Democrats didn't buy Sanders' revolution, but they might post-coronavirus

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: Sen. Bernie Sanders rallies with supporters in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 2, 2020.
Sen. Bernie Sanders rallies with supporters in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 2, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann and Melissa Holzberg

WASHINGTON — In the end, most Democratic voters preferred Joe Biden’s message of restoration rather than Bernie Sanders’ revolution.

The primary results — starting with South Carolina — reminded us that the Democratic Party is still Barack Obama’s party, after all.

But just as Biden built his nearly insurmountable delegate lead after Super Tuesday, the spread of the deadly coronavirus and the economic shutdown have opened up the possibility that the country might be more receptive to big ideas on health care, income inequality and free college education than it was just a month ago.

And that possibility is even greater for rank-and-file Democratic voters.

Still, Sanders lost to Biden in 2020 because he was never able to expand beyond his coalition of young, very liberal, and Latino voters.

In fact, he ended up underperforming from 2016 — by losing big in Michigan, carrying New Hampshire by fewer than 2 points, and getting only 51 percent of the primary vote in his home state of Vermont (down from 86 percent four years ago).

The reasons: Sanders continued to lose big among African American voters; he never officially joined the Democratic Party; he hired campaign staffers who were often more adamant about tearing down the party than reaching out to it; and, as we learned, a sizable portion of his 2016 vote was more anti-Hillary Clinton than pro-Bernie Sanders.

Oh, and one other thing: For every Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar in the Democratic Party, there are two Abigail Spanbergers, Elissa Slotkins, Abby Finkenauers and Gretchen Whitmers.

All that said, the Bernie/AOC wing of the party isn’t going away.

And neither is the appetite for big policy solutions, especially after the coronavirus.

Biden’s three big challenges over the next four months

With Sanders officially out of the race, Joe Biden is now the Democratic Party’s apparent nominee.

And Biden has three challenges between now and party’s convention in August (in whatever form that convention takes place):

  1. He’s got to bring Sanders and Elizabeth Warren into the fold; both still haven’t endorsed him (more on that below).
  2. He’s got to raise a lot of money to compete with President Trump’s money machine, and it’s got to be primary dollars before August (since he can’t tap general election funds until after the convention).
  3. And he’s got to build a top-notch organization in the battleground states, and organization wasn’t a strong suit for Biden during the primaries (though he’s made a start by tapping Obama vet Jennifer O’Malley Dillon as his new campaign manager).

The good news for Biden is that he appears to be tailor-made for the current news environment. He doesn’t need to build his name ID; his lack of exposure right now is probably more of a blessing rather than a curse (fewer gaffes); and the political conversation is more about competency and effective bureaucracy than it was a month ago – both of which are Biden strengths.

Comparing Fauci’s approval rating versus Trump’s

Well, that slight approval rating bump for President Trump has officially flattened. New Monmouth and Quinnipiac polls had his job rating at 44 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

And check out these approval ratings on handling the coronavirus per Quinnipiac:

  • Anthony Fauci: 78 percent
  • Your governor: 74 percent
  • Andrew Cuomo: 59 percent
  • Trump: 46 percent
  • Congress: 44 percent

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

431,157: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 31,076 more than yesterday morning.)

14,767: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,874 more than yesterday morning).

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

Three to four times: The increased volume of average daily cardiac-related emergency calls in New York City during the pandemic, many of which are likely linked to the coronavirus.

At least 44: The number of new job postings in New York City for “mortuary technicians and medicolegal investigators” since March 23.

About 90 percent: The share of the most serious coronavirus patients who had an underlying medical condition, according to an early CDC study in March.

$243,000: The cost of former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly’s flight to Guam, where his criticisms of the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt were broadcast over a loudspeaker and later led to his resignation.

6.6 million: The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits last week.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Sanders still hasn’t endorsed Biden — at least not yet

Speaking with late-night host Stephen Colbert, Bernie Sanders said he still hasn’t endorsed Joe Biden, per NBC’s Gary Grumbach.

Sanders: "You know, it's no great secret that you know Joe Biden's politics are different than mine. But I have known Joe since I came to the Senate in 2006. worked with him when he was vice president in the Obama administration. And what I would say to people is that Joe is a very decent human being. I know his wife Jill, as well, who is a wonderful person. And that I hope to be able to work with Joe to move him in a progressive direction, and I think Joe is a good politician, and he understands that in order to defeat the president, that in order to defeat Trump he's going to have to bring new people into his political world."

Colbert: "Now I listened to your announcement today online was, I know that you, you, you said the same thing about Vice President Biden essentially today. Is that an endorsement? Is that a full throated endorsement of Joe Biden?"

Sanders: "We're going to be talking to Joe, and we are, and we're talking to his team of advisers."

The latest showdown on Capitol Hill

This morning at 10:00 a.m. ET, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is going to move to unanimously pass a bill to add $250 billion to the small business rescue fund (known as the Paycheck Protection Plan), NBC’s Kasie Hunt and the NBC’s Capitol Hill team report.

Democrats have dug in and insisted they want to negotiate more guardrails for that money and add another $250 billion for hospitals, state and local governments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave two interviews yesterday, underscoring that this proposal will not pass the House unanimously, as it would have to under the circumstances (the only way to do it with members scattered across the country).

Pelosi has given cover to Senate Democrats, who are expected to block this move by McConnell and offer their own alternative on the Senate floor.

Bottom line, per our Capitol Hill team: Democrats are trying to force Republicans and the administration back to the table. And Republicans can’t make laws without them. Republicans think this will play badly for Democrats after the new unemployment numbers dropped this morning. Still, the small business loan plan still hasn’t managed to get money out the door, even though the overwhelming demand does show it’s going to need more money. But at this stage it seems like everyone is going to need more money.

The Lid: End of an Era

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we asked how Sanders went from being on the verge of the Democratic nomination to dropping out by video from his home.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Steve Kornacki remembers back when Bernie Sanders was on his way to win the Democratic nod.

Here’s how Sanders, Biden and Obama all got to this point of the race.

Sanders allies argue that the Vermont senator proved a point about engaging Latinos in American politics.

Progressive youth groups have a list of demands for Biden.

President Trump expressed surprise that Barack Obama has not yet endorsed Joe Biden.

Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s star is rising amid the pandemic.