back on this, we’ll be happy we did this."

DeWine said all votes that have been cast will be counted, “and this recommendation would allow others to vote in the future.” If a judge approves the move to postpone the election until June, voters will still be able to request absentee ballots, he said.

Some, however, were unhappy with DeWine’s announcement Monday.

“It is regrettable that the state did not do more prior to this point,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Postponement should be a measure of last resort. There are certainly steps that Ohio officials could have done to this point to open up access.”

By: Felicia Sonmez, Elise Viebeck and Amy Gardner

2:35 PM: Maryland governor to announce decision Tuesday about status of late April primary

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will make an announcement Tuesday about whether the state’s April 28 primary will be postponed, said Hogan spokeswoman Mike Ricci.

In addition to the presidential primary, there will also be congressional races on the ballot, including a special election to fill the seat representing Maryland’s 7th Congressional District formerly held by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who died last year.

Kweisi Mfume won a decisive victory in February, but Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a former state party chair and the congressman’s widow, and state Sen. Jill P. Carter (Baltimore City), a former public defender, are still competing in the primary.

There is also a competitive mayoral primary in Baltimore City and city council races.

Jared DeMarinis, director of the candidacy and campaign finance division of the state Board of Elections, said he has seen an uptick recently in the number of absentee ballots requested. He said if Hogan postpones the primary, the Board of Elections will begin a public-relations campaign to ensure that all residents know about the change.

He declined to comment when asked whether he had told Hogan’s office what decision he thinks should be made.

“It’s 100 percent his office that has the ability to decide,” DeMarinis said.

By: Rachel Chason

2:09 PM: In Florida, sheriff’s deputies are being asked to help at voting locations Tuesday: ‘We’re hemorrhaging poll workers by the hour’

In Pasco County, north of Tampa, Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said he is working to draft sheriff’s deputies, school district workers and county employees to fill in for poll workers Tuesday who are afraid to work because of the coronavirus — and cautioned that people who are sick should not vote in person.

“This is the only time you’ll hear me discourage voting,” said Corley, who he said he doesn’t want poll workers or other voters put in danger. “But if you’re sick, don’t come to the polls.”

Corley said voters can ask someone to pick up a mail-in ballot for them at the supervisor of elections office, and then have it returned it to the office by 7 p.m., when polls closed.

“There is an alternative,” Corley said. “I strongly urge that they not go to the polls if they’re not feeling well.”

Corley is one of many election officials in the four states slated to hold primaries Tuesday who are frantically trying to backfill their pool of workers. His office usually employees 1,000 poll workers, many of whom are retirement age. By Monday morning, 150 said they would not be coming in — and he said he expects more to drop out.

“They just flat-out told me, ‘I don’t want to do this, I’m not comfortable possibly putting myself in danger,’ ” Corley said. “I told them their health and safety is foremost. I don’t want to put anybody in a perilous situation.”

Corley said he has sought the help of other county agencies to ask their employees to volunteer to fill in for poll workers.

“I reached out to our county administrator and the sheriff, and also the school supervisor, and I said, ‘We’re hemorrhaging poll workers by the hour and we need your help,’ ” Corley said Monday.

Pasco County saw 19.48 percent turnout in early voting and mail-in votes for the primary. The county has 258,383 registered voters.

Paul Lux, supervisor of elections in Okaloosa County in Florida’s Panhandle, said he heard from four more poll workers Monday morning that they won’t report for work Tuesday, and he expects the number to continue to rise.

Lux also said he has ordered the closure of a voting location inside an assisted living facility that serves only residents of the facility after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Sunday night ordered no more visitors to such facilities. Lux plans to distribute ballots to the residents of the facility and then have an election official collect them in person.

By: Lori Rozsa and Amy Gardner

2:04 PM: Coronavirus tests American democracy as planning begins for ‘worst case’ in November election

The coronavirus pandemic is presenting a singular test for American democracy, prompting states to postpone their primaries while already causing lawyers and voting-rights groups to take steps to ensure access to the November election in the event that the outbreak is not contained by then.

Hardly any precedent exists for the dilemma now facing campaigns and voters in the states pressing ahead with their contests, as Americans are warned that they may need to “hunker down” to minimize casualties.

Read more here.

By: Isaac Stanley-Becker and Amy Gardner

1:38 PM: Nonpartisan group urges New York to delay primaries

A nonpartisan advocacy organization called on New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature to move its presidential primaries from April 28 to June 23, citing the need for “extraordinary measures” in response to the coronavirus threat.

Common Cause New York said the move would consolidate the presidential contests with the state’s legislative and congressional primaries, saving “lives and money.”

The group urged other steps related to absentee voting and polling place hygiene, including allowing voters to request absentee ballots by mail and to use the spread of covid-19 as a justification for their request.

“New Yorkers need not sacrifice our safety for the right to vote. We can work together to do both,” the group said in a statement.

Peter S. Kosinski, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, said the date of the primary was set by September legislation and so would either require action by the legislature or extraordinary emergency action by the governor.

“We haven’t made any changes. We are continuing to monitor this rapidly evolving situation,” said Kerri Biche, spokeswoman for Carl Heastie, the speaker of the New York State Assembly.

By: Elise Viebeck and Isaac Stanley-Becker

1:38 PM: New polls show sizable leads for Biden in Ohio, Arizona

Biden holds sizable leads in Ohio and Arizona, two of the states with primaries on Tuesday, according to a pair of new surveys by NBC News-Marist.

In Ohio, Biden draws the support of 58 percent of likely Democratic voters, compared with 35 percent for Sanders. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who remains in the race, gets 2 percent.

Among those who say they have already voted — about 1 in 7 — Biden is ahead of Sanders, 57 percent to 36 percent. His edge among those who have yet to vote is 59 percent to 34 percent.

In Arizona, Biden leads Sanders among likely Democratic voters, 53 percent to 36 percent, while Gabbard gets 1 percent.

Among those who say they have already voted — nearly 6 in 10 of the expected electorate — Biden is up 53 percent to 33 percent.

Among voters who have yet to cast a ballot, Biden’s lead is somewhat smaller, 53 percent to 39 percent.

By: John Wagner

1:18 PM: How will coronavirus affect voting in Tuesday’s primaries for Biden and Sanders?

Amid the expanding coronavirus crisis, some states are going full steam ahead with primaries (including the four holding presidential contests Tuesday). Others are delaying theirs for months or, like Wyoming, canceling the in-person part of caucuses.

What’s the effect of this on a still-not-settled Democratic presidential primary? Biden is trying to secure an insurmountable delegate lead over Sanders. But to do that, he needs primaries to be held sooner rather than later, and he needs his supporters to feel comfortable to go out and vote.

Is that going to happen? Let’s look at what we know.

Read more here.

By: Amber Phillips

1:09 PM: Democratic Party weighs more changes in response to coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing the Democratic Party to adjust its planning for the remainder of the primary calendar, scrambling state plans to select convention delegates, delaying preparations for a 12th debate in April and increasing pressure for a change in party rules.

The most pressing concern for party leaders is how to handle county and state conventions over the next months that will select the people who will serve as delegates at the national Democratic convention in accordance with the caucus and primary results. In normal times, states such as Iowa and New Hampshire would have in-person gatherings to choose their delegates, but the national party has made clear that states can shift those plans to account for the viral threat.

“We are providing flexibility for how you get those bodies into the delegate slots,” said a Democratic official who requested anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations.

State parties will still be required to choose their delegates in proportions prescribed by primary and caucus results, from slates that have been approved by the candidates who have been awarded delegates.

The party is also monitoring the four remaining states that will hold primaries or caucuses in the coming months that are run by the party and not the state governments.

Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming are still scheduled to hold contests on April 4, and Kansas is scheduled for May 2. In each case, state parties had planned to rely heavily on vote by mail, which is likely to allow the events to proceed with minimal disruption, the official said.

Planning for the next Democratic debate has been put on hold for the moment, given the uncertainty.

Democratic Party Chair Tom Perez had originally planned for a 12th debate if necessary in April, but given the nationwide restrictions, the event is unlikely to have a studio audience or a spin room or be held in a state that requires significant travel by the candidates. The CNN debate Sunday night, held with minimal staffing at CNN’s studios in Washington, provides a potential model.

“We are taking everything day by day at the moment,” the Democratic official said.

Louisiana has rescheduled its primary for June 20, which is after the June 7 deadline in party rules for choosing delegates for the party convention. Under the current rules, Louisiana will be punished for such a late contest, by losing at least half of its delegates at the convention.

But that punishment could also be overturned by a vote of the Rules and Bylaws Committee later this year, given the extraordinary circumstances. Planning for the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee in July continues to move forward, according to the official.

By: Michael Scherer

12:45 PM: In a new video, Sanders presses his debate argument with Biden on Social Security

Sanders sought Monday to exploit the most heated exchange of Sunday night’s debate in which he pressed Biden on his past willingness to cut Social Security — which after first denying, Biden argued was part of a broader strategy to put potential cuts to entitlement programs on the table as a means to achieving a broader deal to reduce the deficit.

