Sanders shoots for another Michigan bracket buster


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*Tune in at 6:30 pm ET for a special Fox News a Channel Michigan Primary town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum*

On the roster: Sanders shoots for another Michigan bracket buster - Biden holds double digit lead in Michigan - Dems push for female veep - Fed steps in as markets panic as coronavirus worsens - Lieutenant Dan the dog


SANDERS SHOOTS FOR ANOTHER MICHIGAN BRACKET BUSTER
DEARBORN, Mich. — Bernie Sanders has been here before.

No, not just to the home of the Ford Motor Company, but in Michigan on the eve of a primary contest that could bury his hopes of winning the Democratic nomination.

Four years ago, as today, Sanders came to Michigan after getting walloped on Super Tuesday looking for a comeback. He got one and began a long primary march that would not only deny Democrats the chance to unite, but exposed pernicious weaknesses in the eventual nominee.

Can he do it again?

Remember that Sanders’ drubbing had been even worse at the hands of then-front-runner Hillary Clinton in 2016. The prize was smaller because of a different primary calendar, but the whupping more thorough. In Texas and across much of the rest of the South, Clinton roughly doubled Sanders delegate haul. In Texas this year, just nine delegates separate Sanders from front-runner Joe Biden.

Plus, California’s arrival on Super Tuesday this cycle gave Sanders a massive boost of 186 delegates — nearly 10 percent of the total he would need to win the nomination outright.

Four years ago, Sanders came to Michigan trailing the leader by 358 delegates. This year, it’s just 91. Or, looked at another way, Sanders has more delegates now than Clinton did at this point four years ago.

But the polls sure look the same for Mr. Second Place. New surveys out today show Sanders trailing here by as much as two dozen points — just like they did four years ago when Sanders stunned the political world with a narrow upset victory.

As he takes center court for tonight’s Fox News town hall at the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s field house, he is looking for another March bracket buster. He’s not as far behind, he’s better organized, massively funded and facing a front-runner in Biden that just two weeks was getting his political obituaries.

But there are troubles, too.

First, while Biden looks weaker than Clinton did at this point, he also looks a lot more popular. As Democrats would learn in 2016, few candidates have ever had the power to simultaneously depress turnout on their own side while energizing their opponent’s as Clinton. Biden remains a broadly well-liked figure.

That may account for the second problem Sanders has this time around: Shifting voter patterns. As the 2016 campaign slogged on, primaries in large northern states continued to show the same trend first really revealed in Michigan. Clinton would score well in urban centers with large non-white populations while Sanders would roll up the vote in less-populous and rural counties. Working-class whites were feeling the Bern... at least if the alternative was Clinton.

This time, Sanders can be pleased that he’s considerably improved with non-white voters, especially Latinos. But it’s no compensation in Michigan or many of the states that come next like Illinois and Ohio if he can’t get back his support with blue-collar white voters.

The third challenge is about voter perceptions and turnout.

We should stipulate that there’s no real way to know how concerns about coronavirus will affect voter turnout, particularly among the older voters on whom Biden depends.

But based on what we do know about the electorate in 2020, Sanders has some challenges in that category when it comes to replicating the 2016 stunner that propelled him into the rest of the primary calendar.

Without a contest on the Republican side, Michigan’s open primary system might provide Biden a boost. There were more than 800,000 votes for GOP candidates other than Donald Trump four years ago. A quarter of the vote went to John Kasich — probably including a lot of folks who might want to block populist firebrand Sanders this time around.

Then there’s perception. Clinton was so far ahead four years ago that Sanders had already become an afterthought. Just as we would see in November, Clinton’s perceived inevitably and out-of-touch campaign strategy led Democratic-leaning voters who resented her dynastic ambitions and hard-knuckled tactics to sit it out.

Biden may be the front-runner, but he’s no sure thing. And we don’t just mean when he starts a speech...

It’s tantalizingly close for Sanders this time around. But this time he’s got to do it without surprise on his side.

