I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, March 10, 2020: Primary Day in six states. 238 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
A Tale of Two Rallies
Biden, Sanders offer contrasting roadmaps ahead of critical primaries
ST. LOUIS — Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made back-to-back appearances here in recent days, appealing for support as voters in Missouri and five other states head to the polls today.
In the pair of Show-Me State rallies, each candidate mostly stuck to their well-worn scripts, expounding on the same themes and repeating the same stump speeches as at countless prior events: at his Saturday rally in Kiener Plaza, Biden promised to “unite the country” and spoke of an ongoing “battle for America’s soul," while Sanders railed against “the top 1%” and urged supporters to “take a hard look at America” during his Monday rally at Stifel Theatre, less than a mile away.
Although separated by vast policy differences, and engaged in a fierce battle for control of the Democratic Party, both Biden and Sanders channeled much more focus into attacking President Donald Trump — the former referred to the president’s relationships with “autocrats and dictators like Putin and Kim Jong Un”; the later assailed Trump's “corrupt administration" — than explicitly campaigning against each other.
In a dynamic representative of the Democratic electorate's focus on electability this year, each candidate only mentioned the other in the context of the November general election matchup with Trump, both boasting that their campaigns were the one that could produce enough voters to defeat the incumbent president — but espousing very different philosophies of how to get there.
"You know, Senator Sanders likes to say he'll need a record turnout to defeat Donald Trump," Biden said. "He’s right: we’re the campaign that’s gonna do that record turnout."
As promised, Sanders did declare that “the largest voter turnout in history” would be needed to topple Trump — but insisted that, in fact, it was his that is “the campaign of energy and excitement” that could do it. At one point, Sanders reeled off a list of policy gaps between him and the more moderate former vice president — highlighting Biden’s support for the Iraq war, 2008 bank bailout, NAFTA, and Social Security cuts — but quickly pivoted attention back to the general election.
"But here is my point," he said. "If you are talking to working-class people all over this country, who is better able to win their support?"
While Biden and Sanders shared a diagnosis of what was needed for Democrats to retake the White House in 2020 — ushering record amounts of Americans to the polls — they differed on prescriptions for how to get there.
Biden's roadmap was clear: his short 10-minute speech (an uncharacteristic spurt of brevity that did not go unnoticed on social media) was light on red-meat policy demands and heavy on teleprompter-scripted calls for a national chorus of Kumbaya. "Winning means uniting America, not sowing more division and anger," he told supporters. "It means not only fighting but healing the country. . . We must beat Donald Trump and the Republican Party, but we cannot become like Trump."
On the other hand, without relying on notes, Sanders paced the Stifel stage for about 45 minutes as he jumped from topic to topic on his progressive wish-list, touching on health care, the environment, education, criminal justice reform, and more. . . and most of them more than once. (In a slight deviation from his standard stump speech, Sanders also spoke about coronavirus in his remarks, two days after the first case in Missouri was diagnosed. He promised that if he were elected and a coronavirus vaccine was developed, "everybody in this country" would receive it "absolutely free." Huge vats of hand sanitizer greeted rallygoers at the doors.)
After finishing his refrain on each issue, Sanders would ask the same question of his passionate supporters: "Does anyone think that's a radical idea?" (He would receive, on cue, a sea of "No!" in return in each time.)
In Sanders' telling — warnings of divisiveness from Biden and his establishment allies notwithstanding — he is best positioned to beat Trump not in spite of his ideas, but because of them. "Not only are they not radical and extreme," the democratic socialist of Vermont thundered. "They are exactly what the American people want!"
His supporters loyally roared in approval at that (on cue once again), but if election results and public opinion polls are to be believed, a Sanders presidency may not even be what the Democratic party wants, much less the American people.
Biden's St. Louis event may have lagged behind Sanders' in terms of crowd size — drawing 1,521 attendees to his rival's 2,850, according to the campaigns — but he is expected to claim victory in the Missouri primary today, and polls show him performing well in the other voting states as well.
