‘This coronavirus has obviously impacted our ability to communicate with people in the traditional way that we do. That’s hurting…’
(Liberty Headlines) Despite speculation that coronavirus fears may ultimately benefit Democratic primary contender Bernie Sanders over his rival, Joe Biden, Sanders said that the inability to draw crowds was hurting him in the short term.
Sanders also suggested Friday that future Democratic presidential primary voting should be delayed if health officials deem doing so appropriate.
“We do more rallies than anybody else, and [they’re] often very well attended. I love to do them,” the senator told reporters at a hotel in his home state of Vermont. “This coronavirus has obviously impacted our ability to communicate with people in the traditional way that we do. That’s hurting.”
Thousands of people gathering to hear him speak has defined Sanders since he first sought the White House in 2016. But the practice has been curtailed as health officials attempt to slow the virus’ spread. Instead, Sanders has convened the media three straight days to blast the Trump administration for what he calls its inadequate response and warn of dire upcoming health and economic effects.
“If this isn’t a red flag for the current dysfunctional and wasteful health care system, frankly I don’t know what is,” Sanders said, advocating for his signature “Medicare for All” plan that would provide, universal, government-funded health care.
Despite conceding that he’s badly trailing Joe Biden in amassing the number of delegates needed to secure their party’s presidential nomination, Sanders has given no indication he’ll drop out of the presidential race. He’s vowed to grill the former vice president on issues like expanding health coverage, combating climate change, reducing college debt and overhauling a biased criminal justice system during a debate Sunday night.
In the meantime, though, the race could be shifting around both candidates. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was planning to delay his state’s April 4 primary until June 20.
Even though the four states set to vote in the next round of primaries on Tuesday—Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio—all said they have no plans for postponement, Sanders was asked about more disruptions and didn’t dismiss the idea.
He called elections “the bedrock of our democracy” and said they shouldn’t be delayed “on a wily-nilly basis.” But he also noted that everything from the NBA season to Broadway musicals had been disrupted to avoid large crowds coming together, adding, “I don’t think there’s anybody out there, no matter what your political view may be, who wants to see people become infected because they are voting.”
“Rescheduling elections is not something we do lightly or should do lightly,” Sanders said, adding that state health and elected officials would have to balance that with the fact that it’s “also important to make sure that everybody who wants to vote has the right to vote, and that may not be the case now.”
The possibility remained likely that the virus concerns could hurt Biden’s demographic base—comprising more elderly voters—than Sanders’ progressive base of young idealists and radicals. Those over 65 are particularly susceptible to the virus, and also happen to be where Biden draws much of his support.
Moreover, colleges sending students home en masse mean more may be present for their primary elections in the locations where they are registered.
Sanders also noted in a press conference this week that he hopes the first two-person debate for the Democrats will help him draw contrasts and put the often befuddled Biden on the defense.
The socialist-influenced Vermont senator said he was winning the war of ideas within the party, although Biden has been able to coast largely off of the media perception that he is the most innocuous candidate, and therefore the most electable in the Democratic field.
Biden, who has also canceled scheduled events amid the coronavirus outbreak, is holding a virtual town hall via Facebook on Friday. Sanders said, in lieu of rallies, he plans to communicate with supporters via social media and internet livestream, like he did when addressing reporters Friday.
“We are figuring out a way as to how we can best communicate with people,” Sanders said “which will certainly, in a very strong way, utilize our social media capabilities.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press