In a video posted to YouTube, Sanders included clips of the debate exchange interspersed with past recordings of Biden, a former senator from Delaware, talking about his efforts to freeze entitlement spending. During the debate, Sanders hinted that he would be releasing videos to drive home his point.

During the debate, Sanders sought more broadly to portray Biden as inconsistent on issues important to Democratic voters, including same-sex marriage, bankruptcy protections and federal funding of abortion.

Biden countered by highlighting Sanders’s evolving record on gun control, noting that he had voted against the Brady Bill, which mandated federal background checks on firearm purchasers, and supported shielding gun manufacturers from liability when their products were used in mass shootings.

The most heated and personal exchange came when Sanders criticized Biden for his past willingness to cut Social Security. Biden denied saying that there should be cuts to entitlement programs, triggering an outburst form Sanders.

“Alright, America!” he said, arms spread wide. “Go to the YouTube right now!” He pointed to numerous clips of Biden having argued that everything was on the table, including cuts to programs such as Social Security. Biden argued that he was willing to put the potential cuts on the table as part of a broader deal.

“But we did not cut it,” Biden said.

“I know,” Sanders said. “Because people like me helped stop that.”

By: John Wagner

12:22 PM: New rules for campaigning will test the adaptability of Trump and Biden

Neither President Trump nor former vice president Joe Biden is ideally suited for the demands of a political campaign operating in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nor is either known for his adaptability. Trump feeds off the energy of big and adoring crowds. His boisterous rallies have been the signature element of his campaign style since he first became a candidate. For the next several months — no one knows exactly how long — he won’t be able to do that. Virtual campaigning won’t cut it for the president.

Biden is best at the rope line, where his natural empathy comes to the fore. He may not rouse audiences when he is at a rally, but afterward he is at his most comfortable. He touches people, lays his hands on their shoulders and trades hugs with supporters. In a time of social distancing, all that will be missing from his campaign tool kit.

Both Trump and Biden will have to adapt, but just how well is another question. Both are used to doing business the way they’ve done it for decades.

Trump hasn’t adapted to the presidency; he’s tried to make the presidency adapt to him. The limitations of that style and approach are on display every day during the pandemic crisis.

Biden too relies on old instincts. He is rooted in the past, with years of political muscle memory from decades in the Senate and later the vice presidency. Remember, it was Biden who made a reference to record players during a debate last October.

It’s likely to take some time for both politicians to come to terms with the new demands that are being imposed on them as they grapple with how to communicate with and energize the voters that they will need in November to come to their side.

By: Dan Balz

12:14 PM: Ohio orders curbside voting, special absentee procedures in response to coronavirus

Ahead of its presidential primaries, Ohio ordered all counties to make curbside voting available to people who are concerned about entering polling locations due to coronavirus and to process absentee voting requests until 3 p.m. Tuesday from people who are “unforeseeably confined.”

Sent to counties on Sunday, the directive from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose came after the League of Women Voters of Ohio and two other groups called on the state in a letter Sunday to modify its rules in response to the virus.

“We urge your office to take immediate action to ease and modify absentee ballot laws so that thousands of voters are not disenfranchised during Ohio’s March 17, 2020 primary election through no fault of their own,” officials from the League, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the liberal think tank Demos wrote to LaRose.

The order takes steps to ease voting access for people who are self-quarantining or hospitalized, including allowing family members or board of elections employees to deliver and return ballots in certain cases. Absentee ballots that are returned by mail must be postmarked on Monday and received before March 27.

Curbside voting will require the concerned voter to send another person into the polling place to alert workers of their wish to vote. The directive lays out a 15-step process for the person’s ballot to be cast, including an identification check and verification of the voter’s signature. Anyone who is in line for curbside voting by 7:30 p.m. Tuesday must be permitted to vote, the directive stated.

Voters who are healthy were encouraged to cast ballots as usual.

LaRose was expected to discuss the new rules at a news conference with Gov. Mike DeWine (R) at 2 p.m. Monday.

By: Elise Viebeck

11:21 AM: Unable to hold rallies, Trump campaign shifts to virtual training and phone calls

President Trump’s reelection campaign — forced to adapt in the face of a global pandemic that has made political rallies a public health threat — has launched a “national week of action” aimed at boosting support for him through virtual seminars and meetings.

As the Trump administration has discouraged gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, the president’s signature “Keep America Great” rallies have been essentially outlawed during a key phase in an election year. Trump fundraisers, bus tours and surrogate events also have been canceled.

Trump’s campaign has said it would instead use “unprecedented virtual and digital campaign tools” to keep spreading his message during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee joint national week of action is part of a broader bid to shift the reelection effort to an online format, including virtual events with surrogates, online volunteer training and outreach to supporters who have yet to register to vote.

“We have a huge advantage over Democrats and are well on our way toward our goal of two million trained volunteers, which means we already have a massive army we can mobilize to help re-elect the President,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.

But it’s clear the coronavirus is having an outsize effect on the Trump campaign, given its heavy reliance on major rallies to boost enthusiasm, gather data from supporters and energize the president.

Rallies were key during Trump’s 2016 campaign, and his team had been ramping up events this year, holding as many as two or three rallies each week. Trump said last week that he was considering moving ahead with a March 25 rally in Florida, but the campaign has not announced such an event.

By: Toluse Olorunnipa

11:08 AM: A lack of audience made for a more rawly emotional event

Jimmy Fallon might need a live audience to feed his routines and laugh at his jokes, but Biden and Sanders clearly don’t.

For one thing, as Sunday night’s contentious, spectator-free debate reaffirmed, neither of the remaining major contenders for the Democratic nomination has much of a future in standup. For another, the format of two candidates going at it works better when the distraction of a crowd — sometimes stacked with their own cheering sections — is taken out of the equation.

At least it works better for these two particular candidates. Biden and Sanders were compelled this time around to direct all of their aspirational energy and anxiety at each other, making the evening a more rawly emotional event. You could feel for the first time in this campaign one contestant talking to (and sometimes at) the other, without the necessity of external human feedback, to validate their parries and thrusts.

Neither Biden nor Sanders is a showman. “Entertainer” is not at the top of their political résumés. So for the purposes of a rhetorical conversation, when you remove the audience, they were relieved of some of the burden to “perform.” They emerged as purer versions of themselves: Biden the tolerant pleaser, Sanders the grumpy crusader. (I joked on Twitter that a Biden-Sanders ticket would be like a bad revival of Neil Simon’s play “The Sunshine Boys.”)

The CNN and Univision moderators did an admirable job of stepping into the background and letting the two stars carry the production. As a result, the debate was a more intimate experience — not a great dialogue, but a rewardingly unvarnished one.

By: Peter Marks

11:02 AM: ‘It’s not going to be me,’ Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, says of Biden’s search for a female running mate

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said Monday that she was heartened by Biden’s pledge during Sunday night’s debate to put a woman on the ticket if he’s the Democratic presidential nominee.

But, she said, “it’s not going to be me.”

Appearing on MSNBC, Whitmer, who endorsed Biden before her state’s primary, said that she considers it “important that he has a woman running mate, to be honest” and that there are “a lot of phenomenal potential running mates.”

“It’s not going to be me,” she continued. “But I am going to have a hand in helping make sure that he has the rounded-out ticket that can win.”

Whitmer won the governor’s seat in Michigan in 2018, taking it back for Democrats for the first time in nearly a decade. She delivered the 2020 Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address.

By: John Wagner

10:54 AM: Biden extends olive branches to the left, but debate highlights his challenges in unifying Democrats

Biden wants to turn his attention toward President Trump and the general election, but the former vice president understands that he still hasn’t clinched the Democratic nomination and must woo the left to activate the party’s base in ways that Hillary Clinton failed to do four years ago.

Sunday night’s debate showed how much work Biden still has cut out for him, even as he’s poised to expand his delegate lead with four more primaries on Tuesday, as well as the extent to which Sanders is not ready to crown the front-runner.

Biden announced his support, shortly before the debate, for making public colleges and universities tuition-free for students whose families earn $125,000 or less, and he credited Sanders for his focus on student debt. Earlier in the weekend, Biden endorsed the bankruptcy plan of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), an issue over which they clashed during a hearing when she was a law professor and he was a senator from Delaware.

“It’s a good proposal,” Biden said, “and she should get credit.”

Read more here.

By: James Hohmann

10:46 AM: Veteran Canadian-born rocker Neil Young, a freshly minted U.S. citizen, headlining Sanders’s ‘virtual’ rally

Veteran Canadian-born rocker Neil Young is headlining a “virtual campaign rally” on Monday night for Sanders, just two months after obtaining his American citizenship.

Young, whose anthem “Rockin’ in the Free World” has been a staple at Sanders’s rallies since his 2016 presidential bid, formally announced his support for the senator from Vermont in a lengthy post on his website.

“I support Bernie Sanders because I listen to what he says. Every point he makes is what I believe in. Every one,” Young wrote. “In 2016, if Bernie had run instead of Hillary Clinton, I think we would not have the incompetent mess we have now.”

