Biden pledges to select woman as a running mate and other debate takeaways

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— Former Vice President Joe Biden committed to picking a woman to be his vice presidential pick in Sunday night’s debate against Sen. Bernie Sanders, which began with a somber discussion on the coronavirus crisis.


— Georgia and Louisiana both postponed their presidential primaries as the coronavirus spread across the country. They may not be the last to take this step.

— Alabama’s secretary of state is seeking to move the runoff between former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville, but he’s unsure if he has the ability to do so.

Good Monday morning. Email me at [email protected], and follow me at @ZachMontellaro.

Email the rest of the Campaign Pro team at [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow them on Twitter: @POLITICO_Steve, @JamesArkin and allymutnick.

Days until the Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio primaries: 1

Days until the 2020 election: 232

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THE DEBATE STAGE — The first one-on-one debate between Biden and Sanders started on a somber note, as both candidates conveyed the seriousness of the coronavirus. “This is bigger than any one of us. This calls for a national rallying of everybody together,” Biden said in the opening minutes of the debate. Sanders criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the outbreak, while tying the crisis back to his overarching call for Medicare for All. Here are a few more takeaways from last night’s debate:

— Biden’s big promise: I’ll have a woman veep. The former vice president said in no uncertain terms that his number two will be a woman. Sanders came pretty close to doing the same, saying he would “in all likelihood” also choose a woman running mate. Biden also pledged to put the first black woman on the Supreme Court.

— Run back the tapes! Biden and Sanders, two people who have been in Washington for quite a long while, spent a significant portion of the debate religiating each other’s records. In Sanders’ case, he picked away at Biden’s vote for the Iraq War and the 2008 bailout, while Biden turned the spotlight on Sanders’ past stance on gun control bills. But Sanders, largely, wasn’t a wrecking-ball in the debate to Biden, either. Our Sanders beat reporter Holly Otterbein had a smart thought in our debate livechat (you should join us for the next one!): “‘I know your heart is in the right place, but this requires bold, dramatic action’ — Sanders is talking about climate change, but I feel like that’s his analysis of Biden’s entire campaign.”

One moment that could stick? Sanders going after Biden over potential cuts to entitlement programs, a line of attack that his advisers have long hoped he’d bring up against Biden. Should Biden secure the nomination, team Trump will likely return to that (Trump has suggested he’d look at cutting entitlement programs).

— But in the end, there will be unity. Both Sanders and Biden stressed that they’d ultimately support the other candidate, should they not win the nomination. But one question for both candidates we would’ve liked to have seen answered: Biden skated around why he wasn’t attracting serious Latino support, and Sanders didn’t particularly answer why he was struggling with black voters.

POSTPONED PRIMARIES — Two states have postponed their presidential primaries as the coronavirus spreads across the country, and they may not be the last. On Friday, Louisiana became the first state in the nation to postpone its primaries, kicking its April 4 primaries to June 20. The Wyoming state Democratic Party, which is also holding its caucuses on April 4, canceled in-person caucusing and is encouraging voters to vote by mail. One wrinkle of note for Louisiana: The move also shifts their primary out of the window for primary contests set in the DNC’s delegate selection rules, and Louisiana could face delegate penalties for the decision of state officials.

“We will continue to work with every state party as they adjust their delegate selection plans around coronavirus,” a Democratic National Committee spokesperson said in a statement. “This change would violate our rule on timing which provides that all states hold their contests by June 9th. Any violation of our rules could result in a penalty that would include a state losing at least half of its delegates. This change will be reviewed by the Rules and Bylaws Committee.”

Georgia followed suit on Saturday, rescheduling its presidential primaries that were initially on the calendar for March 24 to May 19, consolidating with state and congressional primaries in the state, I wrote. Puerto Rico could soon join them; A statement from the Puerto Rico Democratic Party said party chairman Charles Rodriguez requested that the territory’s legislature postpone its primary until April 26, with the potential for it to be even later. Officials in New York, which is slated to hold its primary on April 28, are also considering moving its presidential primary to June 23, the date of other primaries there, The New York Times’ Stephanie Saul and Nick Corasaniti reported.

