Coronavirus and 2020 campaigns: Race looks grim as states continue to delay primaries

Candidates must now find unique ways to compete in the digital space.

ByABC News
March 28, 2020, 7:30 PM

The novel coronavirus outbreak has shown no signs of slowing down, and the 2020 presidential candidates have had to find unique ways to not only share their message on combating the virus, but also to connect with voters as their campaigns become essentially virtual-only.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden both continue to openly criticize President Donald Trump on social media, and in their virtual town halls, for his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic -- as well as provisions in the stimulus package signed into law on Friday.

And as the U.S. continues to be the global hotspot for the virus, the three front-runners in the race must find a way to compete in the digital space.

Here are some recent developments

PHOTO: People cross Park Avenue after it was announced that some streets will be shut as lockdown continues in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, March 27, 2020, in New York City.
People cross Park Avenue after it was announced that some streets will be shut as lockdown continues in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, March 27, 2020, in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio chose four streets across four boroughs to test whether shutting down streets to vehicular traffic would increase social distancing among pedestrians during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

New York becomes latest state to postpone primary races amid coronavirus

New York on Saturday became the latest state to postpone its primary races amid the coronavirus pandemic, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a press conference the intent to move the contest to June 23.

In response, the Democratic National Convention said their Rules and Bylaws Committee would meet to discuss "next steps" for states planning to hold their primaries after the June 9 deadline, including Kentucky; Louisiana and now New York.

"As states continue to deal with the unknown of COVID-19, it is critical that we ensure the safety and well-being of all Americans, as well as protect and expand every American's right to vote," Xhocitl Hinojosa, the DNC’s communications director, said. "We will continue to monitor the situation and work with state parties around their delegate selection plans."

As of Friday, the committee received proposed changes from a number of states, who are seeking to either change their presidential primary date -- or any other part of their delegate selection process -- due to COVID-19, including: Alaska, California, Colorado, Democrats Abroad, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

ABC News’ Kendall Karson reported

Joe Biden livestreamed a press conference on March 23, 2020.
Biden Campaign

Biden thanks health care workers on the frontlines

Biden -- the current front-runner in the Democratic primary race -- held an emotional town hall on Friday night, streaming online with firefighters, nurses and EMTs on the frontlines of the coronavirus battle.

"I only have one message … Thank you for who you are. Thank you for what you do," Biden said, thanking health care workers for their commitment to helping amid the crisis. "Thank you for being here for all of us when we need you the most. Know this isn't easy for any of you. It's quite frankly frightening. It's a little scary."

He also addressed the elephant in the room: What will his campaign do?

He said the best thing he could do to help the coronavirus situation is to stay put.

"We have to have your backs by doing our part, by doing what we're doing here by staying at home, by keeping our distance from other people, by washing our hands, by following all the CDC guidelines," the former vice president said. "I can't treat a coronavirus patient, but I can do what I'm supposed to do to make it less likely it spreads."

He also tried his best to explain what actions he would take as president, but it was clear throughout the call he was currently working from outside the government without the ability to affect change through that apparatus.

However, at multiple points, including at the end of the call, Biden offered to personally help those affected by the crisis, especially first responders, telling one nurse on the call who had been sent home due to possible exposure to COVID-19 to call him.

"If you have any difficulty, not a joke, anybody moving on your mortgage or any of that, pick up the phone and call me," he said. "They'll let you know how to get through."

Biden's campaign said 261,000 people watched across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Johnny Verhovek reported.

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Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency, March 12, 2020, in response to a growing number of cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, in Wisconsin.
Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP

Wisconsin governor pushes for expanded absentee voting

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers posted a video on Friday urging the state legislature to come together to expand absentee voting ahead of the April 7 presidential primary.

"My focus has been and will continue to be ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to cast their ballot in the upcoming election," Evers said in the video, which was posted on his Twitter. "The bottom line is that everybody should be able to participate in our democracy. Period. As elected officials, our top priority has to be everyone’s safety."

ABC News’ Meg Cunningham reported.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders departs Capitol Hill in Washington, March 18, 2020, after the Senate passed a second coronavirus response bill.
Patrick Semansky/AP

Sanders says Democrats need another debate

In an interview on CNN’s "Anderson Cooper 360," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he disagreed with Biden, who recently said he didn’t think the Democrats needed another debate.

"I think we need a good debate as to where we go, not only just now, but in the future." Sanders said. "If there's anything that this unprecedented moment in American history should teach us, we have to rethink the basic structures of American society."

Sanders cited the postponed state primaries and the ever-growing coronavirus crisis as reasons to inform voters of each candidates’ slate of ideas.

ABC News’ Averi Harper reported.

President Donald Trump arrives to speak in front of the USNS Comfort at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., March 28, 2020. The ship is departing for New York to assist hospitals responding to the coronavirus outbreak.
Patrick Semansky/AP

Trump campaign has technical difficulties while trying to hit Biden at first digital event

The Trump campaign held their first digital event amid the coronavirus pandemic Thursday night, where the team inflated President Donald Trump's record responding to the coronavirus, blasted the media and attempted to attack Biden amid some extended technical difficulties.

Before the event kicked off, the campaign streamed a new advertisement mixing out-of-date comments by pundits and politicians praising the president's coronavirus response -- painting an unrealistic picture of the current state of the pandemic.

The campaign said it is not currently running the ad on TV.

ABC News’ Will Steakin reported.

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