According to Sanders’s campaign, Young, 74, will provide music for Monday night’s rally, along with Jim James of My Morning Jacket and the Free Nationals. Also appearing will be Young’s wife, actress Daryl Hannah, the campaign said.

Young’s application for U.S. citizenship was delayed, he said in a letter to his fans last year, “due to my use of marijuana and how some people who smoke it have exhibited a problem.”

Young said the problem stemmed from an April 19 clarification to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy that lists the use of marijuana, among other federally controlled substances, as a conditional bar to establishing “good moral character.”

By: John Wagner

10:22 AM: Co-chair of Sanders’s Arizona campaign calls for delaying Tuesday’s primary

Brianna Westbrook, the co-chairwoman of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign in Arizona, is calling on state election officials there to postpone Tuesday’s Democratic primary, given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than 50 people because of the risk of the novel coronavirus.

“The CDC announced that gatherings of 50 or more should be canceled for the next eight weeks,” Westbrook, who also serves as vice chairwoman of the Arizona Democratic Party, tweeted late Sunday night. “There will be more than 50 people at polling locations on Tuesday. It’s time to push back the election a few weeks until it’s safe.”

In a statement, the Arizona Democratic Party later said that Westbrook’s comments were “not in line with the conclusions reached by the Arizona Democratic Party.”

“We believe Tuesday’s election operating procedures align with the CDC and we fully support the decisions of [Arizona] Secretary [of State Katie] Hobbs, working with state health officials and county elections officials to ensure that voters can safely participate on Election Day.”

Westbrook’s tweet echoes but is more emphatic than comments from Sanders himself. During an appearance on CNN on Sunday night, when he was asked if Tuesday’s primaries should be held in light of the latest CDC guidance, Sanders (I-Vt.) said, “That is a very good question.” He cited concerns about older people in particular.

Former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, has been urging supporters to vote on Tuesday if they’re healthy.

“The right to vote is the most sacred American right there is,” Biden said in a tweet on Sunday before the latest CDC guidance. “State election officials are working closely with public health officials to hold safe elections. If you are feeling healthy, not showing symptoms, and not at risk of being exposed to COVID-19: please vote on Tuesday.”

In another tweet, Biden said those with coronavirus symptoms or in at-risk groups should vote absentee or by mail if possible.

By: John Wagner

9:07 AM: Klobuchar ‘not engaging in hypotheticals’ on vice presidency

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said during a television interview Monday that she is “not engaging in hypotheticals” about whom Biden might pick as a running mate a day after he pledged to join forces with a woman.

Appearing on CNN, Klobuchar, who endorsed Biden after ending her own presidential bid, was asked how she felt about Biden’s pronouncement, which came during Sunday night’s debate against Sanders in Washington.

“I think what he says is true: There are a lot of women that would be more than qualified to be president,” Klobuchar said. “I personally am not engaging in hypotheticals about this.”

Anchor John Berman said Biden had just made the issue an “un-hypothetical” and continued to press Klobuchar about her interest in the vice presidency, noting her past statement that someone from the Midwest should be on the Democratic ticket.

“I think the vice president is going to make his own decision,” Klobuchar said of Biden, who served in the role under President Barack Obama. “There are a lot of factors that go into it."

Asked if she is not ruling out a spot on the ticket, Klobuchar demurred.

“What I am doing is going back to Washington to do my job,” she said.

By: John Wagner

8:58 AM: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker endorses Biden on eve of primary

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), who had repeatedly said he planned to stay out of the Democratic presidential primary, on Monday offered his endorsement to Biden on the eve of his state’s nominating contest.

“As our nation faces some of the biggest challenges of our time, I know Vice President Joe Biden is the right candidate to beat Donald Trump and lead us into a new era,” Pritzker said in a statement. “It’s time to unite as Democrats to restore respect to our nation’s highest office. Joe will stand on the side of working families and serve as a partner to us in Illinois as we work to create good paying jobs, expand healthcare and invest in education.”

Illinois is among four states with primaries scheduled on Tuesday. It has 155 delegates.

Pritzker has gained attention in recent days for his aggressive response to the coronavirus outbreak, including school and restaurant closures. He said in at a news conference on Sunday, however, that the elections must go on.

“Democracy must continue,” Pritzker said in Chicago. “We have to elect leaders, even in less than ideal circumstances.”

By: John Wagner

8:38 AM: Coronavirus worries alarm voters and elections officials

Voters, campaigns and election officials in four states holding contests Tuesday are braced for a presidential primary day unlike any in memory, as the surging threat of the novel coronavirus has forced major changes at voting locations, rattled poll workers and left voters worried about how to cast their ballots.

In Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio, election officials have raced to replace poll workers who have said they will not show up on Tuesday, supply thousands of precincts with sanitizing supplies, and notify voters whose polling locations, many in senior facilities, have been moved as a result of the pandemic.

Voters, meanwhile, have flooded information hotlines. Among their urgent questions: where to vote, how to deliver a ballot if they are under quarantine and how to vote if they registered while attending a college that is now closed.

Read more here.

By: Amy Gardner and Elise Viebeck

8:34 AM: Biden rolls out more Ohio endorsements

One the eve of Tuesday’s four primaries, Biden’s campaign continued to roll out new endorsements, including those of about two dozen faith leaders and about two dozen local officials across the state.

The attempted show of strength comes amid questions about how many voters might choose to stay home — particularly older voters, an important part of Biden’s coalition — given concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“I urge my fellow men and women of faith to join me in electing a truly decent person who can help America come together again — and that person is Joe Biden,” Elder Larry Price of the Triedstone Baptist Church of Columbus said in a statement.

Biden’s campaign, which has put a larger emphasis on endorsement than Sanders’s campaign, said it has picked up 100 endorsements out of Ohio from elected officials and community leaders in the past week.

Ohio has 136 delegates in play on Tuesday.

By: John Wagner

8:01 AM: Biden plans ‘tele-town hall,’ while Sanders will stage ‘virtual campaign rally’ with celebrities

Both Biden and Sanders are preparing to stage virtual events Monday as they continue to navigate a Democratic presidential nominating contest transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden announced Sunday night that he and his wife, Jill Biden, will host a “tele-town hall” with voters in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — the four states with primaries Tuesday. Biden’s event is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, and, according to his campaign, he will listen “to voters’ concerns and ideas around restoring the soul of the nation, rebuilding the middle class, and unifying the country.”

Sanders previously announced plans for a Monday night “virtual campaign rally” that will include two celebrity guests — actress Daryl Hannah and musician Neil Young — and include musical performance. That is set to get underway at 7 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

By: John Wagner

7:57 AM: Sanders questions wisdom of holding primaries on Tuesday

During a post-debate interview, Sanders questioned the wisdom of holding primaries on Tuesday, given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now urging a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks because of the risk of the coronavirus.

Asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper whether the nominating contests in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio should be held as scheduled, Sanders replied, “That is a very good question.” He cited concerns about older people in particular.

The senator from Vermont noted that nominating contests in Louisiana, Georgia and Puerto Rico have already been postponed.

“Elections dates are very, very important,” Sanders said. “We don’t want to be getting into the habit of messing around with them.”

But he cited an example of an instance where it made sense: a New York City primary that had been scheduled on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“I would hope that governors listen to the public health experts, and what they are saying is … ‘We don’t want gatherings of more than 50 people,'" Sanders said. “I’m thinking about some of the elderly people sitting behind the desks registering people to enroll, that stuff. Does that make a lot of sense? I’m not sure that it does.”

By: John Wagner

7:56 AM: Biden holds sizable lead in Arizona poll

Biden holds a sizable lead over Sanders in Arizona, one of the four states holding primaries on Tuesday, according to a new poll.

Biden is favored by 51 percent of likely Democratic voters, compared with 31 percent for Sanders in a Monmouth University poll released Monday.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), who remains in the race, had 1 percent, while several candidates who have dropped out drew support, presumably from early voters. They included former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg with 5 percent; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, both with 3 percent; and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) with 1 percent.

The poll finds Sanders leading Biden among two key demographic groups: Latino voters (48 percent to 41 percent) and voters under age 50 (56 percent to 28 percent). But those advantages are more than offset by Biden’s strong support elsewhere, including among white voters (55 percent to 26 percent) and voters age 50 and up (64 percent to 16 percent).

“Biden has a strong advantage going into the primary,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement. “This is because much of his support has already been banked in the early vote. The closure of many polling places due to covid-19 means it is uncertain how many voters who planned to vote on Tuesday will actually show up.”

By: John Wagner

7:49 AM: Rep. Clyburn floats names of several black women as possible running mates for Biden

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), whose endorsement helped propel Biden to his first primary victory in South Carolina, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he would like to see a black woman as Biden’s running mate and floated a few suggestions.

“I would advise him that we need to have to have a woman on the ticket, and I prefer an African American woman,” Clyburn said on “Axios on HBO."

During Sunday night’s debate with Sanders, Biden pledged to pick a female nominee for vice president but offered no specifics beyond that.

Clyburn said Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) “ought to be in any discussion” about the Democratic ticket and cited two House members he thinks are qualified: Reps. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) and Val Demings (D-Fla.).

