As millions of people across the country are forced to shelter in place and work from home, state officials are balancing efforts to hold primary contests in a presidential election year against the very real health risks of coronavirus. Democrats were just over halfway through the primary process when the coronavirus pandemic upended the country. Governors and elections officials have since resorted to expanding vote by mail, absentee voting and in multiple cases, postponing primaries.
Now, one day in particular has emerged as a favorite for rescheduling those contests: June 2. Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and the District of Columbia were already slated to hold elections that day. But in an effort to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island all postponed Democratic presidential primaries to June 2 as well. Ohio initially did too but has since changed it to a vote-by-mail primary on April 28.
That means 11 contests are set to be held the first Tuesday of June. Call it Super Tuesday 2.0 or even Super Tuesday 3.0, but it has officially become the second-biggest day for allocating delegates of the entire 2020 Democratic primary cycle, behind March 3.
Those ten states and D.C. holding contests that day will be awarding a grand total of 686 delegates — more than 17% of the nearly 4,000 total delegates up for grabs throughout the primary season. While the 2016 primary calendar and delegate thresholds were different, only nine states held contests for the entire month of June.
Right now, Democrats are looking at least 14 contests that month. Apart from June 2 contests, Louisiana, Kentucky and New York with its 274 delegates — the most of any state still to hold a primary — also pushed their primaries back to later in June due to coronavirus concerns.
By CBS News estimates,is leading in total allocated delegates, with Biden at 1150 to Sanders' 860. To clinch the nomination, a candidate is looking to win a plurality of delegates. The "magic number" in this case is 1,991 delegates, so Biden would need 46% of all remaining delegates to reach it. But based on where the process stands now with most candidates out of the race, pushing back primaries might not have that great an impact.
"I don't think it has much effect on Sanders versus Biden. You know for better or worse, Biden has built an insurmountable lead in delegates right now," said CBS News political contributor Robby Mook who served as Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign manager. What will matter, according to Mook, however, is the transition from primary election, to general.
"The Biden campaign needs to begin that process," he said. "You can rest assured, the president has been using all the time he's had to prepare himself and his campaign for the general."
In an ordinary presidential campaign year, candidates at this point in time would be crisscrossing the country to hold rallies and town halls, shaking hands and taking selfies. However, in the age of social distancing and everyone being told to stay home,to resort to turning the basement of his Delaware home into a where he can hold virtual press conferences with reporters who have to click to raise their hands, virtual happy hours with young folks, digital fundraisers and make appearances on network television.
So far, his virtual events have been targeted toward a national audience or key voter demographics rather than individual upcoming primary states. According to the campaign, the overall goal remains getting Biden's message out, educating voters and earning votes every day, but they haven't closed to door tailoring virtual events to specific states as they continue to explore the uncharted territory or campaigning in the midst of a pandemic.
"There are enough crazy variables to deal with if you are just focusing on the general that they can't devote too much in the way of resources to worrying about the primary still," said CBS News political contributor and Republican strategist Terry Sullivan, who ran Marco Rubio's 2016 presidential bid.
For his part, Sanders has given no indication that he will exit the race. As the coronavirus pandemic shatters traditional campaigning, Sanders has been adapting with a livestreamed town hall, fireside chat hosted from his home in Vermont and appearances on television.
"Well, the issue right now is what makes this very different than 2016 is you've already seen a number of states, I believe Pennsylvania is the latest to actually postpone the elections," Sanders told NPR, while skirting questions about how long he'd stay in. "So you're talking about an election without elections. What does that mean? You know, that's kind of unprecedented."
Sanders argued he's winning the generation debate and the ideological debate.
Eleanor Watson contributed reporting.