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Biden's coronavirus speech provides him a contrast moment with Trump

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: Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks to members of the press in Philadelphia on March 10, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP

WASHINGTON — What transpired Wednesday night in the two hours after President Trump’s remarks to the nation on the coronavirus was some of the most disruptive and unsettling news we can remember — at least in a 120-minute span.

The NBA season suspended. Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson test positive for the coronavirus. Dow futures dropped. A staffer in Sen. Maria Cantwell’s, D-Wash., D.C. office tested positive.

The disease, the disruption and the fear are spreading fast.

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And at 1:00 p.m. ET, Democrat Joe Biden gets a contrast moment with President Trump, when he delivers remarks on the coronavirus from Delaware.

As NBC’s Mike Memoli points out, the Biden camp didn’t plan on Trump addressing the nation last night — before Biden’s previously scheduled speech.

“The Biden campaign didn't plan on @realDonaldTrump speaking on eve of @JoeBiden's coronavirus speech tomorrow when they scheduled it. But it ends up playing into what they had set up as a "presidential moment" and clear contrast.”

The question is whether Biden can deliver that presidential moment and clear contrast.

Sanders stays in the race

After his losses Tuesday in Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan and even Idaho, Bernie Sanders said he was staying in the Democratic presidential race.

And he used his address to challenge Joe Biden ahead of Sunday’s Dem debate in Arizona.

“Joe, what are you going to do for the 500,000 people who go bankrupt in our country because of medically-related debt, and what are you going to do for the working people of this country and small business people who are paying on average 20% of their incomes for health care?”

“Joe, what are you going to do to end the absurdity of the United States of America being the only major country on Earth where health care is not a human right? Are you really going to veto a Medicare for all bill if it is passed in Congress?”

“Joe, how are you going to respond to the scientists who tell us we have seven or eight years remaining to transform our energy system before irreparable harm takes place to this planet because of the ravages of climate change?”

The questions we have: One, what happens after for Sanders the debate, especially if there isn’t a game-changing moment?

And two, while the debate might get plenty of eyeballs (with Americans staying home), do Americans want to hear any non-coronavirus news/debate from their presidential candidates right now?

Especially in a presidential race where the handwriting is already on the wall?

By the way, Biden is now ahead of Sanders in Washington state by more than 16,000 votes with 78 percent in.

And in California, Sanders’ lead is down to 6.6 points.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 147


That’s the size of Joe Biden’s current lead over Bernie Sanders in pledged delegates, 838 to 691, according to NBC News’ Decision Desk.

Biden has won 51 percent of all pledged delegates awarded so far, while Sanders has won 42 percent of them.

To hit the magic number of 1,991 pledged delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination on a first vote, Biden needs to win 50 percent of the remaining pledged delegates.

Sanders needs to win 56 percent.

And that percentage for Sanders will most likely go up after next week’s contests in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio, as well as the following week’s primary in Georgia.

2020 Vision: Biden’s delicate dance

NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald writes about HOW Biden can win over Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

“Jennifer Palmieri, who was Clinton's communications director four years ago, said Biden needs to give Sanders' campaign space, pay homage to the movement it built, and recognize that attempts to strong-arm the candidate or his supporters will most likely backfire.”

“‘You can't force Bernie Sanders supporters to do anything. Even Bernie Sanders can't force Bernie Sanders supporters to do anything,’ she said. ‘Letting Sanders determine what's best for his people is probably ultimately what's best for Biden, so long as Sanders supporters are not echoing Trump's arguments.’”

Added progressive activist and former Sanders supporter Jonathan Tasini: "The price of unity has to be extracting some very specific concessions on big issues that speak to what Bernie supporters want."

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden delivers his speech on the coronavirus at 1:00 p.m. ET from Wilmington, Del.

Dispatches from NBC’s campaign embeds

In a Biden memo obtained by NBC News, Marianna Sotomayor reports the campaign’s thinking on Bernie Sanders’ decision to stay in the presidential contest: “Discussing the ‘path forward,’ the campaign points out that a Sanders rebound would require ‘the kind of blowouts’ that they were able to pull off in Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia where Biden won roughly three dozen delegates in each state. ‘It is hard to imagine which upcoming states would provide Sanders this opportunity,’ the memo says, pointing out that many of the Vermont senator’s ‘strongest states have already voted.’ The campaign, whose strategy has always prioritized winning delegate rich counties, does concede that Sanders will win Oregon, but it would not be enough to make up for his ‘significant delegate deficit.’”

Tweet of the day

The Lid

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we asked just what went so wrong for Sanders in Michigan.

Shameless plug: New Chuck ToddCast

Check out the latest Chuck Toddcast, when Yamiche Alcindor and Alex Seitz-Wald joined one of us to talk about what’s next for Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

ICYMI: New clips you shouldn’t miss

The longest ever bull market for U.S. stocks — 11 years — ended yesterday.

Here’s what we know (and don’t know) about the travel restrictions the president announced yesterday.

In an opinion piece, Jim Clyburn lays out some advice for Joe Biden.

Former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright endorsed Biden.

The New York Times calls Sanders’ speech yesterday “a stark moment of political de-escalation.”

A key GOP senator is dropping a subpoena of a former Ukrainian official in the probe into Burisma.

Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Trump Agenda: Shaky ground

The coronavirus is throwing the president’s reelection chances into much shakier ground.

The House has passed a War Powers Resolution bill that curtails the president’s ability to strike Iran.

The White House also announced a delay in this year’s tax deadline.

2020: Learning the wrong lessons?

The AP wonders if Bernie Sanders learned the wrong lessons from 2020.

Nine percent of Democratic primary voters so far are LGBT.

Rep. Ilhan Omar has married Washington political consultant Tim Mynett.