Clyburn also mentioned two Washington outsiders — former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms — as well as former national security adviser Susan E. Rice, who served during the Obama administration.

By: John Wagner

7:48 AM: Who are the women probably on Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president?

In Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate, Biden said he’d pick a woman as his running mate if he is the Democratic nominee. (Sanders said he’s considering it but wouldn’t commit the way Biden did.)

We’ve known for some time that Biden was leaning toward a woman. He has said he’d prefer a running mate “of color and/or a different gender.” His other criterion: someone he can trust. So, if he does win the nomination, who would be on his shortlist and why? Here are some educated guesses.

Read more here.

By: Amber Phillips

7:47 AM: ‘Shut this president up right now’: Sanders lashes out at Trump’s ‘blabbering’ response to coronavirus

The question posed by CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday night to the Democratic presidential contenders in an audience-free studio in Washington spoke to a moment of global crisis: What is the most important thing you would do to save American lives if you were president now?

Biden talked about pushing for more test kits and hospital beds for those infected with the novel coronavirus, as well as financial relief for Americans losing income as a result of widespread shutdowns and social distancing. Sanders was about to stump for the need for Medicare-for-all, but there was something else he thought would help save American lives during the pandemic.

“First thing we have got to do, whether or not I’m president, is to shut this president up right now, because he is undermining the doctors and the scientists who are trying to help the American people,” Sanders said of President Trump. “It is unacceptable for him to be blabbering with un-factual information which is confusing the general public.”

Read more here.

By: Timothy Bella

10:59 PM: Sanders and Biden were on the same side on Nicaragua

One of the sharpest exchanges of tonight’s debate came during a discussion of a fight Sanders and Biden were on the same side of: the effort to stop American aid to the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua during the 1980s.

The moment came after Ilia Calderón, a journalist with Univision, pressed Sanders on a comment noting that Cuba had greatly increased literacy and health standards under communist rule, then asked Biden about praise President Barack Obama had given during his visit to Cuba. Biden turned the question back to Sanders and his support for the left-wing Sandinistas, who overthrew Nicaragua’s government in 1979.

“The praising of the Sandinistas, the praising of Cuba, the praising just now of China…” Biden said.

But during the 1980s, Biden himself had opposed Republican efforts to support the Contras, who were working to take power back from the Sandinistas.

In 1984, Biden broke with some members of his own party to prevent the Reagan administration from funding the Contras. He consistently opposed it and took fire from Republicans, who argued that cutting off aid would only help the Sandinistas.

Sanders, for his part, visited Nicaragua in 1985, visiting with Ortega on the sixth anniversary of the Sandinistas’ victory. That visit was given closer scrutiny last year from the New York Times, which reported that attendees at a rally on that trip had chanted “the Yankee will die,” a point that Sanders blew off in an interview with the paper.

“Of course there was anti-American sentiment there,” he said. “This was a war being funded by the United States against the people of Nicaragua.”

From the Senate, and from Burlington’s city hall, Biden and Sanders held the same position; the difference was that only Sanders would go on the record defending Nicaragua’s socialist government.

By: David Weigel

10:39 PM: Puerto Rico Democrats ask to delay March 29 primary

Puerto Rico may delay its primary from March 29 to April 26, the latest in a series of moves by states and territories to push elections out of the time frame when voters have been told to protect against the novel coronavirus.

In a Sunday night statement, the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico said it would ask the territory’s legislature to move the primary, citing concern about “the welfare of voters.” But it also left open the possibility of moving the primary later.

“This is an unprecedented day-by-day situation,” said Charles Rodriguez, the local party chair. “Our intention is to keep all options open to ensure the citizen’s right to vote.”

In the recent past, Puerto Rico had held its contest much deeper into the primary calendar. Four years ago, it assigned its 60 delegates in a June primary; in 2008, it held a June 1 primary that gave a late lift to Hillary Clinton. Turnout fell dramatically between those primaries, from around 380,000 votes cast to less than 90,000.

The move to March was intended to expand the island’s role in the primary, and it succeeded; many Democratic presidential candidates made trips to the island, and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro pointedly made his first campaign stop there, to bring attention to problems stemming from the Trump administration’s reluctance to release money for post-hurricane recovery.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who lost the 2016 primary, had sketched out a comprehensive plan for Puerto Rico, calling for an end to austerity spending cuts and attacking the control board that the Obama administration created to deal with the island’s debt crisis.

By: David Weigel

10:09 PM: Biden, Sanders closing messages highlight their differences

Biden and Sanders used the final question of the evening — another one about the coronavirus, this one about how to reassure Americans — to reiterate messages each hammered all night.

Sanders talked about using the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to “rethink America” and create a nation “where we care about each other.”

“It is time to ask, ‘How did we get to where we are?’ Not only our lack of preparation for the virus, but also an economy where so many people are hurting,” Sanders said.

Biden, who has relied on compassion and empathy as cornerstones of his approach, did so again in his closing statement. He told the story of a family friend who is sitting outside the window of her mother’s room in a nursing home, dealing with the virus from as close as possible.

“I just can’t imagine what people are going through who have lost someone already,” Biden said. “... I can’t imagine the fear and concern people have.”

They also talked about unity.

Said Sanders: “Our hearts go out to everyone. We need to move aggressively to make sure every person in this country who has the virus, who thinks they have the virus, has all the health care they need because they are Americans.”

Said Biden: “One of the things that I think we have to understand is that this is an all-hands-on-deck [situation]. … This is bigger than any individual. This is bigger than yourself. This is about America. This is about the world. This is about how we bring people together and make the kind of sacrifices we need to make to get this done.”

In the end, both echoed arguments they used to begin the night, with Sanders alluding to the ways in which Medicare-for-all could help in a crisis and Biden emphasizing his experience in the Obama administration and the ways in which it would inform his approach to the pandemic.

When it was over, Biden headed over to the moderators to chat as Sanders waved goodbye, each doing his interpretation of social distancing as the cameras panned away.

By: Chelsea Janes

9:58 PM: Sanders, Biden dodge questions on vulnerabilities with black and Latino voters

Sanders and Biden were asked about their vulnerabilities — for Biden, losing Hispanic voters to Sanders; for Sanders, lagging Biden among African American voters.

Neither answered the question head on.

Biden underlined his support from suburban women, African American voters and others and ticked through the states he has won. He also drew attention to Sanders’s identification as a democratic socialist and an independent.

“The reason is they know I’m a Democrat with a capital D who in fact believes that our base is the base of the Democratic Party," Biden said.

Sanders would not explain his struggles with black voters. Instead, he argued that while he is losing to Biden in keys states, he is winning the ideological argument and the battle for young voters. He said those ingredients would be crucial to defeating Trump.

By: Sean Sullivan

9:54 PM: Biden on Iraq: 'They assured me we wouldn’t use force '

When asked what he’d learned about his vote on the Iraq War, Biden cited just one: Don’t trust George W. Bush.

“I learned I can’t take the word of a president when they assured me we wouldn’t use force,” he said. Then he pivoted to a campaign talking point, that after getting elected, Obama “turned to me and said, ‘Get those troops out of there.’”

He conceded that he’d made good and bad decisions but said, “I’m prepared to compare my foreign policy credentials against my friend here every day of the week.”

But Sanders insisted that the “issue is not just the war in Iraq." He said: "That was a long time ago. The issue was the trade agreement. … The issue was the disastrous bankruptcy bill that you supported.”

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

9:49 PM: ‘That’s like saying Jack the Ripper …’

Ahead of Tuesday votes in Florida, where more than a million Cuban immigrants currently reside, moderators asked Sanders about his comments praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s literacy programs — despite that regime’s well-documented human rights violations.

“I have opposed authoritarianism, whether it’s in Cuba, whether it’s in Saudi Arabia, whether it’s in China, whether it’s in Russia. That’s my life record,” Sanders said. “... What I believe right now in this world is we are faced with a global crisis and a movement toward authoritarianism.”

Later, Sanders defended his comments and his right to point out what authoritarian regimes do well.

“We condemn authoritarianism,” Sanders said. “... but to simply say that nothing ever done by any of those administrations had a positive impact on their people, I think, would be incorrect.”

Biden was less nuanced in his interpretation, and continued his pointed critiques of Sanders’s stance.

“That’s like saying Jack the Ripper ...” Biden began, before Sanders — apparently intuiting the end of Biden’s sentence — said it wasn’t.

“The idea of praising a country that is violating human rights around the world is, in fact, makes our allies wonder what’s going on,” Biden said. “What do you think the South Koreans think when they see him praise China like that?”

By: Chelsea Janes

9:39 PM: Biden hammers home point that he’s ready to lead now

As the first half of the debate focused on the coronavirus pandemic, Biden sought to hammer one overarching point home: that he’s best to handle the current crisis because he’s handled similar ones in the past.

“You were asking about the crisis,” he said in response to one early question. “What are we going to do about the crisis now, which is incredibly consequential to millions and millions of Americans?

