Time to buckle up
For a year or so, the Democratic primary race has looked like a slow-walkers marathon on a too-crowded track. No more. It's roller-coaster time, with a wild ride in store for Super Tuesday's 14 primaries.
There are 1,357 delegates at stake — almost a third of those who will be going to the July convention and nine times more than those chosen in the February primaries and caucuses.
Polls in advance of the Tuesday contests showed Joe Biden as an underdog to Bernie Sanders, but the rapidly changing dynamics of the Democratic race put numbers from as recently as last week in doubt. Amy Klobuchar on Monday followed Pete Buttigieg out of the race. Both threw their support to Biden and flew to Dallas to deliver their primary eve endorsements in person.
A closing of ranks among the moderates is what "stop Sanders" Democrats have been hoping for. But there's no reliable prediction of who backers of the ex-candidates will support now. In states with early voting, ballots were cast based on a now-outdated shape of the race, with more candidates still running and Biden's newfound strength yet to come.
Nor has the choice come down simply to establishment Democrat Biden versus Democratic socialist Sanders. Super Tuesday will be the first test of Mike Bloomberg's appeal to voters after an advertising bombardment only a billionaire could buy. Elizabeth Warren is still selling her brand of progressivism and a chance for a second try by Democrats to put a woman in the White House.
Sanders remained confident. “We believe regardless of all this, we are still the strongest campaign coming into Super Tuesday,” he told a rally in Utah. Speaking just after the news of both Klobuchar and former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid backing Biden, Sanders said, “Let me tell you something. The establishment is getting very, very nervous.”
Biden, in Texas, exulted: "Just a few days ago, the pundits declared my campaign dead." But there was no playing down how crucial it is to sustain his momentum. "The moment to choose a path forward has arrived for our party, maybe sooner than people had anticipated, but it's here," Biden said.
Rallying around Joe
Appearing with Biden separately, Buttigieg and Klobuchar called for Democrats to unite behind the former vice president to defeat President Donald Trump.
"If we spend the next four months dividing our party and going at each other, we will spend the next four years watching Donald Trump tear apart this country," Klobuchar said at the Dallas rally.
Buttigieg said at an earlier Dallas event with Biden that he is the right candidate to "bring back dignity to the White House."
In a poignant moment, Biden told supporters that Buttigieg reminds him of his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46. "I know that may not mean much to most people, but to me it's the highest compliment I can give any man or woman," Biden said.
A third ex-candidate endorsement of Biden came near the end of the rally with Klobuchar, from Beto O'Rourke, the former Texas congressman who ended his presidential campaign four months earlier.
No quit from Bloomberg, Warren
Still in the hunt are the two candidates who provided the most electric moments of recent debates: Warren, for surgically skewering Bloomberg, and Bloomberg, who bled his cred all over the stage and has struggled to recover ever since.
At a Virginia rally Monday, Bloomberg took note of Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropping out. Both of them “behaved themselves” and “represented their country and their states very well.” He added: “I felt sorry for them, but I'm in it to win it." His campaign put out a schedule of his planned appearances for the next round of primaries after Super Tuesday.
While Biden collected a slew of new endorsements, Warren won backing from two liberal women's groups, EMILY's List and the National Organization for Women PAC. “It’s time to support a woman,” said Toni Van Pelt, NOW's national president. “We want to make sure we’re not looking at all these old white men again.”
Sanders would like Warren out so he could pick off the progressives still on her side, but Warren — the last woman in the contest aside from niche candidate Tulsi Gabbard — doesn't want to give up the chance of being a player, and a potential compromise candidate, in a contested convention.
Janison: California gold rush
Numbers alone tell you why California becomes the supersized prize of Super Tuesday, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. There are 415 delegates to be chosen from a state with a staggering 8.6 million registered Democrats.
But Tuesday's front-runner won't take all. Second place could be a huge deal when the results are reported. And that's where much of the suspense lies.
In California, 271 delegates are picked based on results per congressional district. To win any share of delegates from a district, a candidate must get 15% or more of the total vote. Another 144 delegates are picked based on the statewide vote. Same deal in that group: Only those with 15% or more can win delegates.
So the difference between a second-place finisher getting 14% or 15% of the ballots statewide could mean coming out of the Golden State with, say, 250 delegates, rather than 150. One hundred delegates aren't chump change when 1,991 pledged delegates are needed to win the convention on a first ballot.
That 70s show
"Medicare for All?" For all the remaining candidates, sure.
Klobuchar's exit all but guarantees the winner of November's election will be someone in their 70s. Sanders and Bloomberg are 78. Biden is 77. Trump is 73. Warren is 70. All of the Democrats would be the oldest president ever sworn into a first term.
All are more than a decade older than former President Barack Obama is now, three-plus years after leaving the White House. He's 58.
Hurry up and wait on vaccine
Trump on Monday called on executives of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies to “accelerate” their efforts to produce a vaccine to combat the fast-spreading COVID-19 coronavirus, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Trump, in a White House meeting with 10 of the nation’s largest drugmakers, suggested the federal regulators could play a role in helping to fast-track the typically rigid approval process.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reasserted at a later White House meeting that it would take at least a year to deploy any new vaccine, after Trump told reporters he heard a vaccine could be ready in three to four months.
The president told reporters he was considering additional travel restrictions “from certain countries where they're having more of a breakout."
What else is happening:
- Trump said Monday that he believed it was "very safe" for him and his opponents to continue holding campaign rallies across the country during the coronavirus outbreak. He was headed for North Carolina to fire up his supporters on the eve of Super Tuesday. A number of large conventions have been scrubbed in recent days over virus fears, The New York Times reported.
- At that rally, Trump gloated about the stock market's rebound while trashing the Democratic field. If Biden won, the president said, "They’re going to put him into a home, and other people are going to be running the country and they’re going to be super-left radical crazies."
- The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide a lawsuit that threatens Obamacare, but the decision is not likely until after the 2020 election. A Democratic-led states’ suit is appealing a lower-court ruling that declared the individual mandate unconstitutional and cast a cloud over the rest. The justices probably will hear arguments in the fall.
- An Interior Department official has worked to insert misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific reports, The New York Times reports.
- Buttigieg and Klobuchar have had an openly testy relationship. She said a woman with a resume as thin as his wouldn't be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. Since quitting the race, they exchanged complimentary tweets — she on his "inspiring and historic campaign" and he for "the spirit and humor she brought to this race." For whatever reason, they did not appear together Monday for Biden.
- Billionaire Tom Steyer spent $160 million for TV and radio ads during his campaign. He called it quits after winning zero delegates. That's z-e-r-o.
- Sen. Susan Collins of Maine refused to say whether she voted for Trump in her state's primary. She cast an absentee ballot for the Tuesday contest in which Trump was the only name on the ballot, though write-ins are permitted.