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Wake Up To Politics - March 2, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Monday, March 2, 2020. 1 day until Super Tuesday. 246 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Biden revives campaign with South Carolina victory as Democratic field winnows

The Democratic presidential field continued to see rapid changes this weekend, as two more candidates dropped out and former Vice President Joe Biden won his first primary victory in three decades of seeking the White House.

Biden's big win came in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, where he took 48.4% of the vote to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' 19.9%. Biden won in every county in the state, as well as among all racial groups, genders, ideological segments, and age brackets, except for 17- to 29-year-olds.

"To all those who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind: This is your campaign," Biden declared in his victory remarks in Columbia, South Carolina. "Just days ago the press and the pundits had declared this candidacy dead. Now, thanks to you — the heart of the Democratic Party — we haven’t just won. We won big, and we are very much alive."

The ex-vice president's blowout victory brought new life to his campaign after finishing fourth, fifth, and second in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, respectively. It also established him as the leading centrist alternative to Sanders heading into Super Tuesday — a status that was underlined on Sunday, as Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and the first major openly gay presidential candidate, ended his quest for the Democratic nod.

Buttigieg's exit was the completion (for now) of a stunning rise in Democratic politics: from a virtually unknown small-town mayor to a top-tier presidential contender. "I will no longer seek to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president, but I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new Democratic president come January," Buttigieg said in his South Bend announcement.

The Democratic field has now shrunken to six candidates, after Buttigieg left the race on Sunday and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer announced his own exit after the South Carolina results on Saturday. Only two candidates — Sanders and Biden — boast a substantial number of delegates, 58 and 50, respectively. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have eight and seven delegates, respectively, while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who declined to contest the four early states) and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard each have none. (Six delegates have yet to be allocated from South Carolina.)

The winnowing comes as the remaining contenders face the most pivotal day on the Democratic primary calendar tomorrow: Super Tuesday. 1,357 delegates in 14 states will be at stake: a full 34% of the pledged delegates up for grabs in the nomination fight. For the first time, both California and Texas — the two biggest delegate prizes — will both be voting on Super Tuesday as well, adding to the importance of the event.

Biden spent the weekend attempting to coalesce the moderate vote behind him as Super Tuesday draws near. He announced endorsements from a number of Democratic establishment figures — including former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Tim Kaine, and Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia; former Sen. Barbara Boxer of California; and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida — and even sparked speculation about a forthcoming endorsement from Buttigieg, his vanquished rival, with an exchange of voicemails on Sunday. Poorly lagging behind Sanders in resources (hurting his Super Tuesday ground game), Biden's campaign also announced that it had raised $10 million online in two days, more than the campaign's total haul in the entire month of January.

But even as Biden gains momentum for the first time in months, it is Sanders who remains the race's frontrunner. The Vermont senator is expected to maintain his delegate lead after Super Tuesday — the only question is by how much — as he clings to polling advantages in California, Texas, and other key states (although no polls have been released since Biden's South Carolina victory).

However, with Klobuchar and Warren expected to split the delegate shares (at least in their home states) and Bloomberg readying to unveil his millions-dollar machine, neither Biden nor Sanders will likely be able to avoid a long slog to the Democratic nomination. Biden's Palmetto State victory and Buttigieg's succeeding withdrawal only increased the odds of a brokered convention in July, in which all delegates will be released from their commitments to candidates if no contender receives a majority on the first ballot. (According to polls, Buttigieg's support is expected to be divided up almost equally among Biden, Bloomberg, Sanders, and Warren, adding to the likelihood that a number of them will be able to expand their delegate counts on Super Tuesday, meeting the 15% delegate threshold in more states and congressional districts and creating further indecision.)

Some candidates seem to now be counting on a contested convention: "no candidate will likely have a path to the majority of delegates needed to win an outright claim to the Democratic nomination," Warren's campaign manager said in a Sunday memo, promising that she will "ultimately prevail at the national convention in Milwaukee."

Bloomberg has been similarly defiant amid calls to drop out and create a two-man race. "I am going to stay right to the bitter end, as long as I have a chance," he told NBC News last week.

The Rundown

Coronavirus update: "Health officials across the United States were scrambling on Monday to trace all those who had come into contact with infected patients, even as they struggled to get a handle on how far the virus had spread in the country."

"To date, the American authorities have reported a total of 88 cases nationwide, with two fatalities, both of them older adults with underlying health problems, officials said Sunday night. A genetic analysis of the virus in Washington State, where the deaths occurred, suggested that the illness could have been spreading within the community for as long as six weeks before the first case was detected."

"The coronavirus, now present on every continent except Antarctica, has infected nearly 90,000 people, killing more than 3,000." (New York Times)

--- "Inside Trump’s frantic attempts to minimize the coronavirus crisis" (Washington Post)

--- "Trump adds travel restrictions on Iran, advisories for Italy and South Korea" (NBC News)

U.S., Taliban sign Afghanistan peace deal: "Acknowledging a military stalemate after nearly two decades of conflict, the United States on Saturday signed a peace agreement with the Taliban that is aimed at ending America’s longest war and bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan more than 18 years after they invaded in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

"The historic deal, signed by chief negotiators from the two sides and witnessed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, could see the withdrawal of all American and allied forces in the next 14 months and allow President Donald Trump to keep a key campaign pledge to extract the U.S. from 'endless wars.' But it could also easily unravel, particularly if the Taliban fail to meet their commitments." (Associated Press)

Israelis vote in third election in seven months: "Israelis are voting in an unprecedented third general election in less than a year, with the prime minister fighting for his political survival."

"Neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor his main challenger, Benny Gantz, were able to put together majority coalitions following the last two elections. The final opinion polls suggested the latest round is too close to call. Mr. Netanyahu is seeking re-election two weeks before he is due to stand trial on corruption charges." (BBC)


President Donald Trump will meet with President Iván Duque Márquez of Colombia, receive his daily intelligence briefing, have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence, meet with pharmaceutical executives about the coronavirus, and deliver remarks at a rally for his re-election campaign in North Carolina.

Vice President Mike Pence will deliver remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, participate in a video teleconference call with governors on the coronavirus, join President Trump for lunch and the meeting with pharmaceutical executives, lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting, and conduct a briefing on the coronavirus with White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx.

The Senate will hold a procedural vote advancing S.2657, the Advanced Geothermal Innovation Leadership Act, which would "support innovation in advanced geothermal research and development."

The House will vote on four pieces of legislation: H.R. 5931, the Improving FHA Support for Small Dollar Mortgages Act of 2020; H.R. 5003, the Fair Debt Collection Practices for Servicemembers Act; H.R. 5932, the Ensuring Chinese Debt Transparency Act of 2020; and H.R. 4351, the Yes In My Backyard Act.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Nasrallah v. Barr and Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraisiggiam.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will campaign in Texas. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg will campaign in Virginia. Sen. Amy Klobuchar will campaign in Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma. Sen. Bernie Sanders will campaign in Utah and Minnesota. Sen. Elizabeth Warren will campaign in California.

Former Gov. Bill Weld will campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in Massachusetts.

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