Schools are closed and events are canceled, but Pennsylvania’s special elections will continue as planned this week. As for next month’s presidential primary, officials are discussing how best to proceed. Tonight, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders will have a debate, which was originally slated for Phoenix but was moved to Washington due to coronavirus concerns. Here’s how to watch.
With heightened concerns about spreading coronavirus, more cancellations and closures are likely. That might seem like a lot, but they actually work to slow the spread. And, if you’ve heard the phrase “flattening the curve” over the past week, here’s a cardiologist explaining what that means and how it helps.
Each week we go behind the scenes with some of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face. This week we chat with political reporters Julia Terruso and Jonathan Tamari on what the presidential campaign has looked like, and what the coronavirus pandemic may do leading up to November.
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Super Tuesday saw a wave of candidates drop out, including Warren. Is any of this a surprise?
Julia Terruso: Joe Biden’s surge, starting in South Carolina, followed by Super Tuesday, and helped along the way by a flood of endorsements, was certainly a surprise. Multiple people we talked to said it was the most amazing 72-hour shift they’ve seen in a presidential campaign. I’m not sure given Bloomberg and Warren’s lackluster performances in Super Tuesday, that their dropping out was all that shocking. But the speed at which this race went from six contenders to, effectively, two was unexpected.
Jonathan Tamari: It depends on what your time frame is. Before South Carolina voted on Feb. 29? Yes. Then it looked like a jumble of candidates and a long slog to the nomination. After South Carolina, though, it quickly became clear that most candidates didn’t have a viable path to the nomination. Super Tuesday crystallized that.
It’s Bernie vs Biden, what’s it mean for Pennsylvania?
Terruso: Polling before Biden’s huge week gave Sanders the edge in Pennsylvania but by very thin margins. We also saw in some of the last couple primaries that Sanders didn’t do as well in redder, more rural counties where he beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 — in places like Texas and Oklahoma. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s similar here. Plus you add Biden’s ties to our region, endorsements from Pa. legislators, and generally a large older, more moderate electorate, and that could give him the edge. But I’m not ready to call Pa.!
Tamari: That’s not clear yet. It does create a pretty stark contrast on one big issue in the state since Sanders supports a ban on fracking and Biden wouldn’t go that far.
What storyline(s) do you think people should be paying more attention to?
Terruso: It’s easy to get distracted by the national horse race (I’m guilty of this, too) but we’ve been doing a lot of interesting stories about voters and issues in Pennsylvania which help shed light on what happens here. I wrote about some of the progressive organizations that have popped up in otherwise very Republican parts of the state, and Jon wrote about the state of manufacturing in Pennsylvania.
Tamari: Everyone’s already watching the coronavirus story but I think it could have a real political impact too, along with the obvious and serious health implications. A situation like this is a test of basic government competence and the ability to keep people safe. It’s not a partisan issue or something that can be easily spun — the response and its effectiveness will be seen and felt directly in people’s lives. Remember how badly the Hurricane Katrina response scarred perceptions of George W. Bush? The ability to handle a crisis is a major test of leadership, and it’s happening just months before Election Day.
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The day before it opened I walked by and the owners asked If I wanted my face up there on the wall. I gave them photos of my Dad and Pem Hutchinson. I took them to lunch there the first week and got a table under their charicatures. It was fun asking them who those guys were on the wall. — tedleisenring, on The Palm, once Philadelphia’s power-lunch hub, has closed.