Coronavirus and the 2020 campaigns: Sanders assessing his campaign

The Vermont lawmaker lost every state contest on Tuesday.

ByABC News
March 18, 2020, 9:11 AM

As the deadly coronavirus pandemic continues to roil the 2020 election cycle, front-runners Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden and presumptive Republican nominee President Donald Trump have gone virtual in their campaigning.

Here's how the day's political news is unfolding.

Sanders assessing his campaign

After a primary night in which Sanders lost every state contest, his campaign manager issued a statement saying the veteran lawmaker will be assessing his campaign.

“The next primary contest is at least three weeks away. Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign. In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable," Faiz Shakir, the Bernie 2020 campaign manager, said in a statement.

With the Democratic party now about three-fifths through voting in terms of available delegates, Sanders now has little chance at winning more delegates than Biden. Nearly a month ago -- after he took an early lead -- Sanders stood on a debate stage and said the nominee should be whichever candidate wins by that same metric.

Biden easily prevailed over Sanders in trust to handle a crisis and electability alike in telephone surveys in advance of Tuesday’s Democratic primary elections in Arizona, Florida and Illinois. With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting the world, health care was a high-level concern.

Given the pandemic, exit polls were not conducted in these states; instead telephone surveys were fielded March 9-15 in Arizona and Florida and March 13-16 in Illinois. The surveys covered early voters (who predominated in Arizona), and people who said they intended to vote in person Tuesday (a large share of the electorate in Florida and Illinois). The departure from customary exit polls in Florida and Illinois requires caution in interpreting the results.

Survey respondents overwhelmingly picked Biden over Sanders as the candidate they trusted more to handle a crisis, by 73% to 20% in Florida, 63% to 32% in Illinois and 63% to 31% in preliminary results in Arizona. (A telephone survey in Ohio was canceled after the primary was halted there.)

The numbers who called health care the top issue in their vote (out of four issues listed) reached 47% in Arizona and 43% in Florida and Illinois – far and away the top mention.

The state of the race amid the coronavirus pandemic

The mercurial nature of this season's primaries has significantly escalated in a short number of days.

COVID-19 has reached every continent except Antarctica, infecting more than 201,600 people globally and killing over 8,000, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.

Amid the pandemic, three states -- Louisiana, Georgia and Kentucky -- have successfully postponed their presidential primaries, and the Puerto Rico government is in the process of doing the same for the Democratic side.

Voters in Ohio, a critical general election battleground that has 136 Democratic delegates at play this primary cycle, didn't cast ballots as planned Tuesday, after the governor announced that he and the director of the state's health department had issued an order to close the polls, citing a health emergency, after a judge blocked the state's effort to postpone the contest Monday.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders takes part in a presidential debate in Washington, D.C., March 15, 2020.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

"Through no fault of your own there is now a major, major economic crisis facing this country. You didn't invent the coronavirus. It's not your fault. And in a democratic, civilized society, what we're going to do is protect you," Sanders told supporters Monday night during a livestreamed "virtual rally" -- the new normal as the candidates attempt to maintain a presence on the campaign trail, without physically being on the campaign trail.

"The overwhelming concern everyone has is the coronavirus, and I want to thank everyone for calling in. I know this isn't the way any of us would prefer to connect and engage," Biden said Monday evening during a "tele-town hall" with supporters in the states holding contests Tuesday.

ABC News' Averi Harper and Quinn Scanlan contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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