Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
Conversations are underway between the campaigns of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont regarding the coronavirus pandemic, with a top aide saying the contact is at “a senior level.”
The communication between the camps of two remaining Democratic presidential candidates comes as Sanders is mulling his next political move – after a string of devastating primary losses on Tuesday at the hands of the former vice president.
Sanders’ campaign on Wednesday emphasized that “the next primary contest is at least three weeks away. Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign.”
Biden’s landslide victory in Florida, his crushing defeat of Sanders in Illinois, and his win in Arizona cemented his status as the presumptive Democratic nominee and all but closed the door to the senator’s extremely narrow path to win the nomination.
Both candidates late last week gave policy addresses laying out their plans to combat the coronavirus outbreak that’s sweeping across America – as well as steps to assist Americans devastated by the growing economic downturn caused by the pandemic. And both contenders have continued to spotlight their efforts and ideas this week in their public comments.
Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said that “since last week, the Biden and Sanders campaigns have been in regular contact at a senior level to discuss how the coronavirus is affecting the campaigns, how to adjust schedules and activities in light of that – as well as to discuss both Vice President Biden’s and Senator Sanders’ ideas on policy responses to the virus.”
“While the two campaigns obviously have their differences, they are working together to try to promote the health and safety of their teams, those who interact with the campaigns, and the American people,” she added.
Biden camp accuses Trump of downplaying outbreak
In a taste of the general election battle ahead, Biden’s campaign on Thursday charged that President Trump is attempting “to erase his months of ignoring medical experts who were sounding the alarm.”
“Time after time, President Trump has failed the American people through his negligent and incompetent response to a global health pandemic — squandering months as he blithely downplayed its risks,” Bedingfield argued.
An email from the Biden campaign then includes a series of statements and comments from the president from late January through early March where he appeared to be downplaying the severity of the approaching coronavirus outbreak.
The list starts with Trump saying on Jan. 22 that “we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” And it ends with the president commenting on Monday of last week that “nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
The Trump campaign hit back in a statement to Fox News.
“The only thing Joe Biden knows about handling a public health crisis is that the Obama White House had to apologize for his remarks that set off a panic during the swine flu outbreak in 2009,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director.
Said Murtaugh: “And when President Trump took the critical step of restricting travel from China in response to the coronavirus, Biden called it ‘xenophobic.’ Most of what Biden says the government should do are things President Trump is already doing. The President is leading an unprecedented mobilization of America against the coronavirus and all Joe Biden can offer is ineffective partisan sniping from the sidelines.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported more than 10,000 domestic cases of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – with the death toll standing at 150.”
More primaries postponed
Connecticut is the latest state with an upcoming presidential primary to postpone its nominating contest.
"In coordination with other states and our Secretary of the State, and in an effort to carry out Democracy while keeping public health a top priority, I have decided to move our presidential primary to June 2nd," Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont tweeted on Thursday.
With the pandemic sweeping across the nation, presidential primaries that took place Tuesday in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois may well be the last nominating contests held for the next couple of months.
Ohio’s primary was also scheduled to be held Tuesday – but state officials used emergency powers to postpone the contest hours before the polls were set to open.
After the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urged against any gatherings of 50 people or more, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine stressed on Monday that “we cannot conduct this election tomorrow.”
Primaries scheduled for next Tuesday in Georgia, April 4 in Louisiana, and May 19 in Kentucky already have been pushed back to later dates.
Maryland announced earlier this week that their April 28 primary is being postponed until June 2. Democratic Party officials in Puerto Rico – which would hold its contest on March 29 – are seeking a delay as well.
More delays are likely to follow for states scheduled to hold contests in the coming weeks.
Biden grabs another high profile endorsement
Another former 2020 Democratic presidential nomination rival is backing Biden.
This time it’s Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
The former White House hopeful saying in a statement on Thursday that “it is clear that our country desperately needs a president with experience, honesty and integrity -- that person is Vice President Joe Biden. Not only does Joe have the experience to lead our country, but he has the empathy and character to go with it.”
Gillibrand – who made championing the rights of women an integral part of her presidential campaign – took shots at the former vice president during the second round of primary debates in late July of last year.
Running short on campaign cash and failing to resonate in the polls, Gillibrand ended her presidential bid a month later.