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Trump remains upbeat as governors on the front lines plead for realism

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: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus accompanied by Dr. Anthony Fauci, left, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vice President Mike Pence, and Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, in the James Brady Briefing Room in Washington on March 26, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP

WASHINGTON — More Americans have now died from the coronavirus (3,000-plus) than who were killed in 9/11 (2,977). Schools across the country are closed for the foreseeable future. Much of the U.S. economy is closed for business.

And we’ve seen our politicians react to this grim news in different ways.

President Trump has had the sunniest attitude — by far. “We are in the midst of something that is very difficult, but we are going to win; it's just a question of when,” Trump said yesterday. “We want to do it as quickly as possible. We want to have as few deaths as possible.”

He’s also praised the country’s coronavirus testing — which had been a failure, and which still tests fewer citizens, per capita, than other counties like South Korea. “Today, we reached a historic milestone in our war against the coronavirus. Over 1 million Americans have now been tested — more than any other country.”

And when asked about his sunny/rosy talk, Trump responded: “The statements I made are — I want to keep the country calm. I don't want to panic in (sic) the country.”

By contrast, many of the nation’s governors haven’t hesitated to tell the public the bad news.

“If government doesn't work, people will die who didn't need to die,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell last night. “This is all practical. This is all real. This is all experience. This is all competence. This is all capacity.”

And maybe it’s not surprising that the politicians who’ve delivered the tough talk have seen their polling numbers go up higher than the politicians who haven’t.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

163,838: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 21,037 more than yesterday morning.)

3,003: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 531 more than yesterday morning).

About 956,000: The number of coronavirus TESTS that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project. (That’s about 104,000 more than yesterday morning.)

More than 400: The number of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, in the U.S. with confirmed coronavirus cases.

About three out of four: The number of Americans who are or will soon be under a stay-at-home directive in their state or region.

680 points: The Dow Jones’ rally yesterday after the president extended social distancing guidelines until the end of April.

More than 40 million: The number of Americans who could be unemployed by mid-April, according to some economic estimates.

Tweet of the day

Whither Wisconsin?

Despite the federal social-distancing guidelines, despite several lawsuits and despite plenty of other states that have postponed their primaries due to the coronavirus, Wisconsin is still charging ahead to holds its elections a week from today on April 7.

The state has been encouraging voters to participate via absentee ballot, and absentee voting will smash the state’s record, but the deadline to request one is April 2 — so five days before the actual primary.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission tells NBC News that the state plans to have polling places open on April 7, but there will be fewer ones that in ordinary times.

In addition to the Democratic presidential preference primary between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, other statewide contests will be on the ballot – including general elections for Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court and its Court of Appeals.

All the other states that had been set to hold primaries in the next month – from New York and Pennsylvania, to Alaska and Hawaii – have postponed or modified their contests.

So Wisconsin stands out, because it’s going ahead alone.

Orban uses the coronavirus to seize more power in Hungary

“The Hungarian parliament on Monday handed the country's populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, the power to govern unchallenged for as long as he sees fit, a move rights groups said effectively suspends democracy in the European Union member state in the name of fighting the novel coronavirus,” the Washington Post writes.

“The ‘coronavirus bill,’ which allows Orban to rule by decree and bypass the national assembly, passed by 137 to 53 votes despite opposition efforts to attach an expiration date on the state of emergency. The law also punishes those who ‘distort’ or publish “false” information on the outbreak with five years in jail.”

This is how democracies die.

2020 Vision: So you’re telling me there’s a chance

In a remote interview Monday night, Bernie Sanders told late-show host Seth Meyers that he still had a path to the Democratic nomination, per NBC’s Gary Grumbach.

Meyers asked Sanders if he still saw a path to the nomination and why he was remaining in the Democratic presidential if not.

Grumbach says Sanders did not blow off the question by saying he was focused on the coronavirus -- something he’s repeatedly done when asked. Instead, he told Meyers that there’s a path.

“It is admittedly a narrow path but I would tell you, Seth, that there are a lot of people who are supporting me,” Sanders said. “We have a strong grassroots movement who believe that we have got to stay in, in order to continue the fight to make the world know that we need Medicare for All, that we need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, that we need paid family and medical leave.”

But here’s the reality for Sanders: In the most recent primaries over the past month, the Vermont senator didn’t win a single county in the state of Florida; he won only one county in Illinois; and he lost Michigan — a state he won in 2016 — by 17 points.

Joe Biden leads Sanders by 312 pledged delegates, according to NBC News’ Decision Desk.

Biden has won 1,183 (or 53 percent of all allocated pledged delegates), while Sanders has won 871 (or 39 percent).

To reach the magic number of 1,991 — a majority of all pledged delegates — Biden needs to win 46 percent of the remaining pledged delegates.

Sanders, by contrast, needs 64 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to obtain a majority.

Hail to Trump’s fourth chief of staff

There’s a new chief of staff in town — Mark Meadows officially resigned from Congress on Monday in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Meadows will begin his new job at the White House today.

While Meadows is President Trump’s fourth chief of staff, he’s the first to come straight from Congress. The most recent acting person in the post, Mick Mulvaney, served as a congressman from South Carolina before becoming Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2017.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told NBC’s Capitol Hill team last week that Meadows as chief of staff will strengthen the Congressional-White House relationship.

“I wish Mark Meadows very well. He was a very good member he'll make a great chief of staff, and I think having him as chief of staff only makes the relationship stronger for the House and Senate with the White House,” McCarthy said. “And he's had great relationships on both sides of the aisle. So it's a benefit to all.”

The Lid: Glass half empty?

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at what recent general election polling might mean — or not mean — for November.

Shameless plug

Beginning tonight, NBC News will air a series of live primetime specials on the coronavirus pandemic Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET across NBC, MSNBC and NBC News NOW. "NBC News Special Report: Coronavirus Pandemic" will air for three consecutive weeks.

TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb anchor tonight’s debut broadcast.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Two top Democratic outside groups are joining forces to help Joe Biden.

Republican and Democratic super PACs are starting to buy big on TV in the fight for the Senate.

A Democratic House candidate in New York has tested positive for the virus.

NBC’s Sahil Kapur looks at how the virus is and isn’t changing the Democratic conversation about Medicare for All.

The New York Times notes that Joe Biden faces a cash gap with Trump — with fewer opportunities to close it in the age of Covid-19.