Biden, Sanders Tell Staff to Work From Home: Campaign Update

Mark Niquette and Ryan Teague Beckwith

(Bloomberg) -- The campaigns of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders said they’d asked staff to work from home in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Biden campaign will close its Philadelphia headquarters and field offices across the U.S. for at least two weeks starting Saturday to protect staff and the public, campaign adviser Anita Dunn and newly appointed campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a memo to staff.

“The functions of this campaign - disseminating the vice president’s message, educating voters, and earning their votes - will not change,” the memo said. “Our challenge now is to do that in new and creative ways that mitigate public health risk.”

The Biden campaign said it will continue to organize voters through phone banking, text messaging and other means. Based on guidance from health officials, it will still hold small gatherings including roundtables, house parties and “virtual town halls” such as an online town hall by video hookup with Illinois voters on Friday. All fundraisers will become “virtual fundraisers” indefinitely.

A spokesman for Bernie Sanders, Mike Casca, said his campaign had also asked all staff to work from home and would “no longer hold large events or door-to-door canvasses, instead moving to digital formats and outreach wherever possible.”

Sanders Will Stay in Washington After Debate (4:26 p.m.)

Bernie Sanders will remain in Washington to work on Senate business after Sunday’s debate with Joe Biden, his wife, Jane Sanders, told reporters Thursday.

The Senate had been scheduled to go on recess next week, but pressure from several Republican senators led Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to cancel the break in order to pass legislation to fight the coronavirus.

During a news conference in Burlington, Vermont, on Thursday, Sanders called the pandemic a threat “on the scale of a major war.”

Sanders already canceled large rallies in upcoming primary states due to public health concerns about mass gatherings.

Biden Holds Virtual Town Hall Instead of Rally (4 p.m.)

Joe Biden is taking his presidential campaign online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, appearing via video to a small group of Illinois residents on Friday.

The campaign said the former vice president would address broad themes including “restoring the soul of the nation, rebuilding the middle class, and unifying the country.”

Biden will be talking with people at the town hall through a remote video hookup, and the entire exchange will be livestreamed online for the public.

The virtual town hall replaces a rally and two fundraisers in Chicago that Biden canceled earlier this week.

Illinois is one of four states holding primaries on Tuesday. -- Jennifer Epstein

Justice Official Fired by Trump Backs Biden (11:43 a.m.)

Joe Biden said in November that Sally Yates was on his list of potential running mates if he is nominated.

On Thursday, she returned the compliment by endorsing Biden.

“I am supporting Joe Biden for president because I trust him,” Yates said in a statement. “I trust him to always put the country’s interests before his own; to tell us the truth; to appeal to our best, not our worst, instincts; to unite rather than divide us; and to always treat the presidency as a privilege rather than an entitlement.”

Yates, who was appointed deputy attorney general by Barack Obama, was fired by President Donald Trump just days after he was sworn in for refusing to defend the first iteration of his travel ban. Trump has repeatedly bashed her on Twitter as well. -- Tyler Pager

Biden Up 44 Points Over Sanders in Florida (10:28 a.m.)

Joe Biden is up a staggering 44 points over Bernie Sanders in the Florida primary, according to a recent survey.

The University of North Florida poll found that 66% of likely Democratic voters favor former Vice President Biden in Tuesday’s primary, compared to just 22% for Senator Sanders.

“This is down to a two-man race and Biden is looking toward a blowout in Florida,” said Michael Binder, director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida.

Two candidates who dropped out -- former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren -- got 2% each, while Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard got 1%.

(Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, also sought the Democratic presidential nomination. He endorsed Biden on March 4.)

The poll of 1,502 registered likely voters in Florida was taken March 5-10. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Biden to Give Rival Coronavirus Address (10:01 a.m.)

Joe Biden will give a speech on the coronavirus Thursday afternoon, setting up a clear moment to contrast with President Donald Trump’s Oval Office address.

The former vice president will give a 1 p.m. address from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

An aide to Biden said the speech wouldn’t be political and would offer ideas on the path ahead in fighting the virus. The aide said it was intended as a preview of the way Biden would act as president.

The speech comes the day after Trump gave an 11-minute speech on the outbreak from the Oval Office that drew criticism for misstating some of his administration’s own plans and putting a rosy outlook on the possibility of a treatment being developed soon.

On Tuesday, Biden and Democratic rival Bernie Sanders canceled upcoming rallies and large events, after public health officials warned that mass gatherings could spread the virus. The Trump campaign, meantime, postponed a Catholics for Trump event in Milwaukee that it had just announced.

Coming Up

Guam will hold a convention on March 14, Northern Mariana will hold a caucus on March 14-15.

Democratic candidates debate again on March 15 in Phoenix.

Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio will hold primaries on March 17.

(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, also sought the Democratic presidential nomination. He endorsed Joe Biden on March 4.)

--With assistance from Tyler Pager and Jennifer Epstein.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.net;Ryan Teague Beckwith in Washington, D.C. at rbeckwith3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Max Berley, Magan Crane

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