It’s the zombie primary now.
For all practical purposes, the Democratic nominating contest was over after Joe Biden won Michigan and Washington last week, then stretched his delegate lead by sweeping Florida, Illinois and Arizona on Tuesday night.
Bernie Sanders has almost no chance of catching him.
Yet because of the coronavirus, the presidential campaign is suspended in time. Rallies are off. Campaign workers, like many other people, are sheltering in place. On Tuesday, Maryland became the fifth state to postpone its election, and more states are expected to follow.
The postponements have left an unexpected opening for Sanders to soldier on, even as his prospects fade. The pandemic, which first sapped the primary of life, is now extending it.
“It’s frozen the campaign,” said Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders during his 2016 campaign. “I don’t know what major campaign event you are going to have … Put 50 press people in the room and let [the candidates] address the camera with their wives, maybe?
He said, “Past that, and I don’t see how you cut through this life-or-death coverage that we’ve got. … It just kind of closes it down.”
For many Democrats, the prospect of a stalled but protracted nominating contest is unsettling. Moderates are laboring to unify the party’s ranks behind Biden, and the politics of the coronavirus crisis is heightening their anxiety.
The conventional wisdom for weeks has been that President Donald Trump’s uneven, and at times chaotic, handling of this crisis is deeply problematic for his reelection chances. But it may not be that simple.
So far, Trump has taken a beating over his handling of the pandemic. The economy is tanking, and just 46 percent of Americans believe the federal government is doing enough to confront the coronavirus, down from 61 percent last month, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. Few people trust what Trump is saying about the pandemic, according to the same poll.
But Trump has time on his side, with the coronavirus spreading early in the election cycle. This week, the Republican president adopted a more somber tone, and some Democrats are beginning to worry that he could mold the narrative to his benefit. A massive stimulus, including direct payments to Americans, could help him in November.