As Sanders sought to pivot to various planks of his platform — Medicare-for-all, income inequality, bank bailouts — Biden, (and at some points, the moderators) kept trying to focus on coronavirus, which is affecting the lives of almost every American now.

“It’s not going to be solved by a change in tax policy now,” Biden replied to a Sanders answer. “It's not going to be solved by a change in how we deal with health care.”

For months, Biden has told people at his rallies that he is the candidate best equipped to right the ship of state on day one.

In January, as hostilities with Iran intensified, he touted his foreign policy experience and his relationships with foreign leaders. And this month, as coronavirus has affected the economy and every lives of Americans, he’s pointed to his experience handling prior epidemics.

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

9:38 PM: Biden, Sanders disagree on fracking

As the debate pivoted to environmental policy, Biden has said he wants “no new fracking.”

Biden has previously said he opposes new drilling on public lands but doesn’t support ban on fracking. At a CNN climate town hall, he said regulators should look at whether current projects are dangerous or are doing environmental damage.

Sanders has said he wants to get rid of fracking entirely.

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

9:37 PM: Pressed on climate and health, Sanders pivots to Biden

Bernie Sanders standing in front of a computer screen: Biden and Sanders speak during the 11th Democratic Presidential debate. © Evan Vucci/AP Biden and Sanders speak during the 11th Democratic Presidential debate.

Both candidates faced tough questions on their plans to combat climate change.

Moderator Jake Tapper asked Sanders whether he could point to something in his plan that would address the threat climate change presents for the spread of infectious disease.

“Of course we do," Sanders replied. But he did not answer the question. Instead, he talked about the broader threat presented by climate change and sought to press Biden on his proposal.

“We are talking about the absolute need — and I want to hear Joe’s position on this,” said Sanders, arguing that moderation is not the answer.

Biden was asked if his plan was ambitious enough. He said it was. But Sanders was not satisfied.

“All well and good but nowhere near enough,” said Sanders.

Biden said the country needs a leader who can press foreign leaders to address climate change in their nations.

By: Sean Sullivan

9:32 PM: Biden says only felons will be deported under his administration

Biden responded to criticism about the number of deportations that took place under the Obama administration by defending the former president and acknowledging the need to move immigration law forward.

“I said it took much too long to get it right, and the president did get it right with DACA and by making sure he tried to protect parents as well,” said Biden, who pointed out Sanders had voted against an immigration bill that that could have addressed many lingering problems had it passed years ago.

Biden committed that no one will be deported in the first 100 days of his presidency and that from then on, only those who commit felonies here will be deported.

Sanders’s response was largely in agreement with Biden’s. He promised to restore status for DACA participants and “end the demonization of immigrants" in this country.

Later, Biden was asked about the position he took as a presidential candidate in 2007, when he was against the implementation of sanctuary cities — or cites where law enforcement does not turn over undocumented immigrants to ICE. He was asked if he now thinks local law enforcement should be turning undocumented immigrants over to ICE.

“No,” he said, without explanation for the shift, an answer so abrupt it seemed to catch everyone off-guard. Sanders eventually offered his agreement.

By: Chelsea Janes

9:18 PM: Biden says he would pick a woman as running mate

Biden committed to picking a woman as his running mate if he is the nominee.

“I commit that I will in fact appoint a — pick a woman to be vice president. There are a number of women who are qualified to be president tomorrow,” Biden said.

He was asked to clarify whether he was guaranteeing a woman as his running mate.

“Yes," he replied.

Sanders did not make the same commitment, saying, “In all likelihood, I will.”

“For me, its not just nominating a woman, it’s making sure we have a progressive woman," Sanders said.

Biden also said he would appoint the first black woman to the Supreme Court.

By: Sean Sullivan

9:17 PM: Biden, Sanders each agree to support nominee if they lose

After engaging in a heated battle over Social Security, both candidates reaffirmed that they would support — and campaign for — each other if that’s what it took to defeat Donald Trump.

“If Bernie’s the nominee, I will not only support him, I will campaign for him,” Biden said, saying he thought his supporters would do the same. He said he hoped Sanders would “encourage all of his followers to support me as well. It’s much bigger than any one of us.”

He said the differences between himself and Sanders are much smaller than the differences between either man and President Trump. “We disagree on the detail of how we do it. ... We fundamentally disagree with the president on everything.”

Sanders agreed that he would support Biden if he were the nominee, saying he had agreed to support the eventual nominee “on day one when I announced my candidacy.”

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

9:17 PM: A years-long debate about super PACs comes to an end

Six months ago, when Biden dropped his long-held opposition to a super PAC running ads on his behalf, he caught a lucky break: Voters and reporters didn’t care.

In every following debate, until this one, moderators skipped past any question about super PACs. In one of the last debates she participated in, Elizabeth Warren noted that nearly all of her opponents had either personal wealth or super PACs; by the time she debated again, there was a super PAC spending for her, but the topic never came up.

Sanders had never actually gone after Biden directly over super PACs, but that changed tonight, as Biden asked the senator if he would join him on an amendment to replace private donations with publicly funded elections.

“It’s good that you had an idea 30 years ago," Sanders said. “Why don’t you join me? Why don’t you get rid of the super PAC that you have right now, which is running very ugly, negative ads about me right now?”

Biden laughed and was chided by Sanders. Unite the Country, the super PAC founded and run by Biden allies, has not run any negative ads. There are, separately, super PACs that have run anti-Sanders ads, like the Big Tent Project, and to Sanders’s frustration it has largely gone under the radar.

The round ended inconclusively, and may have been the end of a debate that started years ago, when Biden claimed that he’d been the person who told Sanders not to form a super PAC for his 2016 campaign.

By: David Weigel

9:08 PM: Biden and Sanders clash on their records

a person sitting in front of a computer screen: Biden, left, and Sanders at the debate. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) © Kevin Lamarque/Reuters Biden, left, and Sanders at the debate. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Earlier this weekend, Biden announced that he now supports Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy plan, which would repeal portions of a law Biden worked on a decade and a half ago. Asked what has changed from the days when he opposed Warren’s stance on some bankruptcy issues, Biden explained that he was not fully behind the bill when it initially passed.

The question spurred a long exchange between the two about their records, and what changing positions means to their leadership abilities.

Biden argued that he hadn’t supported the bankruptcy bill Warren’s policy would peel apart, but made sacrifices to get something done.

“The bankruptcy bill passed overwhelmingly, and I improved it. I had a choice. It was going to pass anyway," Biden said. He added: "I did not like the rest of the bill, but I improved it.”

Biden said he spoke to Warren two nights ago and talked about adopting her policy because “this is the first opportunity we had to make substantial change in what we couldn’t get done in a Republican administration.”

“It’s a good proposal,” Biden said." ... And she should get credit for having introduced it."

He also explained his decision, announced earlier Sunday, to support making college tuition free for families earning less than $125,000. Several of his fellow candidates — including Sanders — have supported some variation of that policy, but Biden did not do so until Sunday. He gave Sanders credit for that idea.

Sanders argued that Biden’s shifting stances constitute an indictment on his leadership ability and suggested that Biden was not ahead of many major issues — including gay rights — like he had been.

“What leadership is about is going forward when it’s not popular. When it’s — when it’s an idea that you get criticized for,” Sanders said.

By: Chelsea Janes

9:05 PM: Fact Checker: Does Sanders have “nine” super PACs?

“You have nine super PACs.”

— Biden to Sanders

After a slow fundraising start, Biden is now flush with campaign cash and has locked down support from some of the best-funded Democratic super PACs.

Sanders doesn’t have a super PAC per se, but he enjoys the support of a “sprawling network of socialists, climate-change activists, millennial organizers and other liberal advocates, who raise money from millions of members,” as The Post reported. Nine groups in this coalition are known as “People Power for Bernie.”

Most of these pro-Sanders groups are not organized as super PACs — which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money — but as politically active 501(c)(4)s.

It is unknown how much most of these groups have raised to support Sanders in the 2020 cycle or where they are getting their money because they are not required to disclose their donor lists. Advocates for more transparency in political donations — predominantly on the left — refer to this type of funding as “dark money.”

By: Salvador Rizzo

9:02 PM: Sanders sticks to his long-standing script

Bernie Sanders wearing a suit and tie: Sanders at the Sunday debate. (Evan Vucci/AP) © Evan Vucci/AP Sanders at the Sunday debate. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Medicare-for-all. Biden’s positions on Social Security. The scourge of super PACs. Income inequality. And accusations against President Trump.

Much of what Sanders has said tonight has been a feature of his stump speech in recent months — and in some cases longer. It’s one of the things his supporters like most about him. But his rigidity has also turned off other Democratic voters.

From knocking the “crooks” in the pharmaceutical industry to noting his support for working families, Sanders is sounding the notes at his many rallies and town halls.

By: Sean Sullivan

9:00 PM: ‘America, go to the YouTube’

In the most contentious clash of the night, Biden and Sanders both encouraged viewers to go to YouTube and campaign websites to figure out just how hard Biden fought for Social Security.

“America, go to the YouTube right now,” Sanders said at one point, before turning to Biden. “...You were not a fan of the balanced budget amendment? Why don’t you just tell the truth now? We all make mistakes.”

Biden shot back that he said that all things were on the table — including entitlement cuts — as the Senate debated funding for other issues but that he had never voted to cut Social Security and had supported veterans’ benefits and Medicare.

He then encouraged viewers to do a little online sleuthing as well, saying his website sets the record straight, as does the 2012 vice presidential debate between him and Paul Ryan.

He challenged Sanders to tell his supporters to stop promoting a video that takes his stance out of context.

“Will you acknowledge your campaign is taking those things out of context?” he said.

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

8:53 PM: A ‘lot of soap’ and hand sanitizer: How Sanders and Biden protect themselves

Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders are posing for a picture: The candidates bumped elbows before the debate. (Evan Vucci/AP) © Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP The candidates bumped elbows before the debate. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Exactly how are the two candidates — both in their late 70s — protecting themselves from the coronavirus?

Sanders, 78 and just months removed from a heart attack, noted that he did not shake hands with Biden. He said he has been “very careful” about the people he is interacting with and has been using “a lot of soap and hand sanitizer."

“I do not have any symptoms and feel very grateful for that,” said Sanders.

Biden started by noting that he does not have any underlying conditions that put him at risk and is taking precautions people at any age should take. He also said he does not shake hands anymore. He added that he keeps hand sanitizer in the bag he carries with him.

By: Sean Sullivan

8:51 PM: Fact Checker: Biden vs. Sanders on the auto bailout

“This was about saving the banks. And jobs. And those banks paid it back! Bernie voted against the bailout to the automobile industry too.”

— Former vice president Joe Biden

“No. I did not. Bush later used the bailout money. And the banks [got] hundreds of zero-interest loans.”

— Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Biden and Sanders traded charges about votes concerning the auto industry bailout. This is a good example of how voters should be wary about claims concerning past votes in the Senate.

Sanders focuses on a vote in December 2008 that would have provided $15 billion to the auto industry. Both he and Biden voted for it, but it failed to advance in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Biden voted for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, which was originally designed to assist the financial industry as the economy collapsed. There was a vote Oct. 1 to provide $350 billion, and then another vote Jan. 15 to release a second installment of the TARP funds, also worth $350 billion. Biden voted in favor both times, while Sanders voted to block the funding.

Here’s where it gets tricky. After the failure of December vote to help the auto industry, President George W. Bush announced he would use the TARP funds to rescue the auto industry. He advanced $13.4 billion — and said $4 billion more would be given to automakers after Congress approved releasing the second tranche of funds. (Ultimately, the U.S. government gave the automotive industry nearly $80 billion, and all but $9.3 billion was paid back.)

When Sanders voted against TARP the first time, he probably had no idea that Bush would tap it to help the auto industry. But it was clear the second TARP vote would aid the auto industry, as Michigan lawmakers specifically urged a “yes” vote for that reason.

Biden is right that Sanders voted against the mechanism that ended up helping the auto industry, but it would be wrong to suggest he was against helping the auto industry. He certainly was on record of having supported an auto bailout when it was not tied to Wall Street. Sanders, meanwhile, has gone too far to suggest he cast a vote for the auto industry that actually would have made a difference; that particular legislation went nowhere.

By: Glenn Kessler

8:48 PM: Biden and Sanders want undocumented immigrants to feel safe getting tested

Asked how each would reassure undocumented immigrants worried that seeking testing and treatment for the coronavirus would lead to their deportation, Biden and Sanders agreed that no one should have that fear.

“There are certain things you cannot deport an undocumented alien — an undocumented immigrant — for, and that should be one of them,” said Biden, who said that even xenophobic Americans should realize that making undocumented immigrants feel safe when they seek treatment is crucial to the public health more broadly.

Sanders noted he has been taking heat for including undocumented immigrants in his Medicare-for-all plan and emphasized the need to make undocumented immigrants feel safe contacting the health-care system.

“So one of the things that we have to do is to make sure that everybody feels comfortable getting the health care that they need,” Sanders said. “That should be a general principle above and beyond the coronavirus.”

The senator from Vermont then explained why he thinks the nations needs immigration reform and to “end these terrible ICE raids, which are terrorizing communities all over this country.”

By: Chelsea Janes

8:41 PM: Sanders and Biden spar over 2008 bailout

Sanders was asked whether the federal government would bail out industries adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic and reverted to some of his campaign trail talking points — and an attack on Biden.

“We need to stabilize the economy,” he said. “But we can’t repeat what we did in 2008. Joe voted for that; I didn’t.”

Biden responded by saying that the bailout was for the good of the country — not just the banks.

“Had those banks gone under, all those folks Bernie says he cares about would be in trouble — deep, deep trouble," Biden said

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

8:39 PM: Answers on how to repond to economic challege elicits distinctions between Sanders, Biden

The candidates were asked about how they would respond to the economic challenges presented by the coronavirus. And while they both advocated helping working-class people, not the wealthy and powerful, there were some distinctions between their answers.

“People are looking for results, not a revolution," said Biden, taking aim at a core part of Sanders’s message. He presented an argument for immediate economic relief for struggling Americans, rather than wholesale changes to the tax code and health-care system.

Sanders — who mistakenly referred to the crisis as the “Ebola” crisis — underscored the need to recognize the fundamental problems and inequities with the current economic and health-care laws.

“What we have got to do also is understand the fragility of the economy and how unjust and unfair it is,” said Sanders.

By: Sean Sullivan

8:35 PM: Biden: Coronavirus is ‘like we are being attacked’

Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders are posing for a picture: Biden and Sanders at the CNN debate. (Evan Vucci/AP) © Evan Vucci/AP Biden and Sanders at the CNN debate. (Evan Vucci/AP)

As the candidates continued to spar on the response to the coronavirus, Biden said the pandemic was akin to an attack on America from a foreign nation — and that the United States should respond accordingly.

“This is like we are being attacked,” he said. “In a war, you do whatever is required to do to take care of your people. Everything you would need to take care of this crisis would be free. It would be paid for by the U.S. taxpayers.”

When Sanders was asked whether he would call in the U.S. military, he instead pivoted to the economy, saying the U.S. government should ensure that people whose jobs are threatened by the pandemic should not have to suffer from economic insecurity.

“We’ve got to say to every worker in America, don’t panic,” Sanders said. “You’re going to be able to pay your mortgage. You’re going to be made whole.”

But Biden said he would call out the military. “They did it in the Ebola crisis,” he said. “They’ve done it. They have the capacity to build 500-bed hospitals in tents that are safe and secure.”

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

8:31 PM: Pro-Sanders media looks for a Biden stumble

Badly behind in the delegate hunt, and with none of this week’s primaries looking good for Sanders, some of the senator’s supporters on the left have been looking for Biden to make a mistake that changes the trajectory of the race. It began with a few days of mockery of Biden’s virtual town hall, particularly a moment when he walked away from the camera, and continued in the first moments of tonight’s debate, as Biden coughed at the start of his first answer.

“Not a good start,” said Meagan Day, the author of an upcoming book about Sanders’s political movement, on a stream run by Democratic Socialists of America.

In the first few minutes, Biden’s critics on the left saw a mismatch. Both candidates were using answers to hammer home their main points. For Biden, it was that the current administration was unable to meet the crisis; for Sanders, it was that the United States did not have a reliable health-care system.

“Bernie is so much clearer and more forceful than Biden,” wrote Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor-in-chief of Jacobin.

“Biden looks like oatmeal left out overnight and ends his first question by doing the ‘uh my times over mack’ that usually takes him an hour to get to,” wrote Felix Biederman, a co-host of the left-wing podcast Chapo Trap House.

But a cough or two aside, Biden was not having the trouble he’d had sticking to his message in some of his looser town halls and in the botched Friday event. Every push from Sanders became a chance for Biden, as he has done for a year, to portray Medicare-for-all as a pipe dream that would take too long to implement, compared with the quick action a president would need to take.

“People are looking for results, not a revolution," Biden said after Sanders laid out the economic aid he’d give to people with lives disrupted by the virus.

Thirty minutes into the debate, three times as long as the “virtual town hall” had lasted, Biden had not had the trouble expressing himself that his foes were hoping for.

By: David Weigel

8:29 PM: Sanders calls out Trump’s handling of China

Bernie Sanders standing on a stage: Sanders at Sunday's debate. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images) © Mandel Ngan/Afp Via Getty Images Sanders at Sunday's debate. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Asked about the way China’s government initially played down the gravity of the coronavirus, Sanders instead pivoted to the way Trump spoke about China in recent months.

“What bothers me very much is you have a president of the United States today, Mr. Trump, who was praising China for the good work that they are doing when in fact, as you indicated, they were lying to their own people and allowing that virus to move much more aggressively than should have been the case,” Sanders said.

Maintaining the polite and unifying tone both men seemed to take early in the debate, Sanders then said he did not think now was the time to start punishing countries such as China for their role in the crisis.

“We’ve got work with countries around the world. If there was ever a moment when the entire world is in this together, [and we have to] support each other,” Sanders said, “this is that moment.”