The four primaries scheduled for tomorrow — Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — are still on. “Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday,” a joint statement from top election officials sent on Friday read. Or, as Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker put it on Sunday: “Democracy must continue.” POLITICO’s Alice Miranda Ollstein and I wrote more on Friday on the last minute scrambling of officials in those states, give it a read.

— Something to watch is states further down the calendar, both for states holding primaries in April and for the general election. A special election in New York City for Queens Borough president originally scheduled for March 24 has been postponed, as were dozens of local elections in South Carolina. If you’re aware of efforts in your home state to change election dates or regulations because of the virus, please email me.

VOTERS VOTED — Sanders won the Northern Mariana Islands Democratic caucus over the weekend, where only 134 people caucused, per the AP’s Seth Borenstein. Sanders won four delegates, to two for Biden.

WINNING ‘EM OVER? — Biden has been adopting some of the liberal candidates’ most-popular policy positions as he tries to win over rank-and-file voters. The former vice president endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) proposal over bankruptcy protections and said he’d support making public colleges and universities free to families making under $125,000, a shift toward Sanders, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur and Marianna Sotomayor noted.

ENDORSEMENT CORNER — More House endorsements for Biden: California’s Karen Bass (the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus) and Jackie Speier and Florida’s Donna Shalala.

— The National Education Association also endorsed Biden. POLITICO’s Nicole Gaudiano has more.

THE SENATE MAP — Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill wants to move the March 31 runoffs in the state, which includes the Sessions and Tuberville showdown and two GOP runoffs for open House seats, but he’s unsure if he has the legal ability to do so. In a statement on Sunday night, Merrill said he requested an emergency opinion from the state attorney’s general office on the possible postponement of the runoff. “In postponing the election until the threat of the Coronavirus is eliminated, Alabamians will be able to participate in the electoral process in a safe and healthy environment, as they have done in the past,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, the political arm of the NRA endorsed Sessions over Tuberville, per Campaign Pro’s James Arkin (for Pros).

— GOP Rep. Roger Marshall is taking some incoming fire as he battles with Kris Kobach, Susan Wagle and Dave Lindstrom for the Republican Senate nomination in Kansas. A PAC backed by Thiel, a tech billionaire and ally of President Donald Trump, called Free Forever PAC dropped about $70,000 in television ads criticizing Marshall, per The Kansas City Star’s Bryan Lowry. Thiel is also a longtime ally of Kobach. The Club for Growth is also launching a print campaign against Marshall.

— A new early Arizona poll has GOP Sen. Martha McSally trailing Mark Kelly, her presumptive Democratic primary challenger. In the Monmouth University poll, Kelly is at 50 percent to McSally’s 44 percent (March 11-14; 847 registered voters; +/- 3.4 percentage point MOE).

THE HOUSE MAP — One of the top congressional races to watch on Tuesday is the rematch between Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski and his primary challenger Marie Newman in IL-03. Newman narrowly lost to Lipinski in 2018, but “now both camps are at a complete loss for how to handicap the race,” Campaign Pro’s Ally Mutnick wrote for Pros. “The biggest question mark is turnout. Both campaigns are operating under the assumption that it could be at a historic low, with leaders, including Illinois’ governor, urging citizens to be cautious about venturing out into public spaces.”

— Democrat Roger Misso ended his bid in NY-24, leaving Francis Conole and Dana Balter battling it out for the nomination for the right to face GOP Rep. John Katko, per the Syracuse Post-Standard’s Mark Weiner.

STAFFING UP — Vanessa Valdivia will be Sen. Gary Peters’ (D-Mich.) campaign comms director. She previously worked for the Nevada State Democratic Party and was on Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) presidential bid.

— Rufus Gifford, a prominent Democratic fundraiser, was named national co-chair at For Our Future.

CODA — SERIOUSLY, YOU SHOULD STAY HOME IF YOU CAN HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to ‘flatten the curve’” — From The Washington Post.

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