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Biden’s first virtual event encounters technological glitches

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Biden’s first virtual event encounters technological glitches

WASHINGTON — The virtual campaign is proving a bit complicated, after a Friday event for former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign encountered some technological glitches. 

Biden is the first Democratic candidate to hold a virtual town hall due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 and public events. The attempt to broadcast the first of two scheduled “virtual events” in the next several days involved a garbled-voiced Biden and ended roughly four minutes after the Facebook Live video began streaming in Illinois.

The former vice president acknowledged the issues while ending the livestream.

“Well, I’m sorry this has been such a disjointed effort here because of the connections, but there is a lot more to say and I’ve probably already said too much,” Biden said. 

But the appetite for these events appears to be there — the short event garnered more than 5,000 viewers. 

On Saturday morning, the campaign released a link to a full, updated video without the technical glitches.

Much of the event focused on Biden explaining how he’d work to respond and recover the country from pandemics. He also tried to downplay the need for panic and outlined ways in which everyone can take precautions to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus, while still connecting to people.

“Campaign events are no exception that’s why we’re connecting virtually today. We’re going to have to get better at the technical side of this,” Biden said.

Biden, Sanders increase ad spending amid virtual campaign

WASHINGTON — While the traditional campaigning in the 2020 race has come to a halt due to concerns regarding COVID-19, the Democratic presidential candidates have increased their TV and radio ad spending for the upcoming March 17 primaries, with millions of dollars on the airwaves in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.

Here’s a look at the ad spending in these four states through March 17, according to data from Advertising Analytics:

Arizona

  • Sanders: $1.4 million
  • Biden: $564,000
  • Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $522,000

FYI: Michael Bloomberg had spent $8.9 million in the state before dropping out

Florida

  • Sanders: $6.0 million
  • Biden: $5.1 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $44.6 million

Illinois

  • Sanders: $2.2 million
  • Biden: $1.9 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $18.6 million

Ohio

  • Sanders: $2.3 million
  • Biden: $1.3 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $15.4 million

Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman formally backs Biden

WASHINGTON — The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), California Rep. Karen Bass, announced Friday that she is endorsing Joe Biden for president, making her the 37th member of the CBC to back the former vice president.

In a statement released by Bass, the congresswoman said that Biden is the person who can provide a “steady hand that can bring an end to the past three and a half years of daily trauma inflicted” on Americans by the Trump presidency.

Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus prebuttal to the State of the Union address in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020.Michael Brochstein / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Bass added that during his time as vice president, she has come to know Biden as a true leader domestically and internationally — someone who “works tirelessly on behalf of all Americans, especially those purposely forgotten and antagonized by the current administration.”

In an interview with PBS, the chairwoman elaborated on her decision to back Biden and revealed that his rival, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, “called one time” to invite her to meet “last minute,” but when she couldn’t make it, he never called back. Her and Biden in contrast, have spoken “a number of times” during the campaign.

Bass also told PBS that Biden’s vice presidency reveals a “historic connection with African Americans,” and that Sanders “does not have a historic connection like that.” She continued to criticize Sanders, saying that if she were to run for president, she would work “years in advance on building ties and building relationships — not just with African Americans — with all communities.”  

Sanders will ‘wholeheartedly’ support Biden if he’s the nominee, adviser says

WASHINGTON — Senior adviser to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign Jeff Weaver said Thursday that Sanders will support former Vice President Joe Biden “wholeheartedly” if Biden is the Democratic nominee. 

In an interview on MSNBC, Weaver said that the Sanders campaign is looking at the rest of the Democratic primary on a “week by week” basis, but that if he does not win the nomination, he would campaign for the former vice president. However, Weaver wouldn’t say if that decision would come before or after the Democratic convention in July. 

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Weaver said. Adding, “Right now we are working hard and working hard to win.” 

The campaign is looking to shore up wins in this Tuesday’s upcoming nominating contests — focusing specifically on Illinois and Arizona where Sanders performed well in 2016. However, states like Florida and Ohio will also be voting on Tuesday where Biden has a substantial likelihood of winning a larger share of delegates. 

What might Michigan’s primary turnout say about the general election?

WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders had hoped a strong showing in Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary would help supercharge his fledgling campaign, but his campaign appears poised for a double-digit loss there. 

NBC News contributor Dante Chinni, the director of the American Communities Project at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, pulled out three important takeaways from Michigan’s primary: 

  • There are cracks in Sanders’ coalition of young, college-age voters as well as the older working-class voters. 
  • Sanders’ success in areas that support President Trump “seems to have fizzled.”
  • And turnout suggests Biden “might be the candidate to bring blue-collar voters back to the Democrats in 2020.”  

Click here to read his full analysis. 

Gabby Giffords backs Biden ahead of Arizona primary

DETROIT — Joe Biden is picking up a key endorsement ahead of next Tuesday’s Arizona primary: Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, a high profile figure in the state and a leading voice on gun control

Joe Biden, right, hugs former Rep. Gabby Giffords during a gun safety forum on Oct. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas.John Locher / AP file

Giffords, who represented a Tucson-area district from 2005-2012, became a nationally recognized gun control activist after she was shot and critically wounded in a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011.  Her endorsement comes ahead of next week’s Arizona primary between Biden and Bernie Sanders, whose strength among Latino voters could prove significant in the state. Sanders won 53 percent of Latino voters in Nevada’s caucuses on February 22 and 41 percent in Texas on Super Tuesday

Arizona votes on March 17, along with Florida, Illinois and Ohio.

“Joe Biden leads with his heart. He has the compassion and toughness to lead on gun safety. I’ve witnessed him comfort the survivors of gun violence, and I’ve seen him fight for solutions to gun violence — and win. This is the leadership we need in the White House. Joe Biden is the choice for a true gun safety president,” Giffords said in a statement provided to NBC News.

“Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is an American hero who embodies the courage and tenacity we need to take on and defeat the gun lobby,” Biden said in a statement to NBC News. “I have been proud to work alongside Gabby in the fight to end gun violence and am honored to have her support today.”

The endorsement could undergird Biden’s momentum coming off his strong showings in the March 10 primaries.  

Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, is expected to be the Democratic challenger to Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally in one of the highest-profile Senate contests this year.

Sanders has come under criticism from Biden and gun control activists for some of his past votes on gun measures, particularly a law that shields gun manufacturers from liability.  

As a presidential candidate, Sanders has emphasized his support for universal background checks and his D- minus rating from the NRA.  

Giffords and Biden have worked together in the past on gun safety measures, including in the aftermath of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 first graders and six educators were killed. Two years later, they sat together off the Senate floor watching as a bill Giffords had fought for to expand background checks failed by five votes.

Biden leads Sanders by dozens of endorsements after big wins

WASHINGTON — Since his big win in the South Carolina primary less than two weeks ago, Joe Biden has earned more than 50 endorsements from Democratic governors and members of Congress.

That’s compared with just one endorsement for Bernie Sanders since the Vermont senator’s win in the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22.

Overall, Biden has a total of more than 100 endorsements from major Democratic politicians, while Sanders has about ten.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden speak before a Democratic presidential primary debate in Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 25, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP file

The gap in their support has continued to widen as the former vice president racks up primary victories. Following Biden’s near-30 percentage point margin win in South Carolina on Feb. 29, most of his former primary opponents have endorsed him.

In the last week and a half alone, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala Harris of California, and Cory Booker of New Jersey have all rallied for Biden. Mike Bloomberg and John Delaney have also put their support behind him.

Other influential politicians who have jumped on board include Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton ally who previously served as Chair of the Democratic National Committee and the governor of Virginia. 

The only former competitor backing Sanders after his definitive victory in the Nevada caucuses is author Marianne Williamson. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., dropped out of the race last week but she has yet to endorse Biden or Sanders.

Those backing Biden and Sanders also vary drastically in their ideologies and policy positions.

Since the South Carolina primary, Democratic Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Elissa Slotkin, and Andy Kim — moderates who all flipped their seats from red to blue in the 2018 midterms — have endorsed Biden. Kim is one of several House members who previously endorsed Buttigieg and then transferred his support to Biden after the former South Bend mayor suspended his campaign.

While just one member of Congress — Rep. Mark Takano of California — has decided to throw his support behind Sanders since his strong performance in Nevada lifted him into temporary front-runner status, those who backed the Independent Vermont senator prior to the caucuses come from the bluest of districts. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan for example, are ardent Sanders campaigners.

From the start of his candidacy, Sanders has failed to win over any governors. Five governors in contrast, have issued formal endorsements for Biden, including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer whose state is voting today. 

Sanders and Biden scrap on the airwaves in Tuesday’s states

WASHINGTON — It may not be super, but as the Democratic race hits the latest round of contests today, Joe Biden is looking to replicate his strong showing on last week’s Super Tuesday and widen his delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. 

The Sanders campaign is outspending Biden on the TV and radio airwaves across the six states that hold their nominating contests today — $2.9 million to Biden’s almost $2.2 million, according to Advertising Analytics. But Biden’s effort has been boosted by spending from his allied super PAC, Unite the Country. 

Both campaigns are spending the most in Michigan — Sanders and Biden have spent about $1.2 million each, with Unite the Country spending another almost $400,000.  

The Biden campaign and his super PAC have also run ads in Missouri and Mississippi, but neither have spent a cent on TV or radio ads in Washington, Idaho and North Dakota.

The Sanders campaign, by comparison, has gone up on the airwaves in all six states voting Tuesday. 

Sanders’ top ad across these states, according to Advertising Analytics data, is one that attacks Biden on social security by using audio from a speech in 1995 where he called for a spending freeze across the government. His campaign has spent more than $644,000 to air the ad in states holding votes on Tuesday. 

The Biden campaign has bristled at those attacks, and has spent almost $200,000 in those states on ads that criticize Sanders for going negative and argue Biden has said he’d expand Medicare and Social Security. 

Biden’s top ads in the states voting Tuesday are different versions of the same spot, which feature former President Obama’s praise of Biden as “an extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service.” 

And Unite Our Country has spent $376,000 in these states on a spot that quotes Biden talking about his campaign, and includes some brief swipes at Sanders (Biden is quoted int he ad saying he wants to “build on ObamaCare” instead of scrapping it, and “Democrats want a nominee who is a Democrat”). 

Biden holds double-digit lead in new Michigan primary poll

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders in Michigan by double digits ahead of tomorrow’s presidential primary, a new poll shows. 

Monmouth University’s new numbers show Biden with 51 percent support, compared to Sanders’ 36 percent.

The former vice president, who has been rising at the polls ever since last month’s victory in South Carolina, has a significant edge (of at least double-digits) with white voters, non-white voters, voters aged 50 or over, women, self-described Democrats, moderates and conservatives.

Half of voters say they’re firmly decided, 23 percent said they are open to changing their mind, and another 17 percent already voted early. 

Biden and Sanders both have a similar edge over President Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup. Biden leads Trump 48 percent to 41 percent, while Sanders leads 46 percent to 41 percent. 

Monmouth polled 911 registered Michigan voters (411 of which were likely Democratic primary voters) between March 5 and March 8. The margin of error for the larger sample was 3.1 percentage points, while the margin for the smaller sample was 4.8 percent. 

Michigan is becoming the next big battleground in the Democratic presidential primary race. Both Sanders and Biden have dropped about $1 million each on television and radio ads through Monday and there’s been a flurry of activity there in recent days. 

The Vermont Independent senator canceled a rally in Mississippi last week to pivot to Michigan to hold events there, held a big rally with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the University of Michigan over the weekend, and won the endorsement of Rev. Jesse Jackson as he makes a play for the state’s black voters. 

But Biden has been laser-focused on the state too, rolling out a bevy of endorsements in recent days. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer backed him after his victories on Super Tuesday. And Biden is set to appear in the state on Monday with two former presidential primary rivals, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris, NBC News’ Mike Memoli and Marianna Sotomayor report.

Sanders is hopeful he can win the state, like he did in 2016’s presidential primary, to give his campaign a jolt of momentum after a tough showing on Super Tuesday. But Sanders’ headline-capturing Michigan victory in 2016 only netted him a narrow delegate advantage from the state, which former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton offset by a large margin-of-victory in Mississippi, which holds its primary on the same day as Michigan.

Sanders is at risk of a similar dynamic this year — exit polling from Super Tuesday showed Biden cleaning up with black voters in southern states like Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. 

After it got stymied in Washington, Democrats hope to show key reform package can advance in states

WASHINGTON — Democratic legislators in 10 states are set to introduce a version of the government reform package known as HR-1, which has floundered in the GOP-controlled Senate, as Democrats try to demonstrate they can advance their agenda beyond Washington. 

The group behind the effort told NBC News that the measure is a collection of reforms, including an expansion of voting rights — early voting, same-day registration, and a restoration of rights for former felons — an attempt to end gerrymandering by moving to an independent redistricting process and restrictions on corporate political contributions and the so-called “revolving door” of legislators becoming lobbyists.

House Resolution 1 was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top agenda item after Democrats won back control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections. It passed the lower chamber on a party-line vote a year ago Monday, but went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

The For the People Act, as both the national and state-level bill is known, will be introduced in a wide wide range of states including battlegrounds like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire and North Carolina, along with some bluer states like Connecticut and Hawaii, and red ones like South Carolina, Missouri and Kentucky. 

The cross-country push is being coordinated by the group Future Now and Future Majority, which together are part of a renewed focus by liberals on statehouses after years of dominance by conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“It’s important to remember that the assault on democracy didn’t start with (President Donald) Trump — it started in the states,” said Daniel Squadron, a former New York state Senator who is the co-founder and executive director of Future Now. “By expanding access to voting, reducing the power of corporate money in elections, and strengthening ethics and oversight, the For the People Act will ensure that state governments are more accountable, responsive, and focused on the broad public interest, not narrow special interests.” 

The group aims to help Democrats win statehouses, while its policy arm has built an online policy library as part of the research and strategy help it provides to state lawmakers, many of whom have only limited professional staff and expertise at their disposal.

State legislative and gubernatorial races will be especially important in 2020 ahead of next year’s decennial redistricting process, which will re-write congressional district lines for the next year, lines that are, in many states, subject to the approval of the state legislature and governor. 

Trump campaign ‘proceeding normally,’ but no rallies scheduled

WASHINGTON — There are few things President Trump says he enjoys more than a large-scale rally with thousands of cheering supporters. And while he has pledged to keep up the pace amid concerns about large gathering as the coronavirus outbreak intensifies, his re-election campaign has not announced any upcoming rallies for the weeks ahead, marking the first time without one on the calendar this year.

The campaign maintains it is “proceeding normally” and simply hasn’t made any future plans public. “We will announce rallies when we are ready to do so,” principal deputy communications director Erin Perrine told NBC News. “President Trump had a town hall this week, a fundraiser, and we have loads of campaign events on the event schedule on the website.” 

Those “events” are mostly smaller gatherings for volunteer trainings but there is one “Women for Trump” event on the books with Second Lady Karen Pence next week in Pennsylvania.

When asked at the CDC on Friday whether he’d considered not having rallies due to coronavirus fears, the president told reporters: “No, I haven’t.” He doubled down on that over the weekend, when he said he expects “tremendous rallies” to take place but did not offer any specifics beyond that.

“We’re doing very well.  And we’ve done a fantastic job with respect to that subject on the virus,” Trump added.

For weeks, the president has maintained that mass gatherings are “very safe.” The president has held 10 rallies so far in 2020 and notably headlined campaign events around every major Democratic voting contest — including in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and North Carolina. This week will mark the first time voters head to the polls without the president continuing his consistent pattern of shadowing the Democratic campaigns this primary season.

It’s worth noting other candidates are continuing to campaign and hold large events, though they have signaled a willingness to adjust plans if guidance from medical professionals changes course. Former Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday his team is “listening to the experts and the CDC” and they will take “advice from them” on any upcoming mass gatherings.

Biden aides also put out a statement late Sunday night, indicating they “will continue to closely follow guidance offered by federal and local public health officials on the types of events we hold and how we execute them.”

Trump has a fundraiser in Longwood, Florida tomorrow but, apart from that, there is no public campaign travel on his schedule. Asked on Saturday about whether elderly people should be concerned about attending political rallies, HHS Sec. Alex Azar told reporters during a White House briefing that he didn’t want to comment in his official capacity but that anyone who is older and has an underlying condition should “exercise caution.”

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed that message in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying: “If we continue to see the community spread go up I think you need to seriously look at anything that’s a large gathering. Again, you have  to understand… particularly if you’re an individual who has an underlying condition and are vulnerable.”



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Republican, Democratic super PACs place initial ad buys in fight for Senate

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WASHINGTON — Key Republican and Democratic super PACs have announced big spending plans in the fight for the Senate majority. 

Both the Senate Majority PAC and the Senate Leadership Fund, groups aligned with top Democratic and Republican leaders respectively, have announced their first round of television advertising investments in recent days. The groups are focusing on five of the same states — Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina — with Senate Leadership Fund spending in Kentucky as well. 

SLF is booking $67.1 million, the group announced in a press release last week. And SMP is booking $69.2 million, it said in a press release Monday. 

Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Jan. 15, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

North Carolina is the beneficiary of the most early ad booking, with the Democratic SMP announcing plans to reserve $25.6 million there and the Republican SLF planning to book $21.8 million. There, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis will take on Democratic former state Sen. Cal Cunningham.

An NBC News/Marist University poll taken in late February of that race showed Cunningham up 5 points on Tillis among registered voters, 48 percent to 43 percent, within the margin of error. That poll took place just before the state’s primary. 

The race receiving the next-most early booking dollars is Iowa, where Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is defending her seat against whichever Democrat wins the primary currently scheduled for June 2.

Ernst’s favorability rating fell to 47 percent among Iowa adults in the March Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, but 41 percent of likely voters said they’d definitely vote to re-elect Ernst compared to 31 percent who said they’d definitely vote for someone else. 

Close behind in that early-spending figure is Arizona, where SMP is booking $15.7 million and SLF is booking $9.2 million through an affiliate group called Defend Arizona. There, Republican Sen. Martha McSally is looking to win the rest of the term vacated by the death of the late Republican Sen. John McCain.

While McSally lost the state’s 2018 Senate race, she was appointed to fill McCain’s seat after his death. A recent Monmouth University poll had Kelly up 6 points over McSally among registered voters, within the margin of error. 

Then there’s Maine, which has already been home to a significant bevy of television ad spending by other outside groups. SMP is booking $9.6 million there while SLF is booking $7.2 million ahead as Republican Sen. Susan Collins seeks to defend her seat. The top Democrat in that race is state House Speaker Sarah Gideon, but Betsy Sweet, the former director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, is also running. 

The groups are also going toe-to-toe in Colorado, where Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is expected to take on former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. The Democratic SMP plans to book $5.2 million there, with the Republican SLF booking $5.5 million. 

And SLF is also putting $10.8 million in early television spending into Kentucky through another affiliated group, Keep Kentucky Great. There, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection and will likely face off against Marine veteran Amy McGrath. 

These totals don’t include what’s expected to be a large digital presence by both groups, and the investments are likely to change as it gets closer to election day, with groups moving money around or injecting more money into competitive races. 

NYC Democratic House candidate announces positive COVID-19 test

WASHINGTON — New York City Democratic House candidate Suraj Patel has tested positive for COVID-19, he confirmed in a new statement Monday. 

Patel, one of the candidates featured in a recent MTP Blog story about how the new social distancing guidelines and the threat of coronavirus has fundamentally upended House campaigns, disclosed his positive test in a new statement posted on social media and on the blogging platform Medium

Suraj PatelSuraj Patel for Congress

He said he began developing symptoms earlier this month — which he described as “troubling tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing followed by a regular fever of 102 degrees. Patel lives with two doctors, one of whom is his brother, which he said underscored the need for him to test to see if had COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, so that his roommates would know whether they were at risk. 

Patel said that ultimately, he and his two housemates all tested positive. But he’s now “fully recovered” and “asymptomatic.”

“New Yorkers and Americans at large are stepping up in a tremendous unified way. We know how important it is to our most vulnerable populations that we slow the growth of this COVID epidemic. But as this becomes less abstract and more personal — when people’s loved ones start to show symptoms — human nature is such that we are going to want certainty and safety,” Patel wrote, before calling for universal COVID testing. 

“The only proven way to slow and eventually stop this pandemic is to have an accurate picture of who has had the disease, who currently has it, and who is still at risk. Social distancing and the strong leadership of Governor Cuomo and others is buying us vital time, but the question is what is our federal government doing with the time that the sacrifices of so many Americans are buying them?” he wrote. 

“If we fail to universally test, we face an indefinite amount of time in social distancing, only to see new cases of the virus arise when we ultimately return to normal life.”

Patel is running in the Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney. 

Texas Republicans back Lt. Governor on controversial coronavirus comments

HOUSTON — Republican leaders in Texas are defending Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s controversial comments on coronavirus as illustrative of his love of country, even as others see those comments as reckless amid a national crisis. 

