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2020 Daily Trail Markers: DNC postpones convention

On Thursday, the Democratic National Convention Committee announced the Democratic National Convention would be postponed to August 17 amid ongoing uncertainty surrounding the spread of coronavirus and the impact it's having on the primary season. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice and campaign reporter Nicole Sganga say the national gathering that was originally scheduled to take place in July will now take place the week of August 17 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The move comes after some state party officials and members called on the Democratic National Committee to rethink or even delay the convention.

"In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds, so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention," said Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Joe Solmonese in a statement. "During this critical time, when the scope and scale of the pandemic and its impact remain unknown, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of health care professionals and emergency responders."

The Democratic National Convention Committee has confirmed that the Fiserv Forum, the locale for the convention, the Wisconsin Center District and hotels in the surrounding area will be available in August. According to the DNCC, the planning team will be working to ensure the nominating process is carried out without unnecessary health risks, and is considering other measures, like adjusting the convention's format in terms of crowd size and schedule.

As news broke that the convention was being postponed, some state party chairs and members told CBS News that they were learning about the developments at the same time as the rest of the world. According to several superdelegates, the DNC started reaching out to them through email and in phone calls about the changes as it was publicly announced, but those who spoke with CBS News expressed support for the decision while more logistics remain to be ironed out.  

The Democratic National Convention will now be occurring right before the Republican National Convention, which is currently scheduled to start August 24 in Charlotte, NC.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

During a virtual press briefing today, Joe Biden said he was delighted that President Trump seems willing to speak with him about the U.S.' response to COVID-19, according to CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson.  

"I'm happy to hear he'll take my call," Biden said, noting their staffs are supposedly working out the logistics. While Biden said he "understands" if the president does not want to take his call—if it does occur, the former vice president promised the conversation would not include "I told you so, Mr. President" swipes. 

"This is beyond politics now," he added. Even as the DNC earlier today pushed back its July convention in Wisconsin due to public health concerns, Biden said the state's currently planned Democratic presidential primary next week is apparently "different" because it involves less people gathering together. Noting he has been listening to the recommendation of scientists and medical professionals, Biden said that "having a convention, having tens of thousands of people in one arena is very different than having people walk into a polling booth with accurate spacing, 6 to 10 feet apart." 

Biden said the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Wisconsin courts but argued he "thinks" the election could be held by combining an extension of mail-in ballot and same-day voter registration and ensuring the polling booths are "scrubbed down." The entire virtual press briefing was approximately 26 minutes: Biden spoke for about half of the time and then answered four questions in the remaining 13 minutes.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

Today marks one month since President Trump held his last public campaign rally, squeezing several thousand into Bojangles' Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the eve of Super Tuesday. "We are in the midst of the great American comeback," Trump told crowds on March 2. 

"That's what it is. Last month, we added 225,000 new jobs in January alone. That makes 7 million jobs since the election." The electric crowds applauding record low unemployment numbers now appear in stark contrast to a country reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 10 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in March, according to Labor Department data.

According to a new CBS News poll, 60% of Americans believe things are "not going well" in the effort to contain the virus, slightly up from last week's survey. The poll shows Americans prioritize containment over the economy right now: a whopping 83% say the nation should keep people home to contain the virus, even if it hurts the economy — rather than return to work now and risk more infections, which only 17% favor.

CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says the economic downfall has been a centerpiece of the president's daily White House Coronavirus briefing. Trump told reporters yesterday, "We went from the best economy in the history of the world, the best economy that this country has ever seen — the best employment numbers we've ever had; 160 million people working, almost; 160 million — to a point where the professionals came to me and they say, "Sir, you're going to have to shut the country down.'" 

The president promised Americans that the country would "win this war" against the pandemic. "And the sooner we do, the sooner we can begin to rebuild," Mr. Trump said. "And we're ready to rebound and return to normal lives."

More of the CBS News poll released this evening found that most Americans continue to express concern about themselves or a household member either losing their job or seeing a reduction in paid work hours in the next few months — or say it has already happened to them. This includes 24% of those working full- or part-time who are very concerned.

The public overwhelmingly supports the $2 trillion economic relief package passed by Congress: 81% approve overall, a view that crosses partisan lines. However, most (57%) say it won't end up being enough, including most people who approve of the package overall. A majority also expect to see financial assistance for their own family.

PRIMARILY CONCERNED

PUERTO RICO

Puerto Rico Democratic Party Chairman Charles Rodriguez announced that Puerto Rico's presidential primary will no longer take place on April 26 due the ongoing threat of coronavirus. 

"The most important thing right now is to save lives and contain the spread of COVID-19," Rodriguez said in a statement. "But we will take all necessary actions to guarantee the right to vote in an event of great importance for the Nation and Puerto Rico." CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says Puerto Rico's primary was originally scheduled to take place on March 29, but Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced signed a resolution postponing the primary to April 26 due to coronavirus. 

In a press release, Rodriguez explained that in the resolution Vazquez Garced signed, there is a provision that allows the primary to be further postponed "if the emergency situation persisted by April 26." A new date for the primary has not been scheduled yet, according to the press release. 

WISCONSIN

A federal judge ruled on Thursday afternoon that he will not postpone Wisconsin's April 7 primary, but is allowing more time for people to turn in absentee ballots. CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says Judge William Conley is extending the time for people to turn in absentee ballots from 9:00 p.m. ET on April 7 to 5:00 p.m. ET on April 13. 

Conley said the court will "not add a postmarked-by date requirement" for ballots. Thursday was supposed to be the final day to request absentee ballots, but Conley said that the deadline to request will be pushed back to April 3 at 6:00 p.m. ET. As of this morning, more than 1.1 million absentee ballots have been requested, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. 

The  deadline to request absentee ballots is also being extended to 6:00 p.m. ET on April 3. The judge also ruled that voters who can't get a witness certification can submit a written statement saying that they weren't able to do so. In a statement, Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler applauded the decision. 

"Today's ruling is a victory for voters, for public health, and for democracy itself. Every voter must count, even during crises, and this ruling gives voters critical time to vote safely by mail," Wikler said.

STATE-BY-STATE

FLORIDA

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo and Congresswoman Donna Shalala (FL-27) joined two health care professionals in a phone call Thursday to discuss what they described as the president's "chaotic leadership" response to the coronavirus pandemic. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that Shalala, who served as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, told the group that Florida's governor hesitated to respond to the pandemic and as a result, lives will be lost in the Sunshine State.

"What's even more disturbing for us in Florida, is that our governor seems to be taking his orders from the president…we have a governor that does not believe he serves the people of Florida but rather kowtow to the President," said Shalala during the call. "He has put us in a dangerous situation and numerous people will die because our governor hesitated to put orders in place that would save lives."

"I have been working in our operating rooms. I am again over and over impressed at the diligence and the caring for healthcare providers that are there on the front lines but there's a lot of tension, there's a lot of stress, people are particularly worried about bringing this virus home to their family," said Dr. Kayser Enneking, Professor of Anesthesiology at University of Florida and candidate for the Florida state house. "It's an unseen virus. They are worried about it at a level that I haven't seen ever actually in my career. People were distracted after 9/11 briefly but then everybody kind of got right back to work. Right now with this tsunami on the horizon people are just worried and distracted."

Rizzo told Mitchell on the press conference call that the state is "preparing for all contingencies" as it relates to whether the FLDP still plans to meet in May for its state convention. Soon after, the DNC announced Thursday that it is postponing its national convention until August. "Like everybody across the country, Florida was preparing for all contingencies," said Rizzo during the call. "We're working with the national party, obviously, and we're working with states, here in the state of Florida to look at alternatives to our voting processes and to our communications." 

MONEY MATTERS

ON THE $$$

Donors are smashing fundraising records in the 2020 election cycle, and it's happening all the way up and down the ballot. This week, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the Republican State Leadership Committee both announced their best first quarter cash hauls respectively in history and are arguing the record cash hauls demonstrate their committee strength this election year. 

CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice reports the DLCC raised more than $6.4 million in the first three months of the year, a nearly 30% increase from their first quarter in 2018. This included a record breaking 25,000 contributors donating online. The DLCC announced it was the first time they had a better fundraising first quarter than the RSLC. 

"Democrats are making unprecedented investments in legislative races this year," said DLCC President Jessica Post in a statement. "We have energy and momentum on our side as we fight to give Democrats a seat at the table for redistricting, which will determine powers in the states for the next decade." 

The RSLC also had its best first quarter ever, raising $6 million in the first three months of 2020 and beating their previous first quarter record by $1.4 million. "Everything is on the line this election cycle, and this fundraising quarter shows that Republicans are all-in to make sure our candidates are ready to win up-and-down the ballot in 2020," said RSLC Finance Chairman Ron Weiser in a statement. "Though we are breaking records and raising more than ever before, Republicans have to remain focused."

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE SENATE

The Trump campaign has sent a letter to the Senate campaign of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting the campaign stop referencing the president in mailers or any other form of communication, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. Sessions is running to win the Republican primary to take on incumbent Democratic Senator Doug Jones in Alabama. 

The Trump campaign says Sessions' mailers make the "delusional" statement that Sessions is the president's No. 1 supporter. The president endorsed Sessions' Republican primary opponent former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville on March 10 in a tweet. Sessions and Tuberville will compete in a runoff primary election in July since no candidate cleared 50% in the primary on Super Tuesday.  The New York Times first reported the letter.

GOVERNOR'S MANSION

HOMEBOUND

At a press conference Thursday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said it's good more states are taking more aggressive steps like stay-at-home orders. "That is the smartest thing that we can do and we finally see other states following suit. That's good. They're a little bit late to the science and the tough decisions executives need to be making," she said. 

CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports that Georgia was one of the latest states to issue a "stay-at-home" order on Wednesday, and one of the biggest reasons Republican Governor Brian Kemp turned a corner after being reluctant on a statewide mandate, was because he only recently learned about the asymptomatic nature of the virus. 

"Finding out that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs, so what we've been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now, that if you start feeling bad stay home. Those individuals could've been infecting people before they ever felt that. Well we didn't know that until the last 24 hours," he said, adding that Dr. Kathleen Toomey, head of the state's Department of Public Health, told him this is a "game-changer for us."

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House's coronavirus task force pointed out asymptomatic infections are possible earlier in the year, and the CDC, headquartered in Atlanta, has been issuing guidance since the beginning of March that the virus can be spread before people show symptoms. 

Kemp's answer gained some traction on Thursday, especially from Democrats. "If they had better election laws Stacey Abrams would be governor of Georgia. Brian Kemp's negligence could cost Americans thousands of lives," Senator Amy Klobuchar Tweeted, referencing the controversial 2018 election results between Kemp and Democrat Abrams.  

ISSUES THAT MATTER

JOBS

A record-shattering 6,648,000 Americans filed initial unemployment insurance claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday morning. CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says the stunning number was more than double last week's 3.3 million jobless claims. The two weeks of staggering claims are unprecedented in Labor Department data dating back to 1967. 

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, the highest number in a single week was 695,000 back in the fall of 1982. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 3.5 million workers may have lost employer-provided health insurance in the past two weeks due to the job losses. In a forecast released before the jobless numbers this morning, Bank of America projected there would be three straight quarters with GDP loss and said "the recession appears to be deeper and more prolonged than we were led to believe just 14 days ago." 

"We forecast the cumulative decline in GDP to be 10.4% and this will be the deepest recession on record, nearly five times more severe than the post-war average," a BofA Global Research Report said. The banking giant expects 16 to 20 million jobs could be lost and the peak unemployment rate could hit 15.6%.

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