As a cluster of signs at the St. Louis rally proclaimed, he has "Joementum," and at just the right time. Biden's burst of support has come in no small part because of the endorsements he has received in the past week from a bevy of former rivals; indeed, many attendees interviewed by Wake Up To Politics at the rally admitted that they had just begun supporting Biden in the preceding days.
"I actually started out with Kamala [Harris] and Elizabeth [Warren]," Barb Ramoran of St. Louis City said. When did she switch to Biden's camp? "When I saw the coalition behind him of the actual makeup of this country, which is a diverse country. It's not an Iowa county made up of white farm people. . . South Carolina is more representative."
"I am a Pete supporter who is coalescing and I am more than happy to do so," said Christi Bopp of Kirkwood, who joined Biden once she "saw the writing on the wall" last week.
Many voters at the Biden rally praised Sanders' policy ideas, but added that it was the question of electability that pushed them towards Biden. Carri Coffee of Affton voted for Sanders in 2016 and said that she still thinks "all of Bernie's ideas are good," including Medicare for All and raising taxes on the wealthy, but plans to cast her ballot for Biden today. Essentially, more than one attendee said, their hearts may be with Sanders but their heads are now with Biden.
At the Sanders rally, meanwhile, every voter interviewed by Wake Up To Politics said their support for the Vermont senator stretched back four years or more.
"I'm a huge fan of his and I've been a huge supporter since 2015 at least," Brandon Dodds of Maryland Heights said.
"I voted for him in 2016," Misty Tribout of St. Louis added. "He matches all my ideals and ethics and morals."
And what of Sanders' rival? "Biden's trash," opined Brittany Kelly of St. Louis City.
But even as Sanders clings to his fiercest loyalists — who nearly ushered him to a win in the 2016 Missouri primary — he will need to expand beyond that base if he hopes to turn his fortunes around in the presidential race. While Sanders once seemed tipped to run away with the Democratic nomination, in the days since Biden's fellow centrists left the field and he racked up a series of victories on Super Tuesday, it now seems as though momentum (and crucial late-deciding voters) are trending quickly in the direction of the once-collapsing Biden campaign.
Or as the former vice president put it when he greeted voters in St. Louis on Saturday, the iconic Gateway Arch looming behind him: "What a difference a week makes!"
Primary Guide: What to expect tonight
Welcome to Super Tuesday 2.o. Here's the rundown on the six states that hold Democratic primaries today, using FiveThirtyEight polling averages to give a sense of where the race stands in each one:
- Michigan: 125 delegates; polls close 8 p.m. ET (or 9 p.m. ET in four counties); Biden 55.3%, Sanders 31.9%
- Washington: 89 delegates; polls close 11 p.m. ET; Biden 39.8%, Sanders 37.1%
- Missouri: 68 delegates; polls close 8 p.m. ET; Biden 60.3%, Sanders 32.5%
- Mississippi: 36 delegates; polls close 8 p.m. ET; Biden 70.7%, Sanders 23.4%
- Idaho: 20 delegates; polls close 10 p.m. ET (or 11 p.m. ET in nine counties); no average
- North Dakota (caucuses): 14 delegates; polls close by 10 p.m. ET; no average
The most closely-watched state will be Michigan, the biggest delegate prize. Recent polls show Joe Biden winning the key state in a blowout — but Bernie Sanders was able to overcome a similar polling deficit to edge Hillary Clinton there in 2016. If Sanders pulls off a repeat upset victory in the Wolverine State, it could provide the resuscitation his campaign needs after a string of losses on Super Tuesday.
And if Sanders can't outperform the polls in Michigan and elsewhere? "He's cooked," former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, the state's most recent Democratic chief executive, told Wake Up To Politics in an interview ahead of today's primary.
Forecasting a quick end to the Sanders campaign in the coming weeks, Nixon referred to the Vermont senator as an "aberration," drawing a comparison to the 20th-century socialist leader and perennial presidential candidate Eugene Debs. "Some of his ideas will live," Nixon predicted, "but he is not going to be the leader of a movement, nor do I believe that he will be historically significant."