BIDEN DOMINATES MICHIGAN POLLS
Detroit Free Press: “Former Vice President Joe Biden, riding a wave of momentum from primaries in South Carolina and Super Tuesday states, comes into Tuesday’s Michigan primary with a 24-point lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders in a new Free Press poll. If Biden’s 51%-27% lead in the poll, done by EPIC-MRA for the Free Press and its media partners, holds, it would guarantee him a signature victory in Michigan — a battleground state that helped President Donald Trump win the White House four years ago. It could also starve Sanders' formerly front-running campaign of delegates needed for the nomination and call into question how long his effort can remain viable. … There is reason for caution among supporters of both candidates, however. Four years ago, the Free Press and EPIC-MRA reported results … that showed Hillary Clinton with a 25-point lead… Sanders went on to win a narrow 1.4-percentage-point victory … as younger voters, who overwhelmingly supported Sanders, came out in much greater numbers than expected…”

Alberta: Sanders needs another Michigan moment - Politico: “Sanders’s team has long trumpeted his [2016] Michigan triumph as evidence of his ability to assemble a unique coalition and defeat the Democratic establishment. But a closer look at that contest, taken in the context of this year’s primary results, suggests that Sanders’s own weaknesses are about to be exposed. And that, in turn, means winning Michigan will be far more difficult this time around. Not only do party insiders expect Democratic turnout will spike among groups unfavorable to him—blacks and suburbanites, in particular—but he now faces an opponent in Joe Biden who comes into the state with a head of steam, who benefits from Democrats’ desire to coalesce behind an alternative to Trump, and who will compete for independents and working-class whites in a way Clinton never did.”

Monroe County a proving ground for Sanders - Boston Globe: “If there is one place to test whether Sanders can pull off another comeback — or whether Biden can be a convincing general election winner — it is in Monroe County, located on Lake Erie halfway in between Detroit and Toledo, Ohio. There are a dozen Michigan counties that voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2012 before swinging to Republican Donald Trump. … [No other county] saw a bigger swing than Monroe County, which voted twice for Obama before giving Trump a 22-point win over Hillary Clinton. This time, however, not only is Biden doing much better among the demographic groups that live there compared with Sanders in the 18 states that have already voted, Sanders is less focused on them, according to Michigan State University political science professor Matt Grossman. ‘Bernie’s coalition has traded rural, white, working-class voters for Hispanic voters, and that is a bad trade in Michigan,’ said Grossman, noting that only five percent of the state is Hispanic.”

DEMS PUSH FOR FEMALE VEEP
NYT: “With the Democratic presidential nominee all but certain to be a man, party activists, elected officials and voters are setting their sights on the biggest consolation prize in American politics: the vice presidency. Within hours of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s exit from the race, a departure that left the party facing a primary battle between two septuagenarian white men, prominent Democrats began publicly insisting that the ticket include a woman, preferably a black woman. At least one women’s organization, Supermajority, circulated a petition asking both Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to ‘affirm their commitment to gender equity’ by choosing a woman as their running mate. … The selection of a female vice president, particularly one of color, would offer a fitting coda to a presidential primary where racial and gender representation has taken second place to concerns about defeating President Trump.”

Booker, Harris join the Biden endorsement list - AP: “Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. Booker announced on Twitter early Monday that Biden will ‘restore honor to the Oval Office and tackle our most pressing challenges.’ Booker ended his own presidential bid in January, pledging to do ‘everything in my power to elect the eventual Democratic nominee for president.’ Booker’s decision follows recent Biden endorsements by several failed Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris of California and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.”

Sanders, Biden can’t agree on debate format - Politico: “Bernie Sanders wants to stand up at the next debate — and his campaign is accusing Joe Biden of wanting to sit down. After a private call Friday with CNN, which is moderating the March 15 debate with the Democratic National Committee, Sanders' team balked at a new proposed format for debate, saying it gives his opponent Biden too much of a break in their first one-on-one face-off. Biden’s camp denied that it was pressing for a sit-down debate. The format for the next debate in Arizona — their first since Biden’s blowout Super Tuesday victories — would have the candidates seated for the first time this election cycle and take multiple questions from the audience. In the prior 10 debates, the candidates stood at lecterns and nearly all questions were asked by the professional moderators….Biden’s campaign and the DNC said the format for the debate was decided by the party and CNN. The news network declined to comment and referred questions to the DNC.”

