On Politics: Somehow, There’s Still an Election

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  • Kids aren’t going to school, many of us aren’t going to work and the government has discouraged gatherings of 10 or more. But apparently we can still vote.

  • Florida, Illinois and Arizona are resolutely moving ahead with Democratic primary elections today despite the coronavirus outbreak. (There are also less suspenseful — though possibly still high-turnout — Republican primaries in Florida and Illinois.) Officials are working to ensure that sanitary products and hygienic guidelines are distributed to polling places.

  • Ohio’s primary will not be held today as planned — but that’s only after an intrastate squabble played out late into the evening on Monday. First, Mike DeWine, the state’s Republican governor, expressed support for a plan to postpone the election to June 2. On Monday afternoon, he said he didn’t have the authority to do it alone. But when a county judge shot down the effort that night, DeWine announced that the state’s health director was ordering polls not to open. “To conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus,” DeWine said on Twitter. It remains unclear whether in-person voting will indeed take place on June 2.

  • Ohio is the fourth state to move its primary in response to the virus. On Monday, Kentucky pushed its primary back five weeks, joining Louisiana and Georgia, which both decided last week to delay their elections.

  • Theoretically, a pandemic can turn anything on its side. But Joe Biden has a daunting lead in all the states set to vote today, according to polling averages. So he probably feels confident in his ability to avoid an upset, even under these extraordinary circumstances. A Monmouth University poll of Arizona released yesterday showed Bernie Sanders trailing Biden by 20 percentage points. Among Latino voters, who have been one of his most supportive constituencies, Sanders was up by only seven points.

  • In Illinois, little credible polling has been done, but Biden’s campaign is expecting a comfortable victory after his convincing win in nearby Michigan. In Florida, where the Hispanic population trends more conservative and the white population skews older, Biden is particularly well positioned.

  • Sanders’s path to the nomination may be narrow, but at Sunday’s debate he showed that he’s not going to leave the Democratic race without a fight. Seeking to ensure that progressive ideals remain front and center as attention turns to the general election, Sanders argued that the response to the coronavirus must be understood as only one element of the country’s health care system. When Biden said he would make testing and treatment for the coronavirus free to all Americans, Sanders said the same guarantee should apply to Americans experiencing any health catastrophe.

  • “Last year, at least 30,000 people died in America because they didn’t get health care when they should, because we don’t have universal coverage,” Sanders said. “I think that’s a crisis. One out of five people in America cannot afford the prescription drugs they need. They suffer. Some die. I consider that a crisis.”

  • Biden grabbed headlines during the debate when he committed to choosing a woman as his running mate if he’s the nominee. But that doesn’t mean he’s already made a choice, and his campaign signaled Monday that he would still put prospects through a “vigorous vetting process.” Among those seen as possibilities are three former presidential candidates: Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

Bryant Rockfield voted early at the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday.

Remember when Andrew Yang was running for president and insisting that the government give every American $1,000 per month?

He would very much like you to remember now. As the coronavirus closes restaurants and businesses, and many thousands — perhaps millions — of Americans prepare to lose their paychecks, Yang has been on Twitter practically screaming a diplomatic version of “I told you so!”

“Putting money into people’s hands is the obvious thing to do in this situation,” he tweeted early Monday. “I hope Congress wakes up to this before it’s too late. Every day is enormous at this point.”

And as of Monday afternoon, at least one major political figure appeared to have joined him in backing a universal basic income.

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah released a series of proposals on Monday aimed at lessening the hardship for Americans facing a financial burden because of the coronavirus. At the top of the list: “Immediately send $1,000 checks to each American.”

“Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy,” a news release from Romney’s office said. “The check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options.” By the end of the day, Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic presidential candidate, had also endorsed a $1,000 basic payment.

In addition to death, destruction and a spirit of panic, the coronavirus may also be delivering what no politician in years has been able to achieve: bipartisan agreement in Washington.

Romney wasn’t the only Republican on Monday to endorse including direct cash payments in a stimulus package. Tom Cotton, a conservative senator from Arkansas, appeared to be standing to Nancy Pelosi’s left when he criticized a bill negotiated between the House and the White House.

The proposed legislation “doesn’t go far enough, and it doesn’t go fast enough,” Cotton said on Fox News on Monday. “I and a lot of other senators who I’ve spoken to over the weekend are worried that we’re not doing enough to get cash into the hands of affected workers and families quickly.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said he wants to pass the House bill immediately — words that are rarer than platinum from him. That bill includes access to free coronavirus testing, paid leave for displaced workers, expanded unemployment benefits and food stamps, and extra Medicaid funding.

For weeks, President Trump was slow to publicly acknowledge the severity of the coronavirus threat, but even he has begun to emphasize the need for drastic action. On Monday he discouraged gatherings of 10 or more people. “Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus,” he said in comments to reporters. “We’d much rather be ahead of the curve than behind it.”

Still, a partisan divide persists among the general public, driven in part by the differing stories being told by mainstream and conservative news outlets.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted at the end of last week found that while a majority of Democrats described themselves as “very concerned” about the coronavirus spreading to their community, just 17 percent of Republicans said the same. Interestingly, the number among independents was nearly as low: 20 percent.

You can follow along with us all afternoon and evening as the returns come in from three major Democratic primaries.

We’ll have up-to-the-minute results and reporter analysis at nytimes.com. Here is what’s at stake in each Democratic contest and when polls close — meaning, when final results will start to come in. (There are Republican primaries too, but the results are a foregone conclusion.)

  • Arizona primary (67 delegates): 10 p.m. Eastern

  • Florida primary (219 delegates): 8 p.m., though polls start to close at 7 p.m.

  • Illinois primary (155 delegates): 8 p.m.

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