Patrick, a Republican and popular former conservative radio host, drew headlines last week when he said he supported President Trump’s call to restart the U.S. economy as quickly as possible despite the ongoing spread of the virus.

The virus has proven most deadly to older people and those with underlying conditions, which means many of those being treated or hospitalized are elderly. Texas has almost 3,000 cases of Covid-19, the illness produced by the coronavirus, according to NBC News. Some 47 people have died.

Emphasizing the need to “get back to work,” Patrick told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”

Patrick, who turns 70 this week, added, “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019.Sergio Flores / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Patrick’s comments sparked backlash online, spurring hashtags including, #NotDyingforWallStreet and #TexasDeservesBetter. But in Texas, prominent Republicans said Patrick has a point.

“He’s really telling a story which is, you know, he wants to make sure there’s an American economy for people to come home to,” Houston area state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, 61, told NBC News. “That’s a big worry. The virus is a big worry, but then the next worry is, ‘do I have a job.’”

McKinney-area state Sen. Angela Paxton, 57, told NBC News: “We want to protect people and keep them healthy. Everyone is going to agree on that. How do we do it, that’s where there’s differences.”

She added, “But I think on the other hand, there’s no one that is going to say, it doesn’t matter if we destroy our economy.”

The mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price, a 70-year old grandmother of six, said that while the economy is a concern so is respect for the value of life. 

“My children and my grandchildren are certainly not ready for their Tootsie to go anywhere or to put myself at risk,” Price said.

“I don’t know what talent he would sacrifice? Is it young talent? Is it the experience in seniors? Or where is it?“ Price said. “I just can’t quite get a handle around that.”

Other Texas GOP leaders suggested Patrick had been talking about a sacrifice he would be willing to make — not asking the rest of the country to do so.

“He was talking about himself,” Denton-area state Sen. Pat Fallon, 52, said. “He perfectly has every right to say, ‘I love this country so much that I would sacrifice, if I had to, my own well-being, to ensure the prosperity and opportunity that I had that my kids and grandkids could have.’ And I think it’s very noble.”

Not everyone is convinced, particularly Republicans who have been critical of Trump’s pull on their party. 

“He’s a public official, he knows what he says has policy implications and it’s absurd to think that he just meant himself,” said Rick Tyler, a former aide to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and MSNBC political analyst who has frequently criticized President Trump. 

John Weaver, a Texan and longtime Republican political strategist who has since founded a group that’s aimed at defeating Trump in November, argues Patrick wouldn’t actually be among the most vulnerable if restrictions were lifted. Texans who live along the US-Mexico border or lack access to adequate care, Weaver said, would be the ones who suffer.

“He’s talking about those people in the valley, who don’t have health insurance because they blocked the expansion of healthcare in this state. He’s talking about people in parts of Houston where, because of density and lack of healthcare, they’re more at risk.” Weaver said. “He’s not talking about himself.”

“There’s no real public policy out there where people are going to say, ‘Fine, we’ll get the economy moving again at the expense of 2 percent of the population,’” Weaver added.

In a statement released the day after the Fox News interview, Patrick seemed to reframe his message away from senior citizens potentially sacrificing their lives.

“When you close the doors of every business in America, you cannot help but destroy the economy and with it, the opportunity for the next generation to live the American dream,” the statement said.

Here’s what the Democratic presidential primary schedule looks like in the age of coronavirus

WASHINGTON — States continue to postpone Democratic presidential caucuses and primaries as the threat of coronavirus looms large and White House social distancing guidelines remain in place for another month. 

All presidential contests before March 17 were held as scheduled but the list of states that have altered voting plans due to the novel coronavirus is extensive.

A voter casts their ballot at a polling station in Hillsboro, Va., on March 3, 2020.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here’s the modified schedule so far listed by original contest date.

March 17

Arizona primary (held)

Florida primary (held)

Illinois primary (held)

Ohio primary: now set to be an all-mail election on April 28

March 24

Georgia primary: postponed to May 19

March 29

Puerto Rico primary: postponed to April 26 at the earliest.

April 4

Alaska Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with the deadline on April 10

Hawaii Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with a deadline of May 22

Louisiana primary: postponed to June 20

Wyoming Caucuses: in-person caucuses suspended in favor of mail. The deadline is April 17

April 7

Wisconsin primary

April 28

Connecticut primary: postponed to June 2.

Delaware primary: postponed to June 2.

Maryland primary: postponed  to June 2.

New York primary: postponed to June 23.

Pennsylvania primary: postponed to June 2.

Rhode Island primary: postponed to June 2, will be “primarily” by mail.

Saturday, May 2

Kansas Party-Run primary (DNC considers this a caucus)

Guam caucuses

Tuesday, May 5

Indiana primary: postponed to June 2.

Tuesday, May 12

Nebraska primary

West Virginia primary

Tuesday, May 19

Kentucky primary: postponed to June 23.

Oregon primary

Tuesday, June 2

Montana primary

New Jersey primary

New Mexico primary

South Dakota primary

Washington, D.C. primary

Saturday, June 6

Virgin Island caucuses

New Biden digital ad argues Trump’s ‘ego will cost lives’ to coronavirus

WASHINGTON – The Biden campaign is issuing a cautious warning about President Donald Trump’s leadership in a new video, saying that his “ego will cost lives” in the fight against coronavirus. 

In a digital video posted to Twitter and Facebook Saturday evening, the campaign uses Trump’s own words during a White House press briefing, where he admitted to telling Vice President Mike Pence not to call Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, two Democrats, because he is “wasting” his time speaking with them.

“You don’t want to call the governor of Washington? You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” the video shows Trump saying.

In response, the campaign posts text on the screen over horror-movie like music that say, “His failure will cost lives. His downplaying will cost lives. His incompetence will cost lives. His ego will cost lives.”

The digital video, which is currently not a paid ad, already has about 5 million views on Twitter and thousands of engagements on Facebook and Instagram.

Biden has spent the past week criticizing Trump for his slow response to preventing the spread of the COVID-19, often pointing to numerous examples of Trump downplaying the seriousness of it earlier this year. The claims in the video are the furthest the campaign has gone in sharply pointing out how Trump’s continued approach to leading the effort could lead to American deaths.

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, Biden’s criticisms of the president were not as aggressive as his campaign’s.

While his campaign has repeatedly warned that Trump’s reaction to the crisis could cost American lives, Biden says he thinks it would be “too harsh” to say Trump has blood on his hands.

“He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply. He should start listening to the scientists before he speaks. He should listen to the health experts. He should listen to his economists,” Biden said.

Whitmer also deflected Trump’s direct attacks against her in a “Meet the Press” interview.

“I’ve talked to the vice president a number of times. We’re working with everyone from the White House on down through FEMA, DHS, the Army Corps of Engineers because it’s got to be all hands on deck. We are not one another’s enemies. The enemy is the virus,” she said on Meet the Press.

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in latest national poll

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by nine points in the latest Fox News general election poll. The poll, released Saturday, shows Biden garnering 49 percent support of registered voters, and Trump at 40 percent — pushing Biden outside the poll’s three-point margin of error. 

The subsection groups show even stronger support for Biden. Suburban women, a key group in the 2018 midterms, support Biden over Trump by a 57-34 point margin. Biden also won self-described “moderates” with 53 percent support — Trump garnered just 24 percent support from the same group. 

Joe Biden addresses supporters at his South Carolina primary night rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters file

The Fox News poll shows overall stability of Biden’s support. In their February poll, Biden led Trump 49-41 percent, and in January he led 50-41 in the same poll. However, this is the first Fox News poll to also measure support of potential general election tickets. 

Biden announced at the last Democratic presidential debate that he would choose a woman as his running mate. Registered voters seem to agree with that decision — in this poll, 63 percent of registered voters approve of that choice. And of three potential female senators Biden could pick, each ticket leads the Republican Trump-Pence ticket. 

Fox News polled Biden with California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — all former presidential candidates in this cycle. Harris and Klobuchar have since endorsed Biden, while Warren has yet to endorse either Biden or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

According to this poll, a Biden-Harris ticket and a Biden-Klobuchar ticket beat Trump-Pence with a 50 to 42 percent margin. A potential Biden-Warren ticket had a larger margin of victory at 52-42 percent support. All three ticket victories were outside of the poll’s margin for error. 

The Fox News poll was conducted between March 21 and 24. 

Democratic super PAC expands ad on Trump’s coronavirus response

WASHINGTON — The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA is expanding their ad buy attacking President Trump on his coronavirus response to Arizona, a source with knowledge of the activity told NBC News.

NBC News reported Thursday that the group had been inquiring about rates in Arizona, a state that tends to vote Republican but has become more competitive for 2020. Later Thursday, Priorities USA announced it would spend $600,000 to run the ad in Arizona.

The ad, titled “Exponential Threat,” splices remarks by the president downplaying the threat of the coronavirus alongside a chart that shows growing cases.

The Trump campaign had already issued letters to TV stations Wednesday arguing that the ad should be taken down because it contains “false, deceptive, and misleading information” about the president and threatened to take legal action if they didn’t immediately stop airing it. 

The ad was part of a $6 million TV and digital buy from Priorities USA in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is still running in all four states despite the Trump campaign’s efforts, the source with knowledge said on Thursday.

 

Bernie Sanders’ big delegate math problem

WASHINGTON — With Senator Bernie Sanders deciding to remain in the Democratic presidential race — possibly all the way through June — it’s time to crunch the delegate numbers once again.

And the exercise shows just how challenging the math is for the Independent Vermont senator.

Overall, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Sanders by 312 pledged delegates, according to NBC News’ Decision Desk.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden during a Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 12, 2019.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

Biden has won 1,174 pledged delegates or 53 percent of all allocated pledged delegates, while Sanders has won 862 or 39 percent. 

To reach the magic number of 1,991 — a majority of all pledged delegates — Biden needs to win 46 percent of the remaining pledged delegates.

Sanders, by contrast, needs 64 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to obtain a majority.

There are two main reasons why Sanders’ deficit is so daunting.

The first is the Democrats’ proportional-allocation system. Unlike Republicans, who often award their delegates based on winner-take-all rules, Democrats award theirs proportionately — so if you win a state or congressional district 55 percent to 45 percent, you get 55 percent of the available pledged delegates while your opponent gets 45 percent.

So the only way to rack up huge delegate hauls is to win a state decisively — like Biden did last week in Florida, when his 62 percent-to-23 percent victory in the state netted him 100-plus more delegates than Sanders earned in the Sunshine State.

Bottom line: Narrow victories in future contests for Sanders won’t really cut into Biden’s lead.  

