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The era of small government is over, for now

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: President Donald Trump speaks to the press after a meeting with nursing industry representatives in the Roosevelt Room of the White House
President Donald Trump speaks to the press after a meeting with nursing industry representatives in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 18, 2020.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If President Trump’s election ended the Tea Party movement once and for all, the coronavirus may well have demolished the belief in a smaller, more limited government.

At least for the foreseeable future.

Just consider that only eight Senate Republicans voted against the legislation providing for free testing and paid emergency leave.

Also consider that even some Republicans are going full Andrew Yang, advocating for direct cash payments to Americans.

And consider the expected relief/bailout/aid to major corporations.

The political fault lines are over President Trump, culture, and how all the spent money gets implemented.

But the era of small government is over.

It’s ideology, not geography

Our recent NBC News/WSJ poll turned some heads when it showed widely different partisan reactions to the coronavirus, with Democratic voters much more concerned about the outbreak than Republican respondents.

But couldn’t the difference also be geographical — that all voters in urban areas (regardless of party) are more concerned about the coronavirus than rural voters (regardless of party)?

The answer is … no. Check out these numbers our pollsters ran for us (though note that the poll was in the field March 11-13, so attitudes might have changed since then):

Worried that someone in your immediate family with catch the coronavirus?

  • All voters: 53 percent
  • Urban Dems: 70 percent
  • Suburban Dems: 68 percent
  • Rural Dems: 65 percent
  • Urban GOPers: 44 percent
  • Suburban GOPers: 37 percent
  • Rural GOPers: 41 percent

Stop attending large public gatherings?

  • All voters: 47 percent
  • Urban Dems: 59 percent
  • Suburban Dems: 63 percent
  • Rural Dems: 59 percent
  • Urban GOPers: 32 percent
  • Suburban GOPers: 28 percent
  • Rural GOPers: 30 percent

Folks, the divide is ideology, not geography.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

7,942: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

137: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far.

About 82,000: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at the The COVID Tracking Project.

1,338 points: The Dow’s plunge yesterday as a selloff yielded the market’s first close below 20,000 in more than three years.

$1.2 trillion: The potential price tag, as of this morning, on the newest recovery package being crafted on Capitol Hill. As of now, that includes direct payments to Americans as well as small business aid and assistance to the airline industry.

8: The number of U.S. senators who voted AGAINST the Families First Coronavirus Response Act — passed yesterday — which willexpand paid leave and unemployment benefits as well as provide free testing. The president signed the bill Wednesday evening.

2: The number of members of Congress who have tested POSITIVE for the virus that we know of now. Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Utah Democrat Rep. Ben McAdams both announced yesterday that they developed symptoms and tested positive.

Senate works on relief legislation

After President Trump signed into law legislation providing for free testing and paid emergency leave, the Senate is scrambling to assemble a rescue package that’s growing bigger by the hour, now soaring to at least $1.2 trillion, NBC’s Capitol Hill team reports.

The different components of this relief package:

  • Direct payments to Americans: Likely to be targeted based on means and family size, per Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and a Senate aide.
  • Bailout for the airlines: Senators are very nervous about any direct payments to airlines, and what’s under discussion now is *loans* with collateral.
  • Small business assistance: Likely to be the second largest piece of the package (after the direct payments to Americans), could be as much as $300 billion.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Assessing and snapping

On Wednesday, Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager said that the candidate will be having discussions with his supporters to assess the state of his campaign after his primary losses in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, per NBC’s Shaquille Brewster and Rebecca Shabad.

And on Capitol Hill yesterday, Sanders snapped at a reporter when asked about his assessment timeframe, NBC’s Julie Tsirkin reports.

Sanders: "Stop with this. I’m dealing with a fuc**** worldwide crisis. You know? We’re dealing with it and you’re asking me these questions."

Question: "You’re running for president so –"

Sanders: "Well right now I’m trying to do my best to make sure we don’t have an economic meltdown and that people don’t die. Is that enough to keep you busy for today?"

Ad watch

From NBC’s Ben Kamisar: A new TV ad from Michigan Republican John James is the latest example of how the coronavirus threat is becoming an issue on the campaign trail (or, for now, on the socially-distanced, largely indoors trail).

Last week, the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC started running ads hammering James for wanting to repeal Obamacare, arguing that will increase the cost of prescription drugs, eliminate pre-existing condition protections. That ad didn’t mention coronavirus.

And now James is hitting the airwaves with his response, which blames the attack on his opponent, Democratic Sen. Gary Peters (Peters has no control over the content of SMP’s ads, although the ads are being run to benefit the Democrat).

“A lie about health care during America’s worst health crisis in decades,” is how James describes the attack, arguing that he supports protections for pre-existing conditions.

It’s the latest example of how the battle over pre-existing conditions is playing out in this cycle, after Democrats made the line ofattack a central piece of their 2018 messaging. But as America faces an economic and health crisis, those attacks are getting even sharper.

The Lid: Berned out?

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we asked what might be next for Bernie Sanders.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Alabama Senate runoff between Tommy Tuberville and Jeff Sessions has been postponed to July.

More than 80 career national security professionals are endorsing Biden for president.

Bill Weld has ended his longshot primary challenge against President Trump.

Both Biden and Sanders are ramping down their ad spending for now. (And the campaigns say they’re in regular contact now about the coronavirus threat.)

States are increasingly looking to vote by mail. (But it might be harder than it seems.)

A new report looks at how much black donors gave to 2020 candidates — and to which ones.