Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.
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Where things stand in the race
In the end, Joe Biden did what he needed to do on Tuesday: He won the Michigan primary resoundingly, denying Bernie Sanders a comeback and accruing a coalition broad enough to run away with a state Sanders won four years before. He also added Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho to the victory pile. Washington and North Dakota were still too close to call.
With a majority saying in exit polls that they did not think the economy needed a drastic overhaul, Democratic primary voters in Michigan had chosen Biden over Sanders by 15 percentage points with 99 percent of precincts reporting as of early Wednesday.
Biden equaled or bettered Hillary Clinton’s totals against Sanders in 2016 almost across the board. Speaking to supporters in Philadelphia — where a smaller event was held after a rally in Cleveland was canceled over coronavirus worries — Biden positioned himself as the candidate who could appeal to the widest array of Democrats, and the most voters in November.
He ticked off the names of the former rivals who have now endorsed him, and while he said hardly anything about his specific policy goals, he spent considerable time highlighting the diversity of his support. When he mentioned Sanders, it wasn’t to attack him: He sounded as if he were practically accepting a concession speech. “I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion,” Biden said, his voice warm. “We share a common goal, and together we’ll defeat Donald Trump.”
The two states where votes are still being counted could end up being a bit more favorable to Sanders: Washington, with the second-most delegates of the day, and North Dakota. He was up by just 0.2 percentage points with two-thirds of Washington reporting; in North Dakota he led by 6.1 points with 78 percent of the state reporting as of early Wednesday. The delegate haul from Washington may end up basically being a tossup — but we won’t know any time soon, since ballots in this all-vote-by-mail state will continue to arrive for the next couple of days.
Photo of the day
Biden and his wife, Jill, appeared at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia after the primary results began to emerge.
Biden pledges action on the coronavirus
Biden began his victory speech on Tuesday by calling out President Trump for his handling of the coronavirus, and pledged to deliver his own address this week on how he would confront the health crisis.
He pointed out that he had followed a request by the governor of Ohio to cancel a rally that night in Cleveland (Sanders had done the same).
When Biden said that his campaign would strictly follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, his implication was clear: that as president, he would do the same thing. And that Trump will not.
In Washington, Trump called for a temporary cancellation of the payroll tax as he began negotiations with Congress on an emergency financial relief package — an acknowledgment of the gravity of the crisis after weeks of playing down the threat of the virus.
The number of Americans who are infected (the documented ones, that is) has now exceeded 1,000, and schools across the country are closing. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would summon the National Guard to help contain an outbreak in the suburb of New Rochelle.
A new poll of Latinos in Arizona and Florida
A Telemundo poll out this morning shows distinct differences among Latino voters in Arizona and Florida.
The poll has Sanders leading among Latino voters in Arizona with 47 percent of the vote, compared with 40 percent for Biden. But in Florida, Biden leads with 48 percent to Sanders’s 37 percent.
When compared with Trump, Biden holds an advantage in both states, leading by 58 percent in Florida — but Sanders trails among Latino voters, with 44 percent favoring him compared with 45 percent for Trump.
Florida’s Latinos include many historically conservative Cubans, who have often favored Republicans. And 70 percent of Latinos in the state said they would not vote for a candidate who describes himself as a socialist. Sanders’s refusal to disavow his past praise for certain elements of Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba may have only added to his difficulties with many in this group.
The poll was conducted last week, after Biden’s strong showing in Super Tuesday states.
Candidates are still shaking hands — and in some cases, their fists.
They may have canceled their rallies in Cleveland, but the Democratic candidates have still been shaking hands with voters at events across the country.
And as usual, not every voter is a supporter.
Biden was campaigning in Michigan on Tuesday before the polls closed when a worker at an auto assembly plant confronted him about guns, accusing the former vice president of “actively trying to end our Second Amendment right and take away our guns.”
But with cameras rolling from across the room, Biden went off script, giving it back as good as he got. “You’re full of shit,” he said.
“I support the Second Amendment,” he said. “The Second Amendment — just like right now, if you yelled ‘fire,’ that’s not free speech. And from the very beginning, I have a shotgun, I have a 20-gauge, a 12-gauge, my sons hunt. Guess what? You’re not allowed to own any weapon. I’m not taking your gun away at all.”
Biden has a history of seeming to let voters’ attacks get under his skin, and he doesn’t feel any need to hold back in defending himself, even if those defenses sometimes meander. Remember the push-up challenge?