The second delegate challenge for Sanders is that there are fewer caucus contests than were four years ago.

In 2016, Sanders was often able to keep close with Hillary Clinton because he’d rack up decisive victories in caucus states like Colorado or Washington state. But this time around, those states — and a few others — are holding primaries instead of caucuses, which keeps Sanders’ margin and his resulting delegate hauls smaller than they were in 2016.

Sanders might trail Biden by just 312 delegates. But that deficit is really wider than those numbers suggest.

Former Obama labor secretary among those launching new pro-Biden super PAC

WASHINGTON — A group of Democrats, including former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, are launching a new super PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden that is aimed at helping him secure pivotal western battlegrounds in a general election bid against President Trump. 

NBC News has learned that the group, Win the West, will launch Thursday with Solis, a current member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who served with Biden in the White House, as the group’s first co-chair. Former Biden speechwriter Mathew Littman will serve as the executive director. 

While Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is still running in the Democratic primary race against Biden, the NBC News Decision Desk projects he trails Biden by more than 312 delegates, as the nominating contest has been upended by the coronavirus outbreak. 

Joe Biden delivers remarks at his primary night election event in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images file

Win the West aims to protect two blue-trending states in Nevada and Colorado, while also taking the battle to two red-leaning states where Democrats have had recent success, Texas and Arizona. Its leadership argues that while other groups are focusing on more conventional swing states, it can be effective in those western states where Democrats believe demographics are shifting in their favor. 

“America is at a watershed moment in our nation’s history. Now, more than ever and especially during this time of crisis, it’s vital that we elect a true patriot, someone who values facts and the truth, and who has a profound understanding of how government works and how it can help everyday Americans who are hurting,” Solis said in a statement announcing the group’s creation.

“The only candidate who meets this criteria is former Vice President Joe Biden, and that is why I was proud to be an early endorser of his campaign for President. I know, because I’ve worked with Joe and I’ve seen him in action.”

Along with the announcement of the group’s launch, Win the West is out with its first video, a digital ad that primarily points to Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to argue the president has not lived up to the moment. 

The digital spot highlights Trump’s late January comments to CNBC that his administration had the coronavirus outbreak “totally under control,” the administration’s decision not to replace top officials who handled pandemics after they had left their jobs, and uses a mash-up of Trump’s comments compared to recent headlines to argue that the president “has downplayed the coronavirus.” 

The Trump campaign and its allies have spent the past few weeks defending the administration’s response to the outbreak, arguing that Democrats are politicizing the moment and obfuscating about the president’s response. 

“While Joe Biden and his allies are spreading falsehoods about the administration’s response to coronavirus, President Trump, his administration and Congressional Republicans are stepping up and making sure Americans are safe,” Joe Ascioti, the Republican National Committee’s research director and deputy communications director, said in a Wednesday statement criticizing another pro-Biden super PAC’s ad hitting Trump on the virus response. 

Administration’s mixed messaging on Defense Production Act causes confusion

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed the Defense Production Act (DPA) a week ago today but there has been consistent confusion as to whether it is being utilized to produce medical equipment needed for the coronavirus pandemic. 

The bottom line: the DPA has not yet been used in this manner, despite calls from governors and mayors of the hardest-hit areas to fully activate the DPA. Medical professionals have been among the most outspoken on the desperate need for certain equipment and supplies. 

The Korean War-era DPA would allow the federal government to control the supply chain and compel companies to produce much-needed items. So far, according to the president, several private sector corporations like 3M, Ford, General Motors and Tesla are already doing this themselves without needing the DPA.

Boxes of N95 protective masks for use by medical field personnel are seen at a New York State emergency operations incident command center during the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York on March 17, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters

Here’s a timeline of how the president and his administration have discussed the DPA in recent days: 

March 18, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “We’ll be invoking the Defense Production Act, just in case we need it.  In other words, I think you all know what it is, and it can do a lot of good things if we need it.  And we will — we will have it all completed, signing it in just a little while.  Right after I’m finished with this conference, I’ll be signing it.  It’s prepared to go.  So we will be invoking the Defense Production Act.”

Trump tweeted that same day: 

March 19, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “We hope we are not going to need that…I’ve done it. Yeah, if we find that we need something, we will do that, and you don’t know what we’ve done. You don’t know whether or not we’ve ordered. You don’t know if we’ve invoked it. You don’t know what’s been ordered, what’s not been ordered…I also just invoked the Defense Production Act to help facilitate distribution of essential supplies if necessary.”

March 20, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “I did it yesterday…We have a lot of people working very hard to do ventilators and various other things…. We are using it.” 

March 21, 2020

President Trump to Kelly O’Donnell at briefing: “ If I don’t have to use — specifically, we have the act to use, in case we need it. But we have so many things being made right now by so many — they’ve just stepped up.” 

March 22, 2020

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on Meet the Press: “Yeah, so I think it’s an insurance policy. Right? It’s a lever. If we have to throw that lever we will… And so we haven’t had to use it yet. Will we have to use it? Maybe.  

March 22, 2020

White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro at briefing: “Now what I can tell you so far is that the Defense Production Act, sir, has given me quiet leverage. When you have a strong leader you can take a light hand initially. So what we’ve seen with this outpouring of volunteers from private enterprise, we’re getting what we need without, without putting the heavy hand of government.”

March 24, 2020

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on CNN: “Just a little while ago my team came in and we’re actually going to use the DPA for the first time today. There’s some test kits we need to get our hands on. And the second thing we’re going to do it we’re going to insert some language into these mask contracts that we have for the 500 million masks. DPA language will be in that today.” 

March 24, 2020

FEMA spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow clarifies in statement to NBC News: “At the last minute we were able to procure the test kits from the private market without evoking the DPA.” 

March 24, 2020

President Trump tweet: “The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.”

March 24, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “Private companies are heeding our call to produce medical equipment and supplies because they know that we will not hesitate to invoke the DPA in order to get them to do what they have to do.  It’s called leverage.  You don’t have to use it from the standpoint of — actually, it’s been activated, but you don’t have to use it.  But the threat of it being there is great leverage.  And companies are doing as we ask, and companies are actually — even better than that, they’re coming through and they’re calling us.  And it’s been, really, something to see. This morning, Ford, 3M, and General Electric Healthcare are making tremendous numbers — they’ve already started — of respirators ventilators and face shields.  They’re working together.  We didn’t have to exercise or utilize the DPA in any way.  The fact that we have it helps, but we didn’t have to.  And for the most part, we won’t have to.”

Biden says there have been ‘enough debates’ with Sanders

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be ready to debate former Vice President Joe Biden, but the frontrunner and current delegate-leader in the Democratic primary thinks it may be time to move on. 

In a virtual press conference with campaign reporters on Wednesday, Biden responded to Sanders’ latest signal that he’s staying in the race by wanting to participate in an April Democratic debate. A debate has not yet been scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this,” Biden said after noting that his focus since stepping off the campaign trail two weeks ago has been devoted to the coronavirus crisis.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders during a debate in Washington on March 15, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

Biden and Sanders remain as the only two Democratic candidates still vying for the nomination as the campaign trail has come to a halt. While Sanders continues to mull staying in the race, his announcement to debate Biden and organizing investments in New York suggest he will remain a competitor at least through April’s primaries.

On Tuesday, Biden said on MSNBC that he intends to continue to campaign regardless of how long Sanders stays in the race. 

“As I said from the beginning, that’s not for me to decide,” Biden said. “I’ll continue to make the case why I think I could be president and should be president now and make the case for it. It’s in a sense putting all politics aside.”



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NYC Democratic House candidate announces positive COVID-19 test

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WASHINGTON — New York City Democratic House candidate Suraj Patel has tested positive for COVID-19, he confirmed in a new statement Monday. 

Patel, one of the candidates featured in a recent MTP Blog story about how the new social distancing guidelines and the threat of coronavirus has fundamentally upended House campaigns, disclosed his positive test in a new statement posted on social media and on the blogging platform Medium

Suraj PatelSuraj Patel for Congress

He said he began developing symptoms earlier this month — which he described as “troubling tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing followed by a regular fever of 102 degrees. Patel lives with two doctors, one of whom is his brother, which he said underscored the need for him to test to see if had COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, so that his roommates would know whether they were at risk. 

Patel said that ultimately, he and his two housemates all tested positive. But he’s now “fully recovered” and “asymptomatic.”

“New Yorkers and Americans at large are stepping up in a tremendous unified way. We know how important it is to our most vulnerable populations that we slow the growth of this COVID epidemic. But as this becomes less abstract and more personal — when people’s loved ones start to show symptoms — human nature is such that we are going to want certainty and safety,” Patel wrote, before calling for universal COVID testing. 

“The only proven way to slow and eventually stop this pandemic is to have an accurate picture of who has had the disease, who currently has it, and who is still at risk. Social distancing and the strong leadership of Governor Cuomo and others is buying us vital time, but the question is what is our federal government doing with the time that the sacrifices of so many Americans are buying them?” he wrote. 

“If we fail to universally test, we face an indefinite amount of time in social distancing, only to see new cases of the virus arise when we ultimately return to normal life.”

Patel is running in the Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney. 

Texas Republicans back Lt. Governor on controversial coronavirus comments

HOUSTON — Republican leaders in Texas are defending Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s controversial comments on coronavirus as illustrative of his love of country, even as others see those comments as reckless amid a national crisis. 

Patrick, a Republican and popular former conservative radio host, drew headlines last week when he said he supported President Trump’s call to restart the U.S. economy as quickly as possible despite the ongoing spread of the virus.

The virus has proven most deadly to older people and those with underlying conditions, which means many of those being treated or hospitalized are elderly. Texas has almost 3,000 cases of Covid-19, the illness produced by the coronavirus, according to NBC News. Some 47 people have died.

Emphasizing the need to “get back to work,” Patrick told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”

Patrick, who turns 70 this week, added, “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019.Sergio Flores / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Patrick’s comments sparked backlash online, spurring hashtags including, #NotDyingforWallStreet and #TexasDeservesBetter. But in Texas, prominent Republicans said Patrick has a point.

“He’s really telling a story which is, you know, he wants to make sure there’s an American economy for people to come home to,” Houston area state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, 61, told NBC News. “That’s a big worry. The virus is a big worry, but then the next worry is, ‘do I have a job.’”

McKinney-area state Sen. Angela Paxton, 57, told NBC News: “We want to protect people and keep them healthy. Everyone is going to agree on that. How do we do it, that’s where there’s differences.”

She added, “But I think on the other hand, there’s no one that is going to say, it doesn’t matter if we destroy our economy.”

The mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price, a 70-year old grandmother of six, said that while the economy is a concern so is respect for the value of life. 

“My children and my grandchildren are certainly not ready for their Tootsie to go anywhere or to put myself at risk,” Price said.

“I don’t know what talent he would sacrifice? Is it young talent? Is it the experience in seniors? Or where is it?“ Price said. “I just can’t quite get a handle around that.”

Other Texas GOP leaders suggested Patrick had been talking about a sacrifice he would be willing to make — not asking the rest of the country to do so.

“He was talking about himself,” Denton-area state Sen. Pat Fallon, 52, said. “He perfectly has every right to say, ‘I love this country so much that I would sacrifice, if I had to, my own well-being, to ensure the prosperity and opportunity that I had that my kids and grandkids could have.’ And I think it’s very noble.”

Not everyone is convinced, particularly Republicans who have been critical of Trump’s pull on their party. 

“He’s a public official, he knows what he says has policy implications and it’s absurd to think that he just meant himself,” said Rick Tyler, a former aide to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and MSNBC political analyst who has frequently criticized President Trump. 

John Weaver, a Texan and longtime Republican political strategist who has since founded a group that’s aimed at defeating Trump in November, argues Patrick wouldn’t actually be among the most vulnerable if restrictions were lifted. Texans who live along the US-Mexico border or lack access to adequate care, Weaver said, would be the ones who suffer.

“He’s talking about those people in the valley, who don’t have health insurance because they blocked the expansion of healthcare in this state. He’s talking about people in parts of Houston where, because of density and lack of healthcare, they’re more at risk.” Weaver said. “He’s not talking about himself.”

“There’s no real public policy out there where people are going to say, ‘Fine, we’ll get the economy moving again at the expense of 2 percent of the population,’” Weaver added.

In a statement released the day after the Fox News interview, Patrick seemed to reframe his message away from senior citizens potentially sacrificing their lives.

“When you close the doors of every business in America, you cannot help but destroy the economy and with it, the opportunity for the next generation to live the American dream,” the statement said.

Here’s what the Democratic presidential primary schedule looks like in the age of coronavirus

WASHINGTON — States continue to postpone Democratic presidential caucuses and primaries as the threat of coronavirus looms large and White House social distancing guidelines remain in place for another month. 

All presidential contests before March 17 were held as scheduled but the list of states that have altered voting plans due to the novel coronavirus is extensive.

A voter casts their ballot at a polling station in Hillsboro, Va., on March 3, 2020.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here’s the modified schedule so far listed by original contest date.

March 17

Arizona primary (held)

Florida primary (held)

Illinois primary (held)

Ohio primary: now set to be an all-mail election on April 28

March 24

Georgia primary: postponed to May 19

March 29

Puerto Rico primary: postponed to April 26 at the earliest.

April 4

Alaska Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with the deadline on April 10

Hawaii Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with a deadline of May 22

Louisiana primary: postponed to June 20

Wyoming Caucuses: in-person caucuses suspended in favor of mail. The deadline is April 17

April 7

Wisconsin primary

April 28

Connecticut primary: postponed to June 2.

Delaware primary: postponed to June 2.

Maryland primary: postponed  to June 2.

New York primary: postponed to June 23.

Pennsylvania primary: postponed to June 2.

Rhode Island primary: postponed to June 2, will be “primarily” by mail.

Saturday, May 2

Kansas Party-Run primary (DNC considers this a caucus)

Guam caucuses

Tuesday, May 5

Indiana primary: postponed to June 2.

Tuesday, May 12

Nebraska primary

West Virginia primary

Tuesday, May 19

Kentucky primary: postponed to June 23.

Oregon primary

Tuesday, June 2

Montana primary

New Jersey primary

New Mexico primary

South Dakota primary

Washington, D.C. primary

Saturday, June 6

Virgin Island caucuses

New Biden digital ad argues Trump’s ‘ego will cost lives’ to coronavirus

WASHINGTON – The Biden campaign is issuing a cautious warning about President Donald Trump’s leadership in a new video, saying that his “ego will cost lives” in the fight against coronavirus. 

In a digital video posted to Twitter and Facebook Saturday evening, the campaign uses Trump’s own words during a White House press briefing, where he admitted to telling Vice President Mike Pence not to call Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, two Democrats, because he is “wasting” his time speaking with them.

“You don’t want to call the governor of Washington? You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” the video shows Trump saying.

In response, the campaign posts text on the screen over horror-movie like music that say, “His failure will cost lives. His downplaying will cost lives. His incompetence will cost lives. His ego will cost lives.”

The digital video, which is currently not a paid ad, already has about 5 million views on Twitter and thousands of engagements on Facebook and Instagram.

Biden has spent the past week criticizing Trump for his slow response to preventing the spread of the COVID-19, often pointing to numerous examples of Trump downplaying the seriousness of it earlier this year. The claims in the video are the furthest the campaign has gone in sharply pointing out how Trump’s continued approach to leading the effort could lead to American deaths.

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, Biden’s criticisms of the president were not as aggressive as his campaign’s.

While his campaign has repeatedly warned that Trump’s reaction to the crisis could cost American lives, Biden says he thinks it would be “too harsh” to say Trump has blood on his hands.

“He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply. He should start listening to the scientists before he speaks. He should listen to the health experts. He should listen to his economists,” Biden said.

Whitmer also deflected Trump’s direct attacks against her in a “Meet the Press” interview.

“I’ve talked to the vice president a number of times. We’re working with everyone from the White House on down through FEMA, DHS, the Army Corps of Engineers because it’s got to be all hands on deck. We are not one another’s enemies. The enemy is the virus,” she said on Meet the Press.

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in latest national poll

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by nine points in the latest Fox News general election poll. The poll, released Saturday, shows Biden garnering 49 percent support of registered voters, and Trump at 40 percent — pushing Biden outside the poll’s three-point margin of error. 

The subsection groups show even stronger support for Biden. Suburban women, a key group in the 2018 midterms, support Biden over Trump by a 57-34 point margin. Biden also won self-described “moderates” with 53 percent support — Trump garnered just 24 percent support from the same group. 

Joe Biden addresses supporters at his South Carolina primary night rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters file

The Fox News poll shows overall stability of Biden’s support. In their February poll, Biden led Trump 49-41 percent, and in January he led 50-41 in the same poll. However, this is the first Fox News poll to also measure support of potential general election tickets. 

Biden announced at the last Democratic presidential debate that he would choose a woman as his running mate. Registered voters seem to agree with that decision — in this poll, 63 percent of registered voters approve of that choice. And of three potential female senators Biden could pick, each ticket leads the Republican Trump-Pence ticket. 

Fox News polled Biden with California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — all former presidential candidates in this cycle. Harris and Klobuchar have since endorsed Biden, while Warren has yet to endorse either Biden or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

According to this poll, a Biden-Harris ticket and a Biden-Klobuchar ticket beat Trump-Pence with a 50 to 42 percent margin. A potential Biden-Warren ticket had a larger margin of victory at 52-42 percent support. All three ticket victories were outside of the poll’s margin for error. 

The Fox News poll was conducted between March 21 and 24. 

Democratic super PAC expands ad on Trump’s coronavirus response

WASHINGTON — The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA is expanding their ad buy attacking President Trump on his coronavirus response to Arizona, a source with knowledge of the activity told NBC News.

NBC News reported Thursday that the group had been inquiring about rates in Arizona, a state that tends to vote Republican but has become more competitive for 2020. Later Thursday, Priorities USA announced it would spend $600,000 to run the ad in Arizona.

The ad, titled “Exponential Threat,” splices remarks by the president downplaying the threat of the coronavirus alongside a chart that shows growing cases.

The Trump campaign had already issued letters to TV stations Wednesday arguing that the ad should be taken down because it contains “false, deceptive, and misleading information” about the president and threatened to take legal action if they didn’t immediately stop airing it. 

The ad was part of a $6 million TV and digital buy from Priorities USA in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is still running in all four states despite the Trump campaign’s efforts, the source with knowledge said on Thursday.

 

Bernie Sanders’ big delegate math problem

WASHINGTON — With Senator Bernie Sanders deciding to remain in the Democratic presidential race — possibly all the way through June — it’s time to crunch the delegate numbers once again.

And the exercise shows just how challenging the math is for the Independent Vermont senator.

Overall, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Sanders by 312 pledged delegates, according to NBC News’ Decision Desk.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden during a Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 12, 2019.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

Biden has won 1,174 pledged delegates or 53 percent of all allocated pledged delegates, while Sanders has won 862 or 39 percent. 

To reach the magic number of 1,991 — a majority of all pledged delegates — Biden needs to win 46 percent of the remaining pledged delegates.

Sanders, by contrast, needs 64 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to obtain a majority.

There are two main reasons why Sanders’ deficit is so daunting.

The first is the Democrats’ proportional-allocation system. Unlike Republicans, who often award their delegates based on winner-take-all rules, Democrats award theirs proportionately — so if you win a state or congressional district 55 percent to 45 percent, you get 55 percent of the available pledged delegates while your opponent gets 45 percent.

So the only way to rack up huge delegate hauls is to win a state decisively — like Biden did last week in Florida, when his 62 percent-to-23 percent victory in the state netted him 100-plus more delegates than Sanders earned in the Sunshine State.

Bottom line: Narrow victories in future contests for Sanders won’t really cut into Biden’s lead.  

The second delegate challenge for Sanders is that there are fewer caucus contests than were four years ago.

In 2016, Sanders was often able to keep close with Hillary Clinton because he’d rack up decisive victories in caucus states like Colorado or Washington state. But this time around, those states — and a few others — are holding primaries instead of caucuses, which keeps Sanders’ margin and his resulting delegate hauls smaller than they were in 2016.

Sanders might trail Biden by just 312 delegates. But that deficit is really wider than those numbers suggest.

Former Obama labor secretary among those launching new pro-Biden super PAC

WASHINGTON — A group of Democrats, including former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, are launching a new super PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden that is aimed at helping him secure pivotal western battlegrounds in a general election bid against President Trump. 

NBC News has learned that the group, Win the West, will launch Thursday with Solis, a current member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who served with Biden in the White House, as the group’s first co-chair. Former Biden speechwriter Mathew Littman will serve as the executive director. 

While Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is still running in the Democratic primary race against Biden, the NBC News Decision Desk projects he trails Biden by more than 312 delegates, as the nominating contest has been upended by the coronavirus outbreak. 

