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Wake Up To Politics - February 28, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Friday, February 28, 2020. 1 day until the South Carolina primary. 249 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Trump administration responds to coronavirus: The latest

As of this morning, more than 83,700 people in at least 53 countries have been infected with coronavirus; at least 2,858 people have died of the disease. For President Trump, it is one of the largest-scale external crises he has faced since taking office, threatening to undo the economic stability on which he is staking his re-election fight. Here's the latest:

--- Vice President Mike Pence led a meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday, one day after President Donald Trump appointed him to lead the administration's response to the outbreak. Pence also named Dr. Deborah Birx, who has served as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator since 2014, as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. According to the New York Times, Pence has already moved to "tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to coordinate all statements and public appearances" with the Office of the Vice President.

--- The global stock market continued to plunge for the sixth straight day on Thursday: in the U.S., the S&P 500 slid 4.4 percent, its worst day since 2011, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged nearly 1,200 points, capping its worst four-day period since the 2008 financial crisis. "In a blink, Wall Street’s free-fall this week erased one-third of stocks’ gains since President Trump’s November 2016 election," the Washington Post reported. "Amid mounting criticism of the administration’s handling of the epidemic, the president suddenly finds himself battling a medical, economic and political emergency."

--- A whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services filed a complaint claiming that the workers who received the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus was first detected, lacked "proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear," according to the Post. The newspaper also reported that "the whistleblower is seeking federal protection, alleging she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar."

South Carolina primary preview

The fourth and final early-state contest in the Democratic presidential primary fight will be held in South Carolina on Saturday.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to win a state, is leading in Palmetto State polls by an average of 12%, according to RealClearPolitics. A decisive victory for Biden could give his campaign much-needed momentum heading into Super Tuesday, when 1/3 of all pledged delegates are at stake just three days after the South Carolina primary. On the other hand, a better-than-expected showing for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders could doom Biden's campaign and even further block centrist candidates from threatening Sanders' delegate lead on Super Tuesday.

Biden has continued to lead among African-American voters in the state, a large voting bloc in the Democratic primary. He received a boost on Wednesday from House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn when the longtime South Carolina lawmaker announced his endorsement of the former Vice President.

According to polling, the non-Sanders candidate who could pose the greatest threat to Biden's South Carolina firewall is not Pete Buttigieg or Elizabeth Warren but businessman Tom Steyer, who is in third place in the RCP average. Biden and Steyer sparred at the South Carolina debate on Tuesday, as the ex-VP hammered the former hedge fund manager for his investments in private prisons.

54 pledged delegates will be awarded in South Carolina, more than in Iowa, New Hampshire, or Nevada.


President Donald Trump will hold a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, continuing his pattern of campaigning in states ahead of their Democratic presidential primaries.

Vice President Mike Pence will host a Florida Coronavirus Response Meeting with the state's governor, Ron DeSantis, in West Palm Beach.

The Senate is on recess.

The House will vote on H.R. 2339, which would ban flavored tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) in an attempt to curb the youth vaping epidemic, and H.R. 2819, which wouldej extend the authorization to construct a Gold Star Mothers and Families National Monument in Washington, D.C., to honor the families of slain service members.

The Supreme Court will meet for its weekly conference.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Bernie Sanders, businessman Tom Steyer, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren will campaign in South Carolina ahead of the state's Saturday primary. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg will campaign in Tennessee. Sen. Amy Klobuchar will campaign in Virginia and Tennessee. Sanders will also campaign in Massachusetts. (Tennessee, Virginia, and Massachusetts are all Super Tuesday states.)

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