Biden Builds a Lead as Sanders Presses On: This Week in the 2020 Race

In his speech, Mr. Biden used the language and tone of crisis in proposing a detailed coronavirus plan and setting goals for testing, hospital capacity and a vaccine. Mr. Sanders warned that the American death toll could exceed the number of American soldiers killed during World War II. Both sharply criticized Mr. Trump.

“This virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration,” Mr. Biden said. “Public fears are being compounded by pervasive lack of trust in this president, fueled by adversarial relationships with the truth that he continues to have.”

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Four big states — Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — will hold their primaries on Tuesday, and election officials say they are taking extra precautions. Meanwhile, Louisiana announced on Friday that it would postpone its April 4 primary until June 20.

Another super (small ‘s’) Tuesday for Biden


Biden Speaks After Primary Victories

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. addressed a small crowd after scoring primary victories in Missouri, Mississippi and Michigan.

Just over a week ago, many of the pundits declared that this candidacy was dead. Now we’re very much alive. And although there’s a way to go, it looks like we’re going to have another good night. It’s more than a comeback in my view, our campaign. It’s a comeback for the soul of this nation. This campaign is taking off and I believe we’re going to do well from this point on. And I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion. We share a common goal and together, we’ll defeat Donald Trump. We’ll defeat him together. Tonight we are a step closer to restoring decency, dignity and honor to the White House. That’s our ultimate goal.

A week after dominating on Super Tuesday, Mr. Biden “took command of the Democratic presidential race in decisive fashion,” as our colleagues wrote, winning at least four more contests this past Tuesday on the strength of a multiracial coalition that proved especially powerful in the South and the Midwest.

Mr. Biden’s victory in Michigan — the biggest prize of the night — was particularly damaging to Mr. Sanders, who won the state in the 2016 primary. Mr. Biden is also ahead in Washington State with nearly all of the vote counted. That’s another place where Mr. Sanders won four years ago and had hoped to do well again.

So far, Mr. Sanders has won only one of the six states that voted Tuesday: North Dakota, which awarded just 14 delegates.

Before Tuesday, several high-profile figures offered their endorsements. Mr. Sanders got the backing of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Mr. Biden received endorsements from Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, both of whom dropped out of the presidential race before the first nominating votes.

Here are highlights from Tuesday’s contests, five takeaways and an analysis of the delegate math moving forward.

In a news analysis, our colleagues Matt Flegenheimer and Katie Glueck write: “So thorough is Mr. Biden’s hold on the party now that any collapse would probably require a political U-turn as sharp as the one that precipitated his rise.”

Sanders stays in (for now)


‘Joe, What Are You Going to Do?’ Sanders Presses Biden on Key Issues

Despite a series of defeats, Bernie Sanders said he was eager to debate Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Last night, obviously, was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view. We lost in the largest state up for grabs yesterday, the state of Michigan, we lost in Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho. I very much look forward to the debate in Arizona with my friend Joe Biden. And let me be very frank as to the questions that I will be asking Joe. Joe, what are you going to do to end the absurdity of the United States of America being the only major country on Earth where health care is not a human right? Are you really going to veto a Medicare for all bill if it is passed in Congress? Joe, how are you going to respond to the scientists who tell us we have seven or eight years remaining to transform our energy system before irreparable harm takes place to this planet because of the ravages of climate change? Donald Trump must be defeated, and I will do everything in my power to make that happen. On Sunday night in the first one-on-one debate of this campaign, the American people will have the opportunity to see which candidate is best positioned to accomplish that goal.

Mr. Sanders did not give a speech Tuesday night as race after race was called for Mr. Biden. Instead, he elected to wait, assess and ultimately speak to reporters the next day.

He declared that he would stay in the primary race and participate in Sunday’s debate with Mr. Biden. But he also made what our colleagues called “a defiant case for his liberal policy agenda,” asserting that “a strong majority” of Democrats supported his progressive ideas.

He did not, however, attack Mr. Biden or vow to carry his fight to a bitter end.

Our colleagues Alexander Burns and Matt Flegenheimer called it “a concession speech, of a kind.”

We also wrote about why Mr. Sanders is staying in the race for now and who he has blamed for his decline, and talked to voters who see him as their only hope.

And in case you were wondering, Senator Elizabeth Warren is unlikely to endorse Mr. Sanders, according to several people close to her.

Changes to the Biden campaign

As our colleagues Katie Glueck and Thomas Kaplan have noted, Mr. Biden’s campaign organization has for months been flimsy, underfunded and filled with operational challenges. Thankfully for him, it did not end up hurting him on Super Tuesday or this past week.

Nonetheless, on Thursday Mr. Biden announced that he had hired a new campaign manager: Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, a veteran Democratic strategist who managed former Representative Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign and before that was a top aide on President Barack Obama’s re-election team.

The move, our colleague Jonathan Martin writes, is a way for Mr. Biden to signal to Democratic donors and elected officials “that he knows he has to broaden” his operation as he prepares for a general election fight against Mr. Trump.

Updates on Sunday’s debate

As we mentioned above, there will be yet another Democratic debate on Sunday, but because of the coronavirus, it has been moved from Phoenix to Washington, D.C. And as another precaution, the event will take place without a live audience or assembled press corps.

For the first time in this campaign, only two candidates will be onstage: Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders. And as our colleague Shane Goldmacher writes, this debate will be different from most others in modern politics: “Both men will be auditioning for the presidency amid an unfolding national emergency.”

Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is still running, too, but she has not qualified for a debate in months.

Join us for live analysis on debate night. Subscribe to “On Politics,” and we’ll send you a link.

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