"I think Bernie puts a tremendous amount of risk at play [in the general election]," Nixon added. "He's a socialist. That may be fine if you're sitting around a coffee shop in St. Petersburg, Russia, 75, 80 years ago. But right now, we've got to move forward."
Although Missouri was the closest state in Sanders' 2016 Democratic primary fight with Clinton, most political observers expect an easier victory for Biden this time. "Missouri is a state that’s fairly tailor-made for a Biden candidacy among Democrats: African Americans wield significant power within the Democrat Party here and, to the extent there remain any non-urban Democrat voters, they tend to be more moderate," St. Louis-based Republican strategist Gregg Keller told WUTP. "Bernie has shown very little strength in the state, outside of a small group of extremely liberal urban whites."
"Joe is not only going to win Missouri, but we're going to continue to run the table in the next few months," Nixon confidently stated.
Coronavirus: The latest
Trump floats economic fixes: "President Trump said Monday he is seeking major policy changes that White House officials hope will arrest the widening economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus outbreak by providing immediate federal aid to workers and a number of business groups."
"But his proposals were quickly brushed aside by key congressional Democrats, who are working on their own plan that could be released as soon as this week. The sparring comes as financial markets and the public increasingly look to Washington for answers as fear continues to spread."
"Trump said he will ask Congress to cut payroll taxes and provide relief to hourly workers suffering from the economic fallout of the coronavirus. He also said he was seeking to provide assistance to the airline, hotel and cruise industries, which are all suffering as Americans rapidly cancel travel plans." (Washington Post)
Five lawmakers self-quarantine after CPAC: "Three more members of Congress, including President Donald Trump's future chief of staff, have announced that they would self-quarantine after coming into contact with an individual who has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference."
"North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, who was named as the incoming White House chief of staff on Friday night, announced Monday evening that he has been tested for coronavirus and that test came back negative. However, he's staying in self-quarantine until Wednesday, said Ben Williamson, Meadows' chief of staff."
. . . "Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida became the third and fourth members of Congress to [announce their self-quarantines on Monday], following the same announcements from Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona on Sunday."
"Collins shook Trump's hand when the President went to Georgia on Friday to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Gaetz rode with Trump in the presidential limousine and took Air Force One back to Washington with him on Monday." (CNN)
No test for Trump: "President Donald Trump has not been tested for coronavirus, according to the White House on Monday, even though he recently attended the Conservative Political Action Conference where an attendee eventually tested positive for the disease."
"'The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms. President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him,' said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham according to a pool report." (Politico)
What happened on Wall Street: "U.S. stocks careened lower Monday, with major indexes swinging perilously close to the first bear market in more than a decade as a price war for oil and fallout from the coronavirus frightened investors."
"The selling was heavy across markets and geographies, with investors seeking shelter in government bonds, sending Treasury yields to new lows. U.S. stocks fell hard enough at the open to trigger a circuit breaker for the first time in 23 years that kept trading frozen for 15 minutes. The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its worst decline since 2008 and at one point came within 65 points of touching a bear market."
"For the day, the Dow sank 2,013.76 points, or 7.8%, to 23851.02. It was the first time the Dow lost more than 2,000 points in a session. The S&P 500 fell 225.81 points, or 7.6%, to 2746.56, also its worst day since 2008. And the Nasdaq Composite slid 624.94 points, or 7.3%, to 7950.68." (Wall Street Journal)
President Donald Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing and present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane.
The Senate will continue consideration of S.2657, the American Energy Innovation Act, and meet for weekly caucus meetings.
The House will vote on four pieces of legislation:
- H.R. 6020 – To require an evaluation by the Government Accountability Office of the social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture
- H.Res. 756 – Implementing recommendations adopted by the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, as amended
- S. 760 – Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act of 2019
- H.R. 3598 – FREED Vets Act, as amended
Former Vice President Joe Biden will stump in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, and host an election results watch party in Jackson, Mississippi.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will hold rallies in Rockford, Illinois, and Cleveland, Ohio.
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