Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.
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Where things stand in the race
Bernie Sanders has ended his presidential campaign, acknowledging in a video address to supporters on Wednesday that “the path toward victory is virtually impossible.” Still, noting his overwhelming support from Democratic voters under 50, he argued that his movement had already won the future. “Together we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become, and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice,” he said.
The challenge now for Joe Biden is clear: Yes, he’ll need to win the support of moderates and swing voters in key battleground states to beat President Trump in November. But he will also need to earn the trust of liberal voters and those feeling left behind by a political establishment that Sanders has loudly criticized — and that Biden proudly embodies. Biden, the former vice president, must work to energize young people and progressive voters who largely rejected his center-left candidacy during the Democratic primary race. He and Sanders spoke by phone on Wednesday, and the Biden campaign is planning to release digital content arguing that he has moved in Sanders’s direction in policy areas like health care. With the presidential race scrambled by the coronavirus, even if Sanders offers an endorsement to Biden soon, it will probably have to happen in cyberspace — without the opportunity for a joint rally or physical appearances together.
Trump appears eager to dive into a showdown with Biden. At his daily news conference, he spread innuendo about his presumptive rival, wondering aloud why Barack Obama hadn’t endorsed his former deputy. (Obama made it clear early in the 2020 race that he did not plan to endorse a Democratic candidate during the primary.) “It amazes me that President Obama hasn’t supported Sleepy Joe,” Trump said. “When is it going to happen? Why is it? He knows something that you don’t know. I think I know, but you don’t know.” Of course, at this point in the 2016 presidential race, Trump himself had been endorsed by hardly any major establishment Republicans.
Trump and congressional Republicans are pushing for the speedy passage of a $250 billion bill to expand the small-business loan program that was set up under last month’s $2 trillion stimulus bill. But Democrats are saying: not so fast. “The bill that they put forth will not get unanimous support in the House — it just won’t,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NPR on Wednesday. Both Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said they supported the $250 billion expansion, but wanted to see half of that money reserved for businesses owned by farmers, women, people of color and veterans. And they pushed for doubling the bill’s total price tag by adding $100 billion for hospitals and health centers; $150 billion for state and local governments; and a 15 percent increase in food assistance benefits.
A lawn sign for Bernie Sanders was left in a yard after he ended his campaign in Burlington, Vt., on Wednesday.
Wisconsin Was a Preview of Voting Rights Battles to Come.
The partisan sparring before Wisconsin’s mid-pandemic primary on Tuesday was not just another example of Democrats and Republicans failing to get along.
It was a preview of many similar showdowns that are likely to play out in the weeks and months ahead, as the coronavirus renders in-person voting hazardous and governments grapple with how to adjust.
In Wisconsin, the Democratic governor, Tony Evers, had sought to have in-person voting delayed, but the Republican-controlled State Legislature and the conservative-led Wisconsin Supreme Court insisted on going ahead with it. And in a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines, the federal Supreme Court shot down Democratic efforts to extend the absentee voting deadline — despite concerns about public health and reports that many voters had not received their requested mail ballots.
Republicans have long sought to enact voting restrictions that disproportionately affect racial minorities, poor people and younger voters, pointing to the threat of voter fraud despite the fact that it is very rare. And both parties have long acknowledged that making voting easier helps Democrats.
But the coronavirus has turbocharged this debate, with Democrats and some state Republicans encouraging vote-by-mail measures to make it safer to cast ballots.
Congressional Democrats now say they are committed to inserting voting-access provisions into a coronavirus relief bill. Such a national law could help to prevent Republican officials in key swing states like Wisconsin from restricting access to things like vote-by-mail.
Another proposed regulation would force states to allow at least 20 days for early, in-person voting.
“When you look at what is happening in Wisconsin and what’s going on around the country, we can’t let this happen in the fall,” said Amy Klobuchar, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee.
But Trump and his Republican allies have vowed to fight such measures. “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. He has recently been more willing than Republicans have been in the past to say outright that he worries making voting easier can help Democrats.
Last month, when Democrats first proposed inserting voting rules into a stimulus bill, Trump objected. “If you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he said.
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