By: Chelsea Janes

8:21 PM: Biden takes on Medicare-for-all

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: Former vice president Joe Biden at Sunday's debate. (Mandel Nga/AFP via Getty Images) © Mandel Ngan/Afp Via Getty Images Former vice president Joe Biden at Sunday's debate. (Mandel Nga/AFP via Getty Images)

As Sanders continued to bring his answers back to a need for Medicare-for-all, Biden took a dig at Sanders’s signature policy.

“With all due respect to Medicare-for-all, you have a single-payer system in Italy. It doesn’t work there,” Biden said. “It has nothing to do with Medicare-for-all — that would not solve the problem at all. We can take care of that right now by making sure that no one has to pay for treatment period because of the crisis.”

Biden argued that Medicare-for-all would not have prevented the coronavirus outbreak, but rather that any concerns that program would allay — i.e., financial concerns among would-be patients — would be taken care of in a state of crisis under his administration anyway. He said his plan would include making treatment free to those who need it.

Sanders, meanwhile, argued that the current system was discouraging people from seeing doctors because of the bureaucratic red tape that can often complicate costs and care.

“When we spend twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation, one might expect that we will have enough doctors, all over this country, one might expect that we will have affordable prescription drugs, one might expect that we are preparing effectively for a pandemic — that we were ready with the ventilators, with the ICU, with the test kits that we need,” Sanders said. “We are not, and bottom line here is in terms of Medicare-for-all, despite what the vice president is saying, what the experts tell us is that one of the reasons that we are unprepared, and have been unprepared, is we don’t have a system.”

Biden then suggested that Sanders was simply saying the same thing over and over again.

“This idea that this is his only answer is a mistaken notion,” Biden said.

By: Chelsea Janes

8:18 PM: Fact Checker: Sanders on U.S. health-care spending

“The coronavirus pandemic reveals the fundamental failure of our country’s health care system. How is it that we can spend twice as much as any other country and not be able to ensure that all people can get the care they need for free?”

— Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sanders often says this line in debates, but he never gets it quite right. He apparently meant to say that the United States spends twice as much as other developed countries — defined as members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Instead, he said twice as much as any other country. (Later in the debate, he referred to “twice as much per capita” but that’s still not right.)

The United States pays far more per capita on health care than any other major country in the world ($9,892 in 2016) — twice as much as Canada ($4,753). The OECD median was $4,033. But Switzerland is a major developed country, and U.S. costs are 25 percent higher than Switzerland’s ($7,919). These figures come from a study by a team led by a researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

More recent OECD estimates show the United States spent $10,586 per person, compared with Switzerland ($7,317 per person), Norway ($6,187 per person) and Germany ($5,986 per person). All of those are more than half of U.S. spending, though the OECD average was just under $4,000. So Sanders would have been correct if he spoke about the average or median of other developed countries.

By: Glenn Kessler

8:17 PM: Coronavirus has been a real-world test for state-run, single-payer health systems

LONDON — Nations are running a high-stakes experiment that may show how single-payer, state-run health-care systems fare under the strain of a pandemic.

Can systems comparable to Medicare-for-all in Britain, Canada, Denmark, South Korea and other countries do any better than the United States in slowing the coronavirus and treating those who become seriously ill from the novel pathogen?

It is too soon to see definite outcomes among competing health-care systems. But even in this early phase, public health experts say the single-payer, state-run systems are proving themselves relatively robust.

Unlike the United States, where a top health official told Congress the rollout of testing was “failing” and where Congress is only now moving through a bill that includes free testing, the single-payer countries have been especially nimble at making free, or low-cost, virus screening widely available for patients with coughs and fevers.

Denmark is offering some patients “drive-through” testing. South Korea is, too, and almost a quarter of a million people have been tested there. In Australia’s single-payer system, Hollywood couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson quickly learned they tested positive for the coronavirus.

Yet there are concerns about how well these health-care systems will cope if and when their caseloads surge and their hospitals, especially their intensive care units, become overwhelmed. Already in South Korea, doctors have had to ration care, based on the availability of beds.

Read snapshots of systems in Britain, Canada, Denmark and South Korea here.

By: William Booth, Min Joo Kim, Amanda Coletta and Michael Birnbaum

8:14 PM: Sanders pledges to take on ‘crooks’ in pharmaceutical industry

Bernie Sanders standing in front of a laptop: Sen Bernie Sanders, right, at Sunday's debate. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) © Kevin Lamarque/Reuters Sen Bernie Sanders, right, at Sunday's debate. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Sanders, as he has often in recent days, sought to tie his proposed response to the coronavirus crisis to his larger push for universal health care and his vow to take on powerful pharmaceutical companies.

He promised to take on the “crooks” running those companies and said that, as president, he would ensure that people “do not worry about the costs of prescription drugs.”

Sanders has long sought to distinguish his campaign from his that of rivals on the basis of his animosity toward the pharmaceutical industry.

By: Sean Sullivan

8:12 PM: Biden and Sanders offer plans to handle coronavirus

Asked how they would handle the coronavirus outbreak, Biden emphasized unity in the face of crisis while Sanders pivoted to Trump.

Biden answered first. After a quick cough, he offered his condolences to those who have lost loved ones to the virus. He then explained details of what he would do as president, including responding to those who are already infected. He said he would ask the World Health Organization for test kits and set up more testing centers across the country. He also talked about the need to ready more hospital beds and account for those who will lose income or the ability to pay mortgages while businesses are shut down.

“This is bigger than any one of us. This calls for a national rally to everybody moving together,” Biden said.

Sanders, too, coughed quickly before embarking on his answer, which opened with a critique of President Trump.

“The first thing we’ve got to do, whether I’m president or not, is to shut this president up right now,” said Sanders, who said Trump’s rhetoric is “confusing the American people.” Sanders then pivoted to the crisis as evidence for the need for Medicare for all.

“This is an unprecedented moment in American history. Now, I obviously believe in Medicare-for-all. I will fight for that as President,” Sanders said. “...If you have the virus, that will be painful. Do not worry about the cost right now, because we’re in the middle of a national emergency.”

By: Chelsea Janes

8:00 PM: Amid virus concerns, Biden and Sanders will stand six feet apart

Sanders and Biden will have the stage to themselves for the first time — and there will be a noticeable gap between them.

The two men will stand six feet apart on stage, in accordance with CDC guidelines, according to CNN, which is hosting the debate.

Here’s a photo of the podiums, provided by the network:

When they came out on stage before the debate started, they greeted each other with an elbow bump.

Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders are posing for a picture: Democratic U.S. presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders do an elbow bump in place of a handshake as they greet other. © Kevin Lamarque/Reuters Democratic U.S. presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders do an elbow bump in place of a handshake as they greet other.

By: Sean Sullivan

7:53 PM: Sanders campaign takes aim at Biden in pre-debate show

During an hourlong “pre-debate show” broadcast live online, the Sanders campaign took aim at Biden’s record, signaling topics their candidate might elevate during his showdown with the former vice president.

Briahna Joy Gray, the campaign’s national press secretary, said the coronavirus crisis underscores how the Biden health-care proposal isn’t strong enough and why Sanders’s universal health-care proposal is crucial. And she took Biden to task for his wealthy and powerful campaign donors.

The hosts also underscored Sanders’s support for canceling student loan debt, suggesting it could come up at the debate, even as Biden has nodded to Sanders by embracing a new plan to make public colleges tuition-free for students who families make less than $125,000 a year.

Gray was joined by deputy campaign manager René Spellman. Together they hosted a program that featured video interviews and testimonials with actors Kendrick Sampson and Laura Gómez and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), among others.

The Sanders campaign has been experimenting with new ways to reach voters remotely. It has suspended rallies and town halls for the time being, due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

By: Sean Sullivan

7:45 PM: How Biden says he’d handle coronavirus

In tonight’s debate, both former Biden and Sanders are likely to be drilled on how they would respond to the coronavirus pandemic that has made many Americans change work and social habits and distance themselves from one another.

Biden’s campaign has drafted a coronavirus plan that has sought, among other things, to contrast itself to the widely criticized missteps of the Trump administration. Biden says that his administration’s effort to combat the spread of the virus would not be politicized and would lean on the expertise of scientists and public health experts.

In speeches and interviews, he has stressed that the Obama administration capably handled similar epidemics — but that the infrastructure they left behind was disregarded by the Trump administration.

“Public health emergencies require disciplined, trustworthy leadership grounded in science,” says Biden’s plan, which was released Thursday. “In a moment of crisis, leadership requires listening to experts and communicating credible information to the American public.”

Biden’s proposal would implement measures that would use free testing, additional access to treatment and surged health-care funding to combat the virus itself. He would also implement an economic response —aiding individuals sickened by the virus and their families, as well as state and local governments. His plan would make coronavirus tests free for anyone who needs one, regardless of immigration status. It would also establish 10 drive-through or mobile testing facilities in each state.

The plan would also increase the nation’s capacity for treating those infected with coronavirus, including temporary health-care facilities erected by FEMA and beefed up with the aid of federal and state militaries.

