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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on a 2020 campaign paused by pandemic

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join John Yang to discuss the latest political news, including where former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stand in a Democratic presidential primary essentially frozen by the coronavirus pandemic and the potential political ramifications of the crisis for President Trump.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yet another feature of American life transformed by the coronavirus, political campaigns.

    The two Democratic presidential candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, are no longer doing in-person campaigning. Both have been using livestreams when they speak about the pandemic.

    We will hear from both candidates, and then John Yang takes a look at where things stand in the race, for Politics Monday.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    Let me be clear: Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus, but he does bear responsibility for our response. And I, along with every American, hope he steps up and starts to get this right.

    No, this isn't about politics. This is simply too much at stake.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    We will not accept profiteering and greed and corporations and individuals trying to rip off people in the midst of this crisis. Not acceptable.

    And I don't think that Trump can do the right thing on this, but Congress must do the right thing.

  • John Yang:

    Just as the presidential moves adapts to social distancing, so does Politics Monday.

    Joining us remotely from Arlington is Amy Walter, the national editor of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and via Skype from Washington, D.C., Tamara Keith, White House correspondent for NPR and co-host of the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Amy and Tam, thanks so much for being with us.

    Tam, let me start with you.

    It was just three weeks ago we were talking about the big story being Joe Biden roaring back in South Carolina and in the Super Tuesday states. And now that has all been overtaken by the coronavirus headlines. What has this done to the campaign?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, the Biden campaign is adjusting. And that is why you saw that livestream.

    A few days ago, Biden said, you know: I'm — we're working on it. My team is working to set up a studio in my house.

    And there you have it. There it was. They have upgraded his live stream. They have upgraded his Internet. The Sanders campaign actually already had a pretty robust livestreaming system set up. They had been streaming all of the rallies to supporters.

    But, certainly, for the Biden campaign, he's treating this much like he is the presumptive nominee, even though he isn't saying that. And he is focused on President Trump and trying to counterbalance the daily live press briefings that are happening as we speak that President Trump is able to have.

  • John Yang:

    And, Amy, on the other side, the delegate selection process is really frozen. Primaries have been delayed. The local and state and county conventions have been postponed.

    But Bernie Sanders is still in the race, has not dropped out. What is the state of his campaign?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, I think the state of the Democratic primary right now is in limbo, but it's also over.

    And Bernie Sanders, in order to win the nomination, would need to win, whenever these primaries eventually do happen, about 64 percent of the remaining delegates. Remember, about 60 percent of all delegates have already been selected. So this is going to be very difficult. There has not been one state since Super — on or since Super Tuesday that he has been able to get even close to that number.

    So, Tam's right. Joe Biden is running as essentially the de facto nominee at this point.

    I think there is something else to talk about here, John, which is, it's not just that, three weeks ago, we were talking all about Super Tuesday. Three weeks ago, the conventional thinking about this election in general was — and it had been this way for the last two years — how does a personally unpopular president win reelection?

    The way he can do that is lean in on a good economy. And here we are now talking about the fact that this president has gone from a peace and prosperity president to a wartime president. And the question isn't, will he be able to line into how great the economy is? It will be how he will be judged on bringing back an economy that is expected to hit the kind of recession we may never have seen certainly in our lifetimes.

    So, we have literally overnight changed the very way in which this campaign is going to be run in terms of the messaging, not only the way that we're communicating.

  • John Yang:

    And, Tam, what about that?

    You cover the White House for NPR. As you say, he is now on television every day with these briefings. But he is no longer going out holding rallies. He is no longer campaigning. What is this doing to his drive for reelection?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, and on the messaging, it has been really interesting to watch. He is now talking about how great the economy was right before coronavirus hit, right before public health measures required the economy to essentially be shut down.

    His campaign is continuing to run a campaign. And what I mean by that is, they are doing virtual trainings. Much like on the Democratic side, things have gone virtual, on the Republican side, they have gone virtual.

    They are reaching out to people who attended the president's rallies and aren't registered to vote and encouraging them to register to vote virtually.

    But rallies were the centerpiece of Trump's campaign before this.

  • John Yang:

    But no more.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, that is it for Politics Monday. Thank you very much.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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