Joe Biden delivers remarks at his primary night election event in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images file

Win the West aims to protect two blue-trending states in Nevada and Colorado, while also taking the battle to two red-leaning states where Democrats have had recent success, Texas and Arizona. Its leadership argues that while other groups are focusing on more conventional swing states, it can be effective in those western states where Democrats believe demographics are shifting in their favor. 

“America is at a watershed moment in our nation’s history. Now, more than ever and especially during this time of crisis, it’s vital that we elect a true patriot, someone who values facts and the truth, and who has a profound understanding of how government works and how it can help everyday Americans who are hurting,” Solis said in a statement announcing the group’s creation.

“The only candidate who meets this criteria is former Vice President Joe Biden, and that is why I was proud to be an early endorser of his campaign for President. I know, because I’ve worked with Joe and I’ve seen him in action.”

Along with the announcement of the group’s launch, Win the West is out with its first video, a digital ad that primarily points to Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to argue the president has not lived up to the moment. 

The digital spot highlights Trump’s late January comments to CNBC that his administration had the coronavirus outbreak “totally under control,” the administration’s decision not to replace top officials who handled pandemics after they had left their jobs, and uses a mash-up of Trump’s comments compared to recent headlines to argue that the president “has downplayed the coronavirus.” 

The Trump campaign and its allies have spent the past few weeks defending the administration’s response to the outbreak, arguing that Democrats are politicizing the moment and obfuscating about the president’s response. 

“While Joe Biden and his allies are spreading falsehoods about the administration’s response to coronavirus, President Trump, his administration and Congressional Republicans are stepping up and making sure Americans are safe,” Joe Ascioti, the Republican National Committee’s research director and deputy communications director, said in a Wednesday statement criticizing another pro-Biden super PAC’s ad hitting Trump on the virus response. 

Administration’s mixed messaging on Defense Production Act causes confusion

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed the Defense Production Act (DPA) a week ago today but there has been consistent confusion as to whether it is being utilized to produce medical equipment needed for the coronavirus pandemic. 

The bottom line: the DPA has not yet been used in this manner, despite calls from governors and mayors of the hardest-hit areas to fully activate the DPA. Medical professionals have been among the most outspoken on the desperate need for certain equipment and supplies. 

The Korean War-era DPA would allow the federal government to control the supply chain and compel companies to produce much-needed items. So far, according to the president, several private sector corporations like 3M, Ford, General Motors and Tesla are already doing this themselves without needing the DPA.

Boxes of N95 protective masks for use by medical field personnel are seen at a New York State emergency operations incident command center during the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York on March 17, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters

Here’s a timeline of how the president and his administration have discussed the DPA in recent days: 

March 18, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “We’ll be invoking the Defense Production Act, just in case we need it.  In other words, I think you all know what it is, and it can do a lot of good things if we need it.  And we will — we will have it all completed, signing it in just a little while.  Right after I’m finished with this conference, I’ll be signing it.  It’s prepared to go.  So we will be invoking the Defense Production Act.”

Trump tweeted that same day: 

March 19, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “We hope we are not going to need that…I’ve done it. Yeah, if we find that we need something, we will do that, and you don’t know what we’ve done. You don’t know whether or not we’ve ordered. You don’t know if we’ve invoked it. You don’t know what’s been ordered, what’s not been ordered…I also just invoked the Defense Production Act to help facilitate distribution of essential supplies if necessary.”

March 20, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “I did it yesterday…We have a lot of people working very hard to do ventilators and various other things…. We are using it.” 

March 21, 2020

President Trump to Kelly O’Donnell at briefing: “ If I don’t have to use — specifically, we have the act to use, in case we need it. But we have so many things being made right now by so many — they’ve just stepped up.” 

March 22, 2020

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on Meet the Press: “Yeah, so I think it’s an insurance policy. Right? It’s a lever. If we have to throw that lever we will… And so we haven’t had to use it yet. Will we have to use it? Maybe.  

March 22, 2020

White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro at briefing: “Now what I can tell you so far is that the Defense Production Act, sir, has given me quiet leverage. When you have a strong leader you can take a light hand initially. So what we’ve seen with this outpouring of volunteers from private enterprise, we’re getting what we need without, without putting the heavy hand of government.”

March 24, 2020

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on CNN: “Just a little while ago my team came in and we’re actually going to use the DPA for the first time today. There’s some test kits we need to get our hands on. And the second thing we’re going to do it we’re going to insert some language into these mask contracts that we have for the 500 million masks. DPA language will be in that today.” 

March 24, 2020

FEMA spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow clarifies in statement to NBC News: “At the last minute we were able to procure the test kits from the private market without evoking the DPA.” 

March 24, 2020

President Trump tweet: “The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.”

March 24, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “Private companies are heeding our call to produce medical equipment and supplies because they know that we will not hesitate to invoke the DPA in order to get them to do what they have to do.  It’s called leverage.  You don’t have to use it from the standpoint of — actually, it’s been activated, but you don’t have to use it.  But the threat of it being there is great leverage.  And companies are doing as we ask, and companies are actually — even better than that, they’re coming through and they’re calling us.  And it’s been, really, something to see. This morning, Ford, 3M, and General Electric Healthcare are making tremendous numbers — they’ve already started — of respirators ventilators and face shields.  They’re working together.  We didn’t have to exercise or utilize the DPA in any way.  The fact that we have it helps, but we didn’t have to.  And for the most part, we won’t have to.”

Biden says there have been ‘enough debates’ with Sanders

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be ready to debate former Vice President Joe Biden, but the frontrunner and current delegate-leader in the Democratic primary thinks it may be time to move on. 

In a virtual press conference with campaign reporters on Wednesday, Biden responded to Sanders’ latest signal that he’s staying in the race by wanting to participate in an April Democratic debate. A debate has not yet been scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this,” Biden said after noting that his focus since stepping off the campaign trail two weeks ago has been devoted to the coronavirus crisis.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders during a debate in Washington on March 15, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

Biden and Sanders remain as the only two Democratic candidates still vying for the nomination as the campaign trail has come to a halt. While Sanders continues to mull staying in the race, his announcement to debate Biden and organizing investments in New York suggest he will remain a competitor at least through April’s primaries.

On Tuesday, Biden said on MSNBC that he intends to continue to campaign regardless of how long Sanders stays in the race. 

“As I said from the beginning, that’s not for me to decide,” Biden said. “I’ll continue to make the case why I think I could be president and should be president now and make the case for it. It’s in a sense putting all politics aside.”

Brenda Jones announces bid against Rashida Tlaib in 2018 rematch

WASHINGTON — Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib is poised for a rematch against Detroit City Council President and former Rep. Brenda Jones two years after voters briefly sent both women to Congress on the same ballot. 

Jones, who officially announced her bid for Congress on Wednesday, narrowly won the Democratic primary in the special election to replace the late Rep. John Conyers and serve out the rest of his term in 2018. But Tlaib edged her out in the party’s primary for the next full term, which began on 2019, by a similarly small margin. 

With both Democrats cruising through the general election in the deep-blue seat, that meant Jones served in Congress for a few weeks before turning the seat over to Tlaib to start 2019. 

Rashida Tlaib, left, and Brenda Jones speak during a rally in Detroit on Oct. 26, 2018.Paul Sancya / AP file

Jones officially filed paperwork declaring her bid with the Federal Election Commission on March 18, but announced her bid on Wednesday in a video. She said she recorded the video instead of holding a press conference because she wanted to set an example of following the new social distancing policies being championed to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In that video, she addressed the “period of uncertainty” as coronavirus has dramatically changed Americans’ way of life, let along upended the political campaign process

“You cannot live without hope. That’s why my candidacy is based on hope — hope for a better tomorrow, hope for our children, hope for our families, and hope for the hopeless,” Jones said. 

She went on to lay out a “three-pronged” plan for the district if elected: Bringing resources to the district, “uniting the district,”  and focusing on important issues.  

And she pointed to her city council experience as indicative of how she’d serve if elected again to Congress. 

In 2018, there were six total candidates on the Democratic primary ballot running for the full term in Congress, with four on the ballot to serve out Conyers’ partial term. As of Tuesday, Jones and Tlaib are the only two major Democratic candidates running, with a third candidate, Stephen Michael Patterson, having not reported spending or receiving any money so far this cycle. 

Tlaib has become a national name since she took office, partially because of her standing among progressives and work with a group of female freshman Democrats nicknamed “The Squad,” a group that  includes Tlaib as well as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar .

The group of lawmakers has been a top target for Republicans as, particularly President Trump

Recently, Tlaib has been appearing with Omar and Ocasio-Cortez during livestreamed roundtables with Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who they’ve endorsed to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, on coronavirus. 

“Rep. Tlaib looks forward to running a strong campaign and winning re-election regardless of who is on the ballot, but at this time she is 100% focused on responding to the coronavirus and getting our communities and residents the resources they need to protect human health and our local economy,” Denzel McCampbell, a Tlaib spokesperson, told NBC by email. 

“Rep. Tlaib is hard at work pushing groundbreaking policies to make direct payments to all Americans to weather this storm, leading legislation to save state and local governments from financial collapse, and preventing utility shutoffs, evictions, and foreclosures.”



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Republican, Democratic super PACs place initial ad buys in fight for Senate

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WASHINGTON — Key Republican and Democratic super PACs have announced big spending plans in the fight for the Senate majority. 

Both the Senate Majority PAC and the Senate Leadership Fund, groups aligned with top Democratic and Republican leaders respectively, have announced their first round of television advertising investments in recent days. The groups are focusing on five of the same states — Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina — with Senate Leadership Fund spending in Kentucky as well. 

SLF is booking $67.1 million, the group announced in a press release last week. And SMP is booking $69.2 million, it said in a press release Monday. 

Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Jan. 15, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

North Carolina is the beneficiary of the most early ad booking, with the Democratic SMP announcing plans to reserve $25.6 million there and the Republican SLF planning to book $21.8 million. There, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis will take on Democratic former state Sen. Cal Cunningham.

An NBC News/Marist University poll taken in late February of that race showed Cunningham up 5 points on Tillis among registered voters, 48 percent to 43 percent, within the margin of error. That poll took place just before the state’s primary. 

The race receiving the next-most early booking dollars is Iowa, where Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is defending her seat against whichever Democrat wins the primary currently scheduled for June 2.

Ernst’s favorability rating fell to 47 percent among Iowa adults in the March Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, but 41 percent of likely voters said they’d definitely vote to re-elect Ernst compared to 31 percent who said they’d definitely vote for someone else. 