His campaign has also issued guidance to his supporters, encouraging healthy people to vote in primaries —and people who are ill or in vulnerable populations to explore options for voting remotely.

Biden has not been tested for covid-19 and has not been exhibiting any symptoms. He began canceling campaign events Tuesday, including a primary-night speech in Cleveland. He has held a series of virtual town halls, some of which have been beset by technical difficulties.

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

7:24 PM: Sanders to hold ‘digital rally’ Monday night

Sanders and his campaign have decided to stream what they are calling a “digital rally” Monday night, hours before voting opens in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio on Tuesday.

With a pandemic rendering the massive, star-studded rallies that became a staple of his campaign imprudent, Sanders and his staff are trying to mimic them online.

The rally will feature Neil Young and Daryl Hannah, as well as music from Jim James of My Morning Jacket and the Free Nationals. Also like many of Sanders’s rallies, this one will include remarks from high-profile surrogates including campaign co-chair and former Ohio state senator Nina Turner and activist and artist Phillip Agnew.

Sanders has yet to hold anything resembling a rally since cancelling in-person events early last week, but his campaign has made other forays into the digital realm in the last few days. On Saturday, his campaign held what it called a “Fireside Chat” that it streamed from Sanders’s home in Burlington. His campaign is also streaming its own pre-debate show now.

By: Chelsea Janes

6:53 PM: What Sanders has said about the coronavirus crisis

Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden are posing for a picture: Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, left, and Joe Biden talk before the debate in Charleston, S.C., last month. (Matt Rourke/AP) Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, left, and Joe Biden talk before the debate in Charleston, S.C., last month. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Sanders has had plenty to say about the coronavirus crisis during the past week, using the moment to amplify his calls for universal health care and other benefits for working-class Americans.

He has issued blunt warnings that Trump has mishandled the spread of the virus. And he has repeatedly returned to a core theme of his campaign — that government needs to do more to look out for those with the least.

The senator from Vermont has long championed a Medicare-for-all system in which the government provides health insurance. The urgency of enacting that program has come into even sharper focus during this crisis, Sanders and his allies have argued. In the meantime, Sanders has said, the government should create an emergency system “guaranteeing health care to all people in the midst of this crisis. End of discussion.”

He has also called for greater protections for homeless people, urged moratoriums on evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs and advocated new safeguards to protect people from losing wages if they are home sick.

The bill the House passed last week addressed some of these things but did not go far enough, Sanders has said. “I myself would have gone further,” he told supporters on Saturday night in a talk broadcast online. The toll of the virus might be catastrophic, Sanders has warned — on the scale of a “major war.”

Sanders has also highlighted the ways his campaign has adapted to the changing times. His staff has been ordered to work from home. Door-to-door campaigning is not happening anymore. Instead, officials have set up remote events, such as a virtual rally planned for Monday night.

By: Sean Sullivan

6:34 PM: Biden campaign outlines debate strategy

Biden has a distinct challenge tonight: He must parry attacks and go on the offensive against Sanders, all while showing Sanders supporters they have a place in Biden’s campaign.

“Joe Biden will make it clear to Senator Sanders’s supporters that there’s space for them,” a senior adviser said on a Sunday afternoon conference call. “We’re also going to welcome their ideas, their passion and their commitment to the issues that they care so deeply about.”

Biden has amassed a significant delegate lead over the past several weeks, giving him a distinct advantage in the race for the Democratic nomination. As he attempts to solidify his standing, he’s shown a willingness to listen to and adopt the plans of former opponents. It is a clear effort to reach younger and more liberal voters, who have traditionally backed Sanders.

On Sunday, Biden announced a proposal to make public colleges and universities free for families who make less than $125,000 a year. On Friday, he adopted Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy plan, which would make it easier for people to go through the bankruptcy process and would allow student loan debt to be discharged just like any other debt.

Biden also put forward a plan to combat the coronavirus, as the pandemic forces Americans to endure drastic changes to work and social life.

Biden’s campaign has drafted a coronavirus plan that has sought, among other things, to contrast itself to the widely criticized missteps of the Trump administration. Biden stressed that his administration’s effort to combat the spread of the virus would not be politicized and would lean on the expertise of scientists and public health experts.

In speeches and interviews, he has stressed that the Obama administration capably handled similar epidemics but that the infrastructure they left behind was disregarded by the Trump administration. Biden’s proposal would implement measures that would use free testing, additional access to treatment and surged health-care funding to combat the virus itself. He would also implement an economic response, aiding individuals sickened by the virus and their families, as well as state and local governments.

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

6:22 PM: Georgia becomes second state to delay presidential primary over coronavirus pandemic

Georgia on Saturday became the second state to postpone its presidential primary because of the escalating coronavirus pandemic, yet another indication of how completely the outbreak has reshaped the race for the White House.

The Georgia primary, originally scheduled for March 24, has been moved to May 19.

“Events are moving rapidly and my highest priority is protecting the health of our poll workers, their families, and the community at large,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a written statement announcing the delay.

The state currently has 45 reported cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) declared a state of emergency Saturday morning, following President Trump’s decision on Friday to declare a national emergency.

The delay spotlights the difficulty of reconciling public health with voter access. That issue is especially fraught in Georgia, where the 2018 governor’s race prompted outcry from civil rights groups about the rejection of absentee ballots and the closure of polling places in predominantly black neighborhoods, among other concerns.

The move from Raffensperger (R) follows a decision on Friday by election officials in Louisiana to delay that state’s primary from April 4 to June 20.

Read more here.

By: Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck

6:02 PM: Sanders pledges to push Biden on ‘most important questions’ during debate

Bernie Sanders wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to reporters about coronavirus on March 12 in Burlington, Vt. © Charles Krupa/AP Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to reporters about coronavirus on March 12 in Burlington, Vt.

In a preview of his strategy, Sanders said Saturday night that he intends to force a discussion on issues central to his campaign during the debate. And he argued the congressional response to the coronavirus crisis should have been stronger.

“I’m going to demand that we discuss the most important questions, which have to do with power structure in America,” said Sanders, who accused the media of not drawing enough attention to those topics in earlier debates. He said he was “looking forward” to the debate and hoped “we can explore some of the real issues facing this country.”

Sanders also gave tepid reviews to the legislation Democratic and Republican leaders passed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, saying it did not go far enough to help working-class Americans.

“My impression is that Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership made a good-faith effort to try to do some very important things. I myself would have gone further,” he said, adding, “they ran into opposition from the Trump administration, so they had to water down what they ended up passing.”

Sanders spoke in what his campaign billed as a “fireside chat” from his home in Vermont. Seated near a wood-burning stove, the senator ticked through the questions he said he planned to ask Biden, echoing his comments from a news conference earlier in the week.

“Joe has been part of the establishment for a very long time. Joe, what role have you played in trying to make sure we end this massive level of income and wealth inequality?” Sanders said, adding he would also press Biden over his support from wealthy donors.

Read more here.

By: Sean Sullivan

5:24 PM: Biden holds big lead in new poll

A poll of Democratic primary voters conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News shows a significant consolidation of support behind Biden, emphasizing Sanders’s inability to broaden his support the way Biden has over the past few weeks.

Among those Democrats who have voted or plan to vote, 61 percent say Biden is their preferred nominee as opposed to 32 percent who prefer Sanders. In a poll conducted in mid-February, just 15 percent of voters identified Biden as their preferred choice.

Biden’s swift transformation into consensus front-runner followed a decisive win in South Carolina, at which point multiple candidates who had been splitting the loyalties of the electorate dropped out and endorsed the former vice president.

But even after fellow liberal-leaning Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) dropped out of the race last week, Sanders’s support jumped just five points — to 32 percent — in a much smaller field. And the poll showed reason to believe it won’t grow much further: In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted a month ago, 37 percent of Democratic primary voters said they had decided on a candidate. In this poll, 80 percent said their minds were made up.

The poll also underscored Biden’s support with one of the most crucial groups within the Democratic Party, black voters, who said they prefer him to Sanders 77 percent to 18 percent.

By: Chelsea Janes

5:22 PM: Biden unveils plan to make college free for families who make less than $125,000 a year

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus on March 12, in Wilmington, Del. © Matt Rourke/AP Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus on March 12, in Wilmington, Del.

On Sunday, Joe Biden unveiled a proposal to make public college free for families who make less than $125,000 a year, part of his campaign’s broader effort to court younger and more liberal voters. Biden has also said he wants to invest $70 billion in historically black colleges and minority-serving institutions.

Free college tuition has been a staple of Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg.

On Friday, Biden also adopted Warren’s bankruptcy plan which, would make it easier for people to go through the bankruptcy process and would allow student loan debt to be discharged just like any other debt.

“Vice President Biden is and, as president, will be open to the best ideas … regardless, quite frankly, of where they come from,” a Biden adviser said.

Shortly after Biden’s announcement, Sanders released a statement saying, “it’s great that Joe Biden is now supporting a position that was in the Democratic platform four years ago. Now we have to go much further. We need to make all public universities, colleges and trade schools tuition-free for everyone like our high schools are. We need to cancel all student debt."

By: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

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