Could Tuesday’s Democratic primaries, where Joe Biden again had a commanding victory over rival Bernie Sanders, be the last we see in a while?
While the primaries in Arizona, Florida and Illinois went on as planned this week, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland and Ohio all postponed their presidential primary elections. In Ohio, officials declared a public health emergency just hours before polls were set to open on Tuesday.
In Alaska, which is scheduled to hold its primary on April 4, the state Democratic Party urged voters to cast ballots by mail, tweeting: “If you were a registered Democrat by February 18, you should have your presidential primary ballot in the mail! Don’t forget to follow the instructions, and mail it back postmarked by March 24!”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also announced on Tuesday that his state’s April 28 primary is being postponed until June 2. Democratic Party officials in Puerto Rico – which would hold its contest on March 29 – are seeking a delay as well.
A Democratic Party official acknowledged that “we are in uncharted waters right now” but emphasized, “what we have to do is stay in contact with everyone and be flexible, given the situation.”
More delays are likely to follow, prompting many to wonder, as the country moves more and more toward a complete lockdown, could the virus upend the process entirely? And if so, then what?
The potential freezing of the primary calendar comes as former Vice President Joe Biden – thanks to sweeping victories the past two-and-a-half weeks – has cemented his position as the unrivaled front-runner and has taken a commanding lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the all-important race for convention delegates. Could the DNC force Sanders to drop out, and declare Biden the nominee, though short of the required delegate count?
Furthermore, with the major concerts and sporting events all sidelined, due to the CDC’s recommendation of no gatherings of people of 50 or more, what of the conventions, which are usually attended by 1000s. Both the Republican and the Democratic conventions are massive political events that take years of planning and have huge economic impacts on their host cities. But just like everything else in this world turned upside down by the virus that causes COVID-19, they may be in jeopardy.
“The plan is to still move forward but this is obviously a fluid situation and we have to be prepared for everything,” a Democratic official with knowledge of planning for the Democratic National Convention told the press. “We’re going to stay in contact with relevant officials on the local, state, and federal level.”
The convention is scheduled to be held July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wis. Asked if there are conversations underway about pushing back the date of the convention or holding a more limited event, the official said, “We will have plans in place to do something differently if need be, but the plan right now is to move on as scheduled.”
The GOP has a bit more breathing room. The Republican National Convention is scheduled to be held Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, N.C.
“As we move forward with planning, we remain in communication with local, state and federal officials and we will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with all stakeholders and health authorities to ensure every necessary precaution is taken into account,” 2020 Republican National Convention communications Blair Ellis told the Associated Press. Adding that “we prioritize the health and safety of delegates, media, guests, community members and staff.”