|Ballotpedia’s Weekly Presidential News Briefing: March 21-27, 2020
Every weekday, Ballotpedia tracks the news, events, and results of the 2020 presidential election.
Notable Quotes of the Week
“June 2 had been an afterthought on the Democratic primary calendar. Ever since Joseph R. Biden Jr. seized the mantle of front-runner, voters in New Jersey and a few other states scheduled to vote that day assumed the Democratic horse race would be over before their primaries rolled around.
But with numerous states pushing back voting to June 2 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the date has gained sudden prominence. It now confers a huge bounty of delegates, second only to Super Tuesday in early March, with Indiana, Pennsylvania and others moving to hold their primaries on the first Tuesday in June.
Although Mr. Biden has built an all but insurmountable lead, June 2 — which is a long 10 weeks away — will be his first chance to clinch the presidential nomination. Only then would the former vice president have a definitive reason to press for the withdrawal of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has shown no inclination to leave a race that feels frozen in place.”
– Trip Gabriel, The New York Times
“America has a history of unifying in trying times and rallying around the president. But after years of deep division, in the earliest, head-spinning days of the pandemic, a fractured electorate largely viewed Trump’s performance through the lens they chose long ago. But the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. The body count will rise; the economy will almost certainly crater. Trump’s political fate may be left up to the sliver of moderates in the middle, who will choose whether to blame him for the crisis spiraling on his watch.”
– Claire Galofaro and Tamara Lush, Associated Press
Week in Review
States change primary dates in response to coronavirus
A number of states have made changes to election dates and procedures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what changed this week in the presidential election.
- Delaware: Gov. John Carney (D) postponed the April 28 presidential primary to June 2. The state also expanded the definition of sick or physically disabled for absentee voting eligibility to apply to asymptomatic individuals who are self-quarantining or social distancing.
- Georgia: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) announced the state would mail absentee ballot request forms to all active voters for the May 19 primary election.
- Indiana: The Indiana Election Commission temporarily suspended absentee voting eligibility requirements, allowing all voters to cast their ballots by mail in the June 2 primary.
- Michigan: Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) announced the state would mail absentee ballot applications to all voters in the May 5 election.
- Montana: Gov. Steve Bullock (D) issued a directive authorizing counties to conduct June 2 primary elections by mail.
- Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed a law postponing the state’s primary from April 28 to June 2.
- Puerto Rico: The Democratic Party of Puerto Rico postponed its March 29 primary to April 26.
- Rhode Island: Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) signed an executive order postponing the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 2.
The next presidential primary with in-person voting is scheduled for April 7 in Wisconsin. Gov. Tony Evers (D) has encouraged voters to cast their ballots by mail. On March 20, a federal judge extended the deadline to electronically register to vote in Wisconsin’s primaries to March 30.
Read more about changes in election procedures due to the coronavirus here.
Sanders wins Democrats Abroad primary
According to vote totals released Monday, Bernie Sanders won the Democrats Abroad primary with 58% of the vote. This gives Sanders nine of the group’s delegates. Joe Biden won 23% and the remaining four delegates.
The Democrats Abroad primary was conducted over one week from March 3-10 and was open to all U.S. citizens living abroad who did not vote in a state or territorial primary. Sanders won the primary in 2016 with 69% of the vote and nine delegates.
The Republican Party does not have a similar primary election for voters abroad. Donald Trump has already clinched the Republican presidential nomination. He crossed the delegate threshold—1,276 delegates—on March 17, 2020.
Candidates weigh in on coronavirus relief
Biden, Sanders, and Trump each weighed in on the coronavirus relief bill and associated policies over the past week.
On Wednesday, Sanders spoke on the Senate floor against a proposal to remove a provision from the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package that would provide an additional $600 a week in unemployment payments for four months to workers who were laid off. The proposal to remove the provision was defeated, and the bill passed the chamber 96-0. He later said on the radio show 1A, “While this bill did not go anywhere near as far as I thought it should go, what it did do is expand unemployment benefits in a way that has never taken place before.”
On Wednesday, Biden appeared in interviews with CNN and The View from his home. He said Trump should have enacted the Defense Production Act months ago. The following day, Biden tweeted, “The relief bill passed by Congress was a good start, but now we need to:
- Forgive at least $10,000 of student loan debt per person
- Provide emergency paid sick leave to everyone who needs it
- Ensure no one has to pay for COVID-19 treatment or an eventual vaccine”
On Wednesday, Trump said of the relief bill, “The Democrats have treated us fairly, and I really believe we‘ve had a very good back-and-forth and I say that with respect to [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer.” The following day, he wrote a letter to the nations’ governors on classifying counties by their risk of coronavirus. “This is what we envision: Our expanded testing capacities will quickly enable us to publish criteria, developed in close coordination with the Nation’s public health officials and scientists, to help classify counties with respect to continued risks posed by the virus.”
Campaigns continue to operate remotely
Biden and Sanders stayed off the campaign trail this week, opting instead for virtual events. Over the weekend, both candidates made appearances in the comments section of DJ D-Nice’s Instagram Live virtual dance party, which drew over 100,000 viewers at its peak.
On Sunday, Sanders live-streamed a virtual roundtable on the healthcare and economic impacts of the coronavirus with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
On Wednesday, in addition to launching a newsletter, Biden announced he would begin a podcast, which he described as “a program to share some more of [his] ideas and plans and to bring on some experts and people [he’s] worked with in the White House.”
Trump participated in a Fox News virtual town hall alongside the White House Coronavirus Task Force. During the town hall, Trump said he hoped to have people back to work by Easter.
Trump campaign, Priorities USA spar over coronavirus ads
On Wednesday, Priorities USA Action began running an ad in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin criticizing Trump’s statements about the coronavirus. The same day, the Trump campaign sent cease-and-desist letters to television stations with the threat of legal action.
In the letter, the campaign argues the ad was cut in such a way as to “fraudulently and maliciously imply that President Trump called the coronavirus outbreak a ‘hoax.’”
On Twitter, Guy Cecil of Priorities USA said, “Donald Trump issued a cease and desist letter to try to stop this ad from airing because he doesn’t want Americans to know the truth.”
Want more? Find the daily details here:
Becca Rast is a Democratic staffer with experience in campaign strategy and political organizing. Rast graduated from Brown University with a degree in environmental studies in 2013.
Previous campaign work:
- 2018 Jessica King (D-Penn.) U.S. House campaign, campaign manager
- 2016-2017: Lancaster Stands Up, co-founder and member of leadership team
- 2014-2017: 350.org, youth engagement coordinator
What she says about Sanders: “Bernie Sanders is the real deal because he’s spent his entire career fighting neoliberalism. From his first victory the year after Reagan was elected to leading the progressive populist insurgencey [sic] in the Democratic Party. He has stood for justice and with the 99% forever.”
What We’re Reading
Flashback: March 21-25, 2016
- March 23, 2016: Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz in the Republican presidential primary. Bush dropped out of the running Feb. 20.
- March 24, 2016: The Los Angeles Times published an interview with Bernie Sanders in which he stated that he planned on making the case to the party’s superdelegates that he was the stronger candidate than Hillary Clinton.
- March 25, 2016: A group of tribal leaders across Washington endorsed Hillary Clinton the day before the state’s Democratic presidential caucuses.
- March 26, 2016: Bernie Sanders won the Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington Democratic caucuses.
- March 27, 2016: Trump and Sanders were interviewed on ABC’s This Week.
Which state has lost the most DNC delegates since the 2016 convention?