Close behind in that early-spending figure is Arizona, where SMP is booking $15.7 million and SLF is booking $9.2 million through an affiliate group called Defend Arizona. There, Republican Sen. Martha McSally is looking to win the rest of the term vacated by the death of the late Republican Sen. John McCain.

While McSally lost the state’s 2018 Senate race, she was appointed to fill McCain’s seat after his death. A recent Monmouth University poll had Kelly up 6 points over McSally among registered voters, within the margin of error. 

Then there’s Maine, which has already been home to a significant bevy of television ad spending by other outside groups. SMP is booking $9.6 million there while SLF is booking $7.2 million ahead as Republican Sen. Susan Collins seeks to defend her seat. The top Democrat in that race is state House Speaker Sarah Gideon, but Betsy Sweet, the former director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, is also running. 

The groups are also going toe-to-toe in Colorado, where Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is expected to take on former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. The Democratic SMP plans to book $5.2 million there, with the Republican SLF booking $5.5 million. 

And SLF is also putting $10.8 million in early television spending into Kentucky through another affiliated group, Keep Kentucky Great. There, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection and will likely face off against Marine veteran Amy McGrath. 

These totals don’t include what’s expected to be a large digital presence by both groups, and the investments are likely to change as it gets closer to election day, with groups moving money around or injecting more money into competitive races. 

NYC Democratic House candidate announces positive COVID-19 test

WASHINGTON — New York City Democratic House candidate Suraj Patel has tested positive for COVID-19, he confirmed in a new statement Monday. 

Patel, one of the candidates featured in a recent MTP Blog story about how the new social distancing guidelines and the threat of coronavirus has fundamentally upended House campaigns, disclosed his positive test in a new statement posted on social media and on the blogging platform Medium

Suraj PatelSuraj Patel for Congress

He said he began developing symptoms earlier this month — which he described as “troubling tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing followed by a regular fever of 102 degrees. Patel lives with two doctors, one of whom is his brother, which he said underscored the need for him to test to see if had COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, so that his roommates would know whether they were at risk. 

Patel said that ultimately, he and his two housemates all tested positive. But he’s now “fully recovered” and “asymptomatic.”

“New Yorkers and Americans at large are stepping up in a tremendous unified way. We know how important it is to our most vulnerable populations that we slow the growth of this COVID epidemic. But as this becomes less abstract and more personal — when people’s loved ones start to show symptoms — human nature is such that we are going to want certainty and safety,” Patel wrote, before calling for universal COVID testing. 

“The only proven way to slow and eventually stop this pandemic is to have an accurate picture of who has had the disease, who currently has it, and who is still at risk. Social distancing and the strong leadership of Governor Cuomo and others is buying us vital time, but the question is what is our federal government doing with the time that the sacrifices of so many Americans are buying them?” he wrote. 

“If we fail to universally test, we face an indefinite amount of time in social distancing, only to see new cases of the virus arise when we ultimately return to normal life.”

Patel is running in the Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney. 

Texas Republicans back Lt. Governor on controversial coronavirus comments

HOUSTON — Republican leaders in Texas are defending Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s controversial comments on coronavirus as illustrative of his love of country, even as others see those comments as reckless amid a national crisis. 

Patrick, a Republican and popular former conservative radio host, drew headlines last week when he said he supported President Trump’s call to restart the U.S. economy as quickly as possible despite the ongoing spread of the virus.

The virus has proven most deadly to older people and those with underlying conditions, which means many of those being treated or hospitalized are elderly. Texas has almost 3,000 cases of Covid-19, the illness produced by the coronavirus, according to NBC News. Some 47 people have died.

Emphasizing the need to “get back to work,” Patrick told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”

Patrick, who turns 70 this week, added, “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019.Sergio Flores / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Patrick’s comments sparked backlash online, spurring hashtags including, #NotDyingforWallStreet and #TexasDeservesBetter. But in Texas, prominent Republicans said Patrick has a point.

“He’s really telling a story which is, you know, he wants to make sure there’s an American economy for people to come home to,” Houston area state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, 61, told NBC News. “That’s a big worry. The virus is a big worry, but then the next worry is, ‘do I have a job.’”

McKinney-area state Sen. Angela Paxton, 57, told NBC News: “We want to protect people and keep them healthy. Everyone is going to agree on that. How do we do it, that’s where there’s differences.”

She added, “But I think on the other hand, there’s no one that is going to say, it doesn’t matter if we destroy our economy.”

The mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price, a 70-year old grandmother of six, said that while the economy is a concern so is respect for the value of life. 

“My children and my grandchildren are certainly not ready for their Tootsie to go anywhere or to put myself at risk,” Price said.

“I don’t know what talent he would sacrifice? Is it young talent? Is it the experience in seniors? Or where is it?“ Price said. “I just can’t quite get a handle around that.”

Other Texas GOP leaders suggested Patrick had been talking about a sacrifice he would be willing to make — not asking the rest of the country to do so.

“He was talking about himself,” Denton-area state Sen. Pat Fallon, 52, said. “He perfectly has every right to say, ‘I love this country so much that I would sacrifice, if I had to, my own well-being, to ensure the prosperity and opportunity that I had that my kids and grandkids could have.’ And I think it’s very noble.”

Not everyone is convinced, particularly Republicans who have been critical of Trump’s pull on their party. 

“He’s a public official, he knows what he says has policy implications and it’s absurd to think that he just meant himself,” said Rick Tyler, a former aide to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and MSNBC political analyst who has frequently criticized President Trump. 

John Weaver, a Texan and longtime Republican political strategist who has since founded a group that’s aimed at defeating Trump in November, argues Patrick wouldn’t actually be among the most vulnerable if restrictions were lifted. Texans who live along the US-Mexico border or lack access to adequate care, Weaver said, would be the ones who suffer.

“He’s talking about those people in the valley, who don’t have health insurance because they blocked the expansion of healthcare in this state. He’s talking about people in parts of Houston where, because of density and lack of healthcare, they’re more at risk.” Weaver said. “He’s not talking about himself.”

“There’s no real public policy out there where people are going to say, ‘Fine, we’ll get the economy moving again at the expense of 2 percent of the population,’” Weaver added.

In a statement released the day after the Fox News interview, Patrick seemed to reframe his message away from senior citizens potentially sacrificing their lives.

“When you close the doors of every business in America, you cannot help but destroy the economy and with it, the opportunity for the next generation to live the American dream,” the statement said.

Here’s what the Democratic presidential primary schedule looks like in the age of coronavirus

WASHINGTON — States continue to postpone Democratic presidential caucuses and primaries as the threat of coronavirus looms large and White House social distancing guidelines remain in place for another month. 

All presidential contests before March 17 were held as scheduled but the list of states that have altered voting plans due to the novel coronavirus is extensive.

A voter casts their ballot at a polling station in Hillsboro, Va., on March 3, 2020.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here’s the modified schedule so far listed by original contest date.

March 17

Arizona primary (held)

Florida primary (held)

Illinois primary (held)

Ohio primary: now set to be an all-mail election on April 28

March 24

Georgia primary: postponed to May 19

March 29

Puerto Rico primary: postponed to April 26 at the earliest.

April 4

Alaska Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with the deadline on April 10

Hawaii Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with a deadline of May 22

Louisiana primary: postponed to June 20

Wyoming Caucuses: in-person caucuses suspended in favor of mail. The deadline is April 17

April 7

Wisconsin primary

April 28

Connecticut primary: postponed to June 2.

Delaware primary: postponed to June 2.

Maryland primary: postponed  to June 2.

New York primary: postponed to June 23.

Pennsylvania primary: postponed to June 2.

Rhode Island primary: postponed to June 2, will be “primarily” by mail.

Saturday, May 2

Kansas Party-Run primary (DNC considers this a caucus)

Guam caucuses

Tuesday, May 5

Indiana primary: postponed to June 2.

Tuesday, May 12

Nebraska primary

West Virginia primary

Tuesday, May 19

Kentucky primary: postponed to June 23.

Oregon primary

Tuesday, June 2

Montana primary

New Jersey primary

New Mexico primary

South Dakota primary

Washington, D.C. primary

Saturday, June 6

Virgin Island caucuses

New Biden digital ad argues Trump’s ‘ego will cost lives’ to coronavirus

WASHINGTON – The Biden campaign is issuing a cautious warning about President Donald Trump’s leadership in a new video, saying that his “ego will cost lives” in the fight against coronavirus. 

In a digital video posted to Twitter and Facebook Saturday evening, the campaign uses Trump’s own words during a White House press briefing, where he admitted to telling Vice President Mike Pence not to call Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, two Democrats, because he is “wasting” his time speaking with them.

“You don’t want to call the governor of Washington? You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” the video shows Trump saying.

In response, the campaign posts text on the screen over horror-movie like music that say, “His failure will cost lives. His downplaying will cost lives. His incompetence will cost lives. His ego will cost lives.”

The digital video, which is currently not a paid ad, already has about 5 million views on Twitter and thousands of engagements on Facebook and Instagram.

Biden has spent the past week criticizing Trump for his slow response to preventing the spread of the COVID-19, often pointing to numerous examples of Trump downplaying the seriousness of it earlier this year. The claims in the video are the furthest the campaign has gone in sharply pointing out how Trump’s continued approach to leading the effort could lead to American deaths.

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, Biden’s criticisms of the president were not as aggressive as his campaign’s.

While his campaign has repeatedly warned that Trump’s reaction to the crisis could cost American lives, Biden says he thinks it would be “too harsh” to say Trump has blood on his hands.

“He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply. He should start listening to the scientists before he speaks. He should listen to the health experts. He should listen to his economists,” Biden said.

Whitmer also deflected Trump’s direct attacks against her in a “Meet the Press” interview.

“I’ve talked to the vice president a number of times. We’re working with everyone from the White House on down through FEMA, DHS, the Army Corps of Engineers because it’s got to be all hands on deck. We are not one another’s enemies. The enemy is the virus,” she said on Meet the Press.

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in latest national poll

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by nine points in the latest Fox News general election poll. The poll, released Saturday, shows Biden garnering 49 percent support of registered voters, and Trump at 40 percent — pushing Biden outside the poll’s three-point margin of error. 

The subsection groups show even stronger support for Biden. Suburban women, a key group in the 2018 midterms, support Biden over Trump by a 57-34 point margin. Biden also won self-described “moderates” with 53 percent support — Trump garnered just 24 percent support from the same group. 

Joe Biden addresses supporters at his South Carolina primary night rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters file

The Fox News poll shows overall stability of Biden’s support. In their February poll, Biden led Trump 49-41 percent, and in January he led 50-41 in the same poll. However, this is the first Fox News poll to also measure support of potential general election tickets. 

Biden announced at the last Democratic presidential debate that he would choose a woman as his running mate. Registered voters seem to agree with that decision — in this poll, 63 percent of registered voters approve of that choice. And of three potential female senators Biden could pick, each ticket leads the Republican Trump-Pence ticket. 

Fox News polled Biden with California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — all former presidential candidates in this cycle. Harris and Klobuchar have since endorsed Biden, while Warren has yet to endorse either Biden or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

According to this poll, a Biden-Harris ticket and a Biden-Klobuchar ticket beat Trump-Pence with a 50 to 42 percent margin. A potential Biden-Warren ticket had a larger margin of victory at 52-42 percent support. All three ticket victories were outside of the poll’s margin for error. 

The Fox News poll was conducted between March 21 and 24. 

Democratic super PAC expands ad on Trump’s coronavirus response

WASHINGTON — The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA is expanding their ad buy attacking President Trump on his coronavirus response to Arizona, a source with knowledge of the activity told NBC News.

NBC News reported Thursday that the group had been inquiring about rates in Arizona, a state that tends to vote Republican but has become more competitive for 2020. Later Thursday, Priorities USA announced it would spend $600,000 to run the ad in Arizona.

The ad, titled “Exponential Threat,” splices remarks by the president downplaying the threat of the coronavirus alongside a chart that shows growing cases.

The Trump campaign had already issued letters to TV stations Wednesday arguing that the ad should be taken down because it contains “false, deceptive, and misleading information” about the president and threatened to take legal action if they didn’t immediately stop airing it. 

The ad was part of a $6 million TV and digital buy from Priorities USA in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is still running in all four states despite the Trump campaign’s efforts, the source with knowledge said on Thursday.

 

Bernie Sanders’ big delegate math problem

WASHINGTON — With Senator Bernie Sanders deciding to remain in the Democratic presidential race — possibly all the way through June — it’s time to crunch the delegate numbers once again.

And the exercise shows just how challenging the math is for the Independent Vermont senator.

Overall, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Sanders by 312 pledged delegates, according to NBC News’ Decision Desk.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden during a Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 12, 2019.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

Biden has won 1,174 pledged delegates or 53 percent of all allocated pledged delegates, while Sanders has won 862 or 39 percent. 

To reach the magic number of 1,991 — a majority of all pledged delegates — Biden needs to win 46 percent of the remaining pledged delegates.

Sanders, by contrast, needs 64 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to obtain a majority.

There are two main reasons why Sanders’ deficit is so daunting.

The first is the Democrats’ proportional-allocation system. Unlike Republicans, who often award their delegates based on winner-take-all rules, Democrats award theirs proportionately — so if you win a state or congressional district 55 percent to 45 percent, you get 55 percent of the available pledged delegates while your opponent gets 45 percent.

So the only way to rack up huge delegate hauls is to win a state decisively — like Biden did last week in Florida, when his 62 percent-to-23 percent victory in the state netted him 100-plus more delegates than Sanders earned in the Sunshine State.

Bottom line: Narrow victories in future contests for Sanders won’t really cut into Biden’s lead.  

The second delegate challenge for Sanders is that there are fewer caucus contests than were four years ago.

In 2016, Sanders was often able to keep close with Hillary Clinton because he’d rack up decisive victories in caucus states like Colorado or Washington state. But this time around, those states — and a few others — are holding primaries instead of caucuses, which keeps Sanders’ margin and his resulting delegate hauls smaller than they were in 2016.

Sanders might trail Biden by just 312 delegates. But that deficit is really wider than those numbers suggest.

Former Obama labor secretary among those launching new pro-Biden super PAC

WASHINGTON — A group of Democrats, including former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, are launching a new super PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden that is aimed at helping him secure pivotal western battlegrounds in a general election bid against President Trump. 

NBC News has learned that the group, Win the West, will launch Thursday with Solis, a current member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who served with Biden in the White House, as the group’s first co-chair. Former Biden speechwriter Mathew Littman will serve as the executive director. 

While Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is still running in the Democratic primary race against Biden, the NBC News Decision Desk projects he trails Biden by more than 312 delegates, as the nominating contest has been upended by the coronavirus outbreak. 

Joe Biden delivers remarks at his primary night election event in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images file

Win the West aims to protect two blue-trending states in Nevada and Colorado, while also taking the battle to two red-leaning states where Democrats have had recent success, Texas and Arizona. Its leadership argues that while other groups are focusing on more conventional swing states, it can be effective in those western states where Democrats believe demographics are shifting in their favor. 

“America is at a watershed moment in our nation’s history. Now, more than ever and especially during this time of crisis, it’s vital that we elect a true patriot, someone who values facts and the truth, and who has a profound understanding of how government works and how it can help everyday Americans who are hurting,” Solis said in a statement announcing the group’s creation.

“The only candidate who meets this criteria is former Vice President Joe Biden, and that is why I was proud to be an early endorser of his campaign for President. I know, because I’ve worked with Joe and I’ve seen him in action.”

Along with the announcement of the group’s launch, Win the West is out with its first video, a digital ad that primarily points to Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to argue the president has not lived up to the moment. 

The digital spot highlights Trump’s late January comments to CNBC that his administration had the coronavirus outbreak “totally under control,” the administration’s decision not to replace top officials who handled pandemics after they had left their jobs, and uses a mash-up of Trump’s comments compared to recent headlines to argue that the president “has downplayed the coronavirus.” 

The Trump campaign and its allies have spent the past few weeks defending the administration’s response to the outbreak, arguing that Democrats are politicizing the moment and obfuscating about the president’s response. 

“While Joe Biden and his allies are spreading falsehoods about the administration’s response to coronavirus, President Trump, his administration and Congressional Republicans are stepping up and making sure Americans are safe,” Joe Ascioti, the Republican National Committee’s research director and deputy communications director, said in a Wednesday statement criticizing another pro-Biden super PAC’s ad hitting Trump on the virus response. 

Administration’s mixed messaging on Defense Production Act causes confusion

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed the Defense Production Act (DPA) a week ago today but there has been consistent confusion as to whether it is being utilized to produce medical equipment needed for the coronavirus pandemic. 

The bottom line: the DPA has not yet been used in this manner, despite calls from governors and mayors of the hardest-hit areas to fully activate the DPA. Medical professionals have been among the most outspoken on the desperate need for certain equipment and supplies. 

The Korean War-era DPA would allow the federal government to control the supply chain and compel companies to produce much-needed items. So far, according to the president, several private sector corporations like 3M, Ford, General Motors and Tesla are already doing this themselves without needing the DPA.

Boxes of N95 protective masks for use by medical field personnel are seen at a New York State emergency operations incident command center during the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York on March 17, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters

Here’s a timeline of how the president and his administration have discussed the DPA in recent days: 

March 18, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “We’ll be invoking the Defense Production Act, just in case we need it.  In other words, I think you all know what it is, and it can do a lot of good things if we need it.  And we will — we will have it all completed, signing it in just a little while.  Right after I’m finished with this conference, I’ll be signing it.  It’s prepared to go.  So we will be invoking the Defense Production Act.”

Trump tweeted that same day: 

March 19, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “We hope we are not going to need that…I’ve done it. Yeah, if we find that we need something, we will do that, and you don’t know what we’ve done. You don’t know whether or not we’ve ordered. You don’t know if we’ve invoked it. You don’t know what’s been ordered, what’s not been ordered…I also just invoked the Defense Production Act to help facilitate distribution of essential supplies if necessary.”

March 20, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “I did it yesterday…We have a lot of people working very hard to do ventilators and various other things…. We are using it.” 

March 21, 2020

President Trump to Kelly O’Donnell at briefing: “ If I don’t have to use — specifically, we have the act to use, in case we need it. But we have so many things being made right now by so many — they’ve just stepped up.” 

March 22, 2020

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on Meet the Press: “Yeah, so I think it’s an insurance policy. Right? It’s a lever. If we have to throw that lever we will… And so we haven’t had to use it yet. Will we have to use it? Maybe.  

March 22, 2020

White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro at briefing: “Now what I can tell you so far is that the Defense Production Act, sir, has given me quiet leverage. When you have a strong leader you can take a light hand initially. So what we’ve seen with this outpouring of volunteers from private enterprise, we’re getting what we need without, without putting the heavy hand of government.”

March 24, 2020

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on CNN: “Just a little while ago my team came in and we’re actually going to use the DPA for the first time today. There’s some test kits we need to get our hands on. And the second thing we’re going to do it we’re going to insert some language into these mask contracts that we have for the 500 million masks. DPA language will be in that today.” 

March 24, 2020

FEMA spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow clarifies in statement to NBC News: “At the last minute we were able to procure the test kits from the private market without evoking the DPA.” 

March 24, 2020

President Trump tweet: “The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.”

March 24, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “Private companies are heeding our call to produce medical equipment and supplies because they know that we will not hesitate to invoke the DPA in order to get them to do what they have to do.  It’s called leverage.  You don’t have to use it from the standpoint of — actually, it’s been activated, but you don’t have to use it.  But the threat of it being there is great leverage.  And companies are doing as we ask, and companies are actually — even better than that, they’re coming through and they’re calling us.  And it’s been, really, something to see. This morning, Ford, 3M, and General Electric Healthcare are making tremendous numbers — they’ve already started — of respirators ventilators and face shields.  They’re working together.  We didn’t have to exercise or utilize the DPA in any way.  The fact that we have it helps, but we didn’t have to.  And for the most part, we won’t have to.”

Biden says there have been ‘enough debates’ with Sanders

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be ready to debate former Vice President Joe Biden, but the frontrunner and current delegate-leader in the Democratic primary thinks it may be time to move on. 

In a virtual press conference with campaign reporters on Wednesday, Biden responded to Sanders’ latest signal that he’s staying in the race by wanting to participate in an April Democratic debate. A debate has not yet been scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this,” Biden said after noting that his focus since stepping off the campaign trail two weeks ago has been devoted to the coronavirus crisis.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders during a debate in Washington on March 15, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

Biden and Sanders remain as the only two Democratic candidates still vying for the nomination as the campaign trail has come to a halt. While Sanders continues to mull staying in the race, his announcement to debate Biden and organizing investments in New York suggest he will remain a competitor at least through April’s primaries.

On Tuesday, Biden said on MSNBC that he intends to continue to campaign regardless of how long Sanders stays in the race. 

“As I said from the beginning, that’s not for me to decide,” Biden said. “I’ll continue to make the case why I think I could be president and should be president now and make the case for it. It’s in a sense putting all politics aside.”



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