Me, worry? For coronavirus, it depends on your politics

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 media in the press briefing room at the White House
President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the press briefing room at the White House on March 15, 2020.Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — You realize just how warped politics has become in the United States when the two political parties can’t even agree on the seriousness of the coronavirus.

That, to us, is the biggest takeaway from Sunday’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on public attitudes about the coronavirus, an outbreak which has resulted so far in more than 3,500 confirmed cases and 67 deaths in the United States.

Worried a family member might catch the coronavirus?

  • All voters: 53 percent
  • Democrats: 68 percent
  • Republicans: 40 percent
  • Independents: 45 percent

Yes, the worst is yet to come

  • All voters: 60 percent
  • Democrats: 79 percent
  • Republicans: 40 percent
  • Independents: 57 percent

Stop or plan to stop large gatherings?

  • All voters: 47 percent
  • Democrats: 61 percent
  • Republicans: 30 percent
  • Independents: 51 percent

Cancel or reschedule travel plans?

  • All voters: 36 percent
  • Democrats: 47 percent
  • Republicans: 23 percent
  • Independents: 36 percent

Stop eating out at restaurants?

  • All voters: 26 percent
  • Democrats: 36 percent
  • Republicans: 12 percent
  • Independents: 27 percent

Approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus

  • All voters: 45 percent
  • Democrats: 13 percent
  • Republicans: 81 percent
  • Independents: 43 percent

The NBC News/WSJ poll was conducted March 11-13 – almost all before President Trump declared his national emergency on Friday.

But after hearing President Trump’s happy talk during his remarks to the public on Sunday — “We are doing great. It all will pass” and “I would think there are a lot of people on Wall Street that are very happy [about the Fed lowering interest rates], and I can tell you that I am very happy” — it’s easy to see how one political party isn’t getting the message.

Fauci’s warnings

So what is the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, saying to the American public? Here are his comments from Sunday:

“Everybody's got to get involved in distancing themselves socially. If you are in an area where there's clear community spread, you have to be much, much more intense about how you do that,” he said on “Meet the Press” yesterday.

“I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting,” he also said on “Meet” yesterday, adding: “I think Americans should be prepared that they're going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing.”

And here was Fauci on CNN: “I would like to see a dramatic diminution of the personal interaction that we see in restaurants and in bars.”

Data Download: The number of the day is … 50 people or more

50 people or more.

That’s the size of public gatherings that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says should be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Examples given by the CDC of large events to be avoided include “conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, [and] weddings.”

Last night’s tone-deaf debate

What was most likely the final Dem debate of the 2020 campaign season turned into an incredibly tone-deaf affair after its first 20 to 30-minute discussion on the coronavirus.

At a time when Americans are dying and scared, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders tore into each other on immigration, Social Security, guns, climate change, Super PACs, gay rights and abortion.

It all seemed … off topic, especially given the Democratic attitudes above about the coronavirus.

And it was mostly forgettable — due to what is the biggest story in America right now.

The biggest news from the debate was: 1) Biden’s promise to name a woman as his VP pick, and 2) the clear signal that Sanders isn’t going away quietly.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Biden leads Sanders by 2-to-1 margin nationally

What a month it’s been in the Democratic race.

In February’s national NBC/WSJ poll, Bernie Sanders led Joe Biden by 12 points, 27 percent to 15 percent, when other Dems were in the race (like Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg and Amy Klobuchar).

But here are the horserace numbers from our new poll that we released yesterday: Biden 61 percent, Sanders 32 percent, Tulsi Gabbard 4 percent.

On the campaign trail today

Bernie Sanders holds a digital rally via livestream at 7:00 p.m. ET… And also today, Joe and Jill Biden hold a tele-town hall with voters in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.

Dispatches from NBC’s campaign embeds

During a “spin room” call with reporters after the Democratic debate — since, remember there was no spin room last night – Joe Biden’s advisers made clear that Biden’s commitment to choosing a woman as his vice presidential pick was in the cards for some time, NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor reports: “Kate Bedingfield and Symone Sanders both said that Biden had been thinking about announcing his firm commitment to choose a woman as his running mate ‘for a while now’ and wanted to debut it publicly in a big way. ‘It's something he's thought about a lot recently and he decided he wanted to make a big commitment on a big stage and that's exactly what he did tonight,’ Sanders said.” On top of that bit of news, the Biden campaign said that yesterday was their best debate day of online fundraising yet.

And during a post-debate interview on CNN, Sanders said he’s concerned about voting on Tuesday due to CDC recommendations on the Coronavirus, NBC’s Gary Grumbach flags: “Elections, dates are very important. We don't want to be getting in the habit of messing around with them,” Sanders began, before bringing up the precedent of the postponed New York primary after 9/11. “I would hope governors listen to the public health experts and what they are saying is, you just indicated, we don't want gatherings of more than 50 people,” Sanders said. “I’m thinking about some of the elderly people sitting behind the desks, registering people – all that stuff. It does not make a lot of sense. I'm not sure that it does.”

The Lid: Going the (social) distance

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we wondered how campaigning can go on in a world of social distancing.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Sahil Kapur offers his takeaways from last night’s debate.

Biden pledged to pick a female running mate, while Sanders said he’s likely to do the same.

And the former vice president is shifting his stances on free college and bankruptcy in an effort to reach out to progressives.

The Fed is slashing interest rates to zero.

Andrew Gillum is entering rehab.

Trump Agenda: In like Flynn

Trump says he’s “strongly considering” pardoning Michael Flynn.

The president’s superfans are starting to fracture over the virus.

Governors like J.B. Pritzker are incensed at the crowds in major airports in the U.S.

There are lockdowns — and then backlash to the lockdowns.

Meanwhile, in Israel, Benny Gantz has a chance to try to form a new government.

The Tennessee man who bought 17 thousand bottles of hand sanitizer just donated them.

2020: Biden’s big lead

Joe Biden now leads Bernie Sanders by a 2-1 margin among Democratic primary voters.

Voters and elections officials are nervous ahead of Tuesday’s primaries.

Will the conventions go forward this summer?

Recent polling is giving Democrats hope that they could put Florida back in play in November.