Both Biden, Sanders beat Trump in most recent head-to-head poll - CNN: “The [latest CNN/SRSS] poll finds 52% of registered voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents say they want to see Biden win the nomination, while 36% say they'd rather see Sanders win. … The poll finds both Biden and Sanders hold significant leads over Trump in hypothetical general election matchups among registered voters. Biden tops Trump 53% to 43%, while Sanders leads by 52% to 45%. Among those voters who live in 15 battleground states -- those decided by 8 points or less in the 2016 election -- Biden narrowly tops Trump, 51% to 45%, while Sanders and Trump are within the margin of error of each other, 49% back Sanders, 46% Trump. The president's favorability rating in the poll is about the same as December, 43% view him positively, 54% view him negatively.”

THE RULEBOOK: SAFETY FIRST
“The SAFETY of the people doubtless has relation to a great variety of circumstances and considerations, and consequently affords great latitude to those who wish to define it precisely and comprehensively.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 3

TIME OUT: WOLF STEAKS, ANYONE?
Dearborn [Mich.] Press & Guide: “According to the marker, ‘the tollgate [near the Rouge River] was the third of six between Detroit and Wayne.’ The new plank road became known as the Chicago Turnpike. The historical sign states that ‘common charges per vehicle were a cent a mile; one-half cent a mile for ten sheep or hogs; two cents a mile for ten cattle.’ The tollgate ceased operation when the State of Michigan took over maintenance of the road. ... The marker also draws attention to the Ten Eyck Tavern, an early pioneer inn built in 1826 on the Chicago Road (Michigan Avenue) close to the Rouge River. It was a day’s journey from Detroit and weary travelers were welcomed cheerfully and with good humor by proprietor Conrad Ten Eyck. Some historians believe this is where Michigan received the nickname ‘Wolverine State’ because Conrad would joke to patrons about ‘wolf steaks’ being on the menu. Some travelers replied that they would then be dubbed ‘wolverines’ if they were going to be eating wolf. Often, the inn would be crowded to the point where many had to sleep on the floor. Increased railroad travel caused a decrease in visitors to the tavern and after it closed, it was used to store grain until it burned down in 1885.”

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SCOREBOARD
ESTIMATED DELEGATES FOR DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION
Biden: 664
Sanders: 573
[Ed. note: 1,991 delegates needed to win]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE 
Average approval: 44.8 percent
Average disapproval: 52.6 percent
Net Score: -7.8 percent
Change from one week ago: ↓ 3.8 points
[Average includes: CNN: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; Fox News: 47% approve - 52% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; Gallup: 47% approve - 51% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 46% approve - 52% disapprove.]

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MARKETS PANIC AS CORONAVIRUS FEARS WORSEN
Politico: “The Federal Reserve is moving to stem investor panic over the spread of the coronavirus and to prevent the fallout from tumbling financial markets from slamming consumers, as a freefall in stocks forced the exchanges to halt trading. Trading on the S&P 500 was temporarily suspended Monday morning after a 7 percent drop triggered one of the SEC’s market-wide ‘circuit breakers,’ which stop trading for a specified period of time if prices drop by a certain magnitude. In an effort to protect consumers, the Fed and other regulators are expected to urge banks to work with people who have mortgages, credit card debt and other loans and are facing the prospect of missing days or weeks of work as the virus spreads and businesses take countermeasures. … The New York Fed also announced Monday morning that it is expanding the amount of cash that it’s injecting into a central piece of the financial system where banks and other firms get short-term funding. The goal is to avoid an unwanted spike in interest rates that could then feed through to the broader economy. The Fed said it will increase the cash it’s willing to lend into the market for so-called repurchase agreements, in which there is an temporary exchange of cash for high-quality collateral such as a government bond.”

Trump scrambling - Bloomberg: “The Trump administration is drafting measures to blunt the economic fallout from coronavirus and help slow its spread in the U.S., including a temporary expansion of paid sick leave and possible help for companies facing disruption from the outbreak, according to three people familiar with the matter. The economic package is still being debated and hasn’t yet been presented to President Donald Trump. Some of its components could change, while others, such as a sick leave plan, may require congressional action. A small group of White House and Treasury officials worked on the proposal through the weekend, the people said. The timing of any of the economic measures is unclear, but they would likely be rolled out on a step-by-step basis, beginning with aid to individual Americans who are infected, then expanding to companies and workers affected by lost business.”

Baker: For Trump, coronavirus proves to be an enemy he can’t tweet away - NYT: “Defending against criticism of his handling of the coronavirus, President Trump suggested the other day that he could hardly have been expected to be ready for such an unexpected crisis. ‘Who would have thought?’ he asked during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nerve center for the government’s response to the outbreak. … Actually, quite a few people would have thought, and did — including the officials in his own White House who were in charge of preparing for just such a pandemic only to have their office shut down in a reorganization in 2018. … For a president who lives in the moment, rarely planning too far ahead, the coronavirus has proved to be a leadership challenge he was not prepared for either. The outbreak that has rattled the nation does not respond to Mr. Trump’s favorite instruments of power: It cannot be cowed by Twitter posts, it cannot be shot down by drones, it cannot be overcome by party solidarity, it cannot be overpowered by campaign rally chants.”

Sen. Cruz, Rep. Gosar self-quarantine after interacting with infected person - Politico: “The coronavirus crisis is starting to hit Capitol Hill as two Republican lawmakers announced Sunday they were in ‘self-quarantine’ following their exposure to an infected individual at a recent gathering of conservative activists. [Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and and Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar interacted with the same infected person at the recent CPAC conference.] While neither lawmaker has been diagnosed with the disease, the two cases show that Congress — like the rest of the country — is having to grapple with the growing outbreak. Congressional leadership offices said there has been no change in the congressional schedule at this point, although numerous lawmakers are contacting party leaders with questions, concerns and suggestions for responding to the growing crisis.”

Pergram: Coronavirus and Congress' likely response in coming months - Fox News: “The $8.3 billion measure okayed last week was mostly for health, readiness and vaccine development. Other measures will likely address everything else. The easy word to bat around is a ‘stimulus’ measure. In the most conventional sense, a ‘stimulus’ is an infusion of government cash to jolt the economy. President Obama and Congressional Democrats modeled their 2009 stimulus plan to bolster the economy after the ‘New Deal’ of the 1930s. … It’s too early to completely understand the scope of coronavrius and if a ‘stimulus’ could be required here.  But we are hearing chatter on Capitol Hill about tax cuts. More government spending. Rebates for travel. But unlike in 2009, it’s doubtful any legislation will simply be an infusion of cash centered around economic recovery.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock launches Senate campaign - Politico

Hillyer: Trump trashes Sessions, but Sessions has aces up his sleeves - WashEx

AUDIBLE: COUNTRY STAR
“There aren’t many like me left in Congress. Rural Democrats are few and far between and I’m concerned that rural America is getting left behind.” – Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., in his re-election announcement on Friday.

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

LIEUTENANT DAN THE DOG
WKYC: “A two-legged dog from the Cincinnati suburb of New Richmond has been named as a finalist to be the next Cadbury Bunny. What makes this pup so special is that he's living his best life despite missing both of his hind legs, and his owners have even given him the name Lieutenant Dan after Gary Sinese's legendary ‘Forest Gump’ character. ‘Lieutenant Dan was born different, but hasn't let that slow him down!’ his bio reads. ‘He has a joy for life that is infectious and inspiring!’ Lieutenant Dan is one of 10 finalists, with other competitors including two other dogs (including one service dog), two cats (including one who can't use her own hind legs), a hamster, a duck, a llama, a miniature horse, and even a pig! … The winning pet will receive $5,000 and get to star in a Cadbury commercial.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Sympathy is fine. But if we ‘squander’ it when we go to war to avenge our dead and prevent the next crop of dead, then to hell with sympathy.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing for Time magazine on Nov. 9, 2003.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.