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Bernie Sanders isn't making it easy for the Democratic Party

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a vote on March 18, 2020 in Washington.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — No one ever said American politics was easy.

But it’s also safe to say that Bernie Sanders’ decision to remain in the Democratic presidential race during the coronavirus pandemic has made things more difficult for the Democratic Party, the party’s convention planners, and election workers across the country.

Sanders dropping out — he trails Joe Biden by 312 pledged delegates, per the NBC News count — would enable Democrats to focus 100 percent on the general election, especially with electoral politics on the back burner right now.

His exit would make it much easier for Democrats to hold their political convention in Milwaukee either virtually or in a pro-forma manner. Democratic leaders across the country are urging the party to rethink the July convention due to the coronavirus outbreak, CBS reports, and Biden is now talking about postponing it until August.

And Sanders suspending his campaign would lessen the burden on election workers and Democratic primary voters throughout the country.

On Wednesday, Sanders called on Wisconsin to delay its April 7 primary. “People should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote, which is why 15 states are now following the advice of public health experts and delaying their elections. We urge Wisconsin to join them,” he said in a statement.

But if it’s too dangerous to vote, why is he still running — given that he admits his path to the nomination is already narrow, and given that’s he trailing Biden in Wisconsin by more than 30 points, per the Marquette Law poll?

Sanders, if you recall, won Wisconsin by 14 points in 2016.

“Look, what I have said from Day One is I will do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump,” Sanders told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell yesterday on her MSNBC show.

“But we do live in a democracy. People do have the right to vote. And I think, especially now given the unprecedented crisis we’re in, it is important to talk about the best way forward. I think that debate is very important.”

But since Super Tuesday, Sanders has been losing that debate — decisively.

Florida finally issues statewide stay-at-home order

After comparing the coronavirus to the flu, saying it was under control in the country and remarking that he’d love to reopen the nation by Easter, President Trump didn’t start taking the pandemic deadly serious until this week.

And the consequence of that delay is that many of the nation’s Republican governors didn’t completely follow suit until now — like Florida’s Ron DeSantis.

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state Wednesday as it grapples with a rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak,” per NBC News.

The reason why?

“[On] Wednesday, as the state's cases continue to rise, the governor said ‘it makes sense to do this now’ after President Donald Trump announced this week that the administration is extending its social distancing guidelines for 30 more days. DeSantis, a Republican ally of Trump, said he took that as a ‘signal’ from the president that it needed to be done in Florida.”

As the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein observes, “The fact that so many GOP big state governors — in TX, FL & GA — all tightened statewide restrictions immediately after Trump finally let his advisers frame the full risk from the WH podium underscores how much his earlier minimizing contributed to the critical delays in those states.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

216,228: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 52,390 more than yesterday morning.)

4,834: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 941 more than yesterday morning).

1.17 million: The number of coronavirus TESTS that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

25 percent: The jump in the death toll in 24 hours in New York state

About 2 million: The number of guns bought by Americans last month amid coronavirus worries

44 percent: The share of Americans who approve of President Trump’s handling of the outbreak now, according to new data from AP-NORC.

6,648,000: The numbers of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits last week (up from 3.28 million the previous week)

Tweet of the day

Phase 4?

The earliest members of the House will reconvene is April 20, and that is also when the Congress should be moving forward on the fourth phase of recovery for coronavirus relief, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday.

Per NBC News’ Capitol Hill team, Pelosi said yesterday there could be some differences in what House Democrats and the White House expect in cost: “The only difference about the price tag is the $10 billion for the community health centers. The $760 billion package is a five-year package, the president talks about $2 trillion, he is talking about 10 years. We're talking about five years, 760, and then we will have education and housing on top of it. So we're probably in the ballpark of the same amount of investment for the future.” She added, “This bill has definitely has to have more for state and local governments.”

During the president’s press briefing yesterday with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, President Trump said “if there is a Phase 4” package, he’d look to include a provision to close coverage gaps in insurance coverage, and that he’d look into hazard pay for health care providers – however he wouldn’t comment on if that hazard pay would happen before the next phase of legislation. The president also said he’d want to allow corporations to claim deductions for business meals in order to support the restaurant industry.

The Lid: Worried sick

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked into the group of Americans who are most worried about being unprepared to face the virus.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Joe Biden says that the Democratic National Convention may need to be postponed to August.

Steve Kornacki looks at the historical record to see how Trump might fare in his reelection race during a national crisis.

Trump’s campaign is telling surrogates to treat Democrats as “the opposition” in the country’s war against coronavirus.

Andrew Yang wrote about his experience being targeted as an Asian American.

The administration is rolling back Obama-era auto emissions standards.