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Biden Sweeps, Bloomberg Drops, and Other Key Takeaways From Super Tuesday

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  • Joe Biden has emerged as the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, winning 10 out of the 14 states holding primaries and officially taking the lead in delegate totals.
  • Bernie Sanders won three states and is expected to win California.
  • The outcome officially solidifies the two as the leading candidates and main competitors in the race. 
  • Here are some key takeaways from the biggest primary day of the election cycle.

Biden Sweeps Super Tuesday

With almost all the Super Tuesday results in, former Vice President Joe Biden has picked up wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for his part, took home wins in Colorado, Utah, and Vermont. Sanders is also projected to win California and is currently pulling in a sizable lead in the state.

Biden also managed to win a couple states Sanders won in the 2016 primary elections, like Minnesota and Oklahoma.

As the last few votes are still being tallied, one thing that is certain is that Biden has officially beaten out Sanders for the candidate with the most delegates.

While other candidates did manage to pick up some of the 1,357 delegates up for grabs in Super Tuesday, only Sanders and Biden won races outright. Notably, in every race that Biden won, Sanders came in second, and vice versa.

Biden and Sanders have now cemented their status as the two leading candidates in this race.

California and Texas

California and Texas were arguably the most-watched states on Super Tuesday.

California is far and away the most delegate-rich state, with 415 delegates, and with Sanders’ lead there, he is likely to benefit significantly from winning the state.

One thing to keep in mind with delegate totals is that the number of states a candidate wins is less important than the number of delegates they win.

For example, Sanders won Vermont, but that state only has 16 delegates. Meanwhile, he lost Texas, but he will still pick up way more delegates there because the state has 228.

In fact, according to reports, Biden is actually expected to share delegates evenly with Sanders, or at best pick up a slight majority of the delegates in Texas, even though he won the state by about 4%.

But with the biggest states came the biggest problems. Voters in both California and Texas waited in line to vote for hours. According to reports, people were still voting or even waiting to vote as late as 1 a.m, long after polls closed at 8 p.m. in California and at 7 p.m. in Texas.

In Texas, most of the delays were likely caused by a lack of polling stations. Texas has been closing more and more polling stations since 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

According to the Leadership Conference Education Fund, a civil rights group, Texas has closed around 750 polling sites since 2012, and of those, 542 sites in were in 50 counties where African American and Latino populations have grown recently.

To that point, numerous reports found that areas with Black and Latino voters were hit the hardest by the long lines at voting centers.

One of these locations was Harris County, which houses Houston, and where about 40 percent of the population is Latino and 19 percent is African American.

Meanwhile, in California, most of the problems were in Los Angeles County, which just rolled out a new election system and new voting machines. Local election officials in the county say a combination of high voter turnout and glitches with the new machines caused delays.

According to reports, at one point during the night around 20% of the county’s voting systems were shut down. In one major voting center at the University of California Los Angeles campus, Sanders’ campaign California state director said that only 9 out of 39 machines were functioning.

Network problems with electronic poll books also made it complicated for workers to look up voters and more provisional ballots had to be handed out. In some counties, poll workers had to look up voters manually and print out their ballots.

Election officials have said these were not because of a hack or a security breach.

Bloomberg Drops Out

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced Wednesday that he was dropping out and endorsing Biden after a mediocre showing on Super Tuesday.

Bloomberg, who spent nearly half a billion of his own fortune on this race, only came in third or fourth in every state.

Though notably, Bloomberg did pick up a landslide win in the U.S. territory American Samoa, winning almost 50% of the vote there and snagging 5 of the 6 delegates. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) also grabbed her first and only delegate of the whole race there as well.

“I entered the race for President to defeat Donald Trump,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Today, I am leaving the race for the same reason: to defeat Donald Trump — because it is clear to me that staying in would make achieving that goal more difficult.”

With Bloomberg out of the race and Sanders’ appearing to fall behind Biden, there is renewed pressure for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to drop out— especially after the senator lost her own state, Massachusetts, coming in third place behind Biden and Sanders respectively.

African American Turn-Out Drives Biden Success

After his poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden kept saying he would do better in more diverse states, especially among African Americans.

That came to fruition on Tuesday, with African American voter turnout for Biden registering as even higher than polls anticipated.

According to the Washington Post, black voters pushed Biden over the edge to win Texas, where six in 10 black voters supported him. Those numbers were even bigger in other southern states, like Alabama, where the former vice president won 70% of the black vote.

On top of that, Biden also did well with older voters, moderates, and people who did not decide who they were going to vote for until much later.

According to FiveThirtyEight, preliminary exit polls from 10 Super Tuesday states show that “Biden won at least 40 percent of the late-deciding vote in every state except for Sanders’s home state of Vermont.”

Sanders, for his part, did well with younger voters and Latinos. He won about half the Latino vote in both Texas and California, while the other half was divided up among the other candidates, which is a big part of the reason he performed well in those states.

But notably, there was a large lack of youth voter turnout, which likely hurt him a lot. According to exit polls from the Washington Post, “Only about 1 in 8 voters were between the ages of 18 and 29 years old. By contrast, nearly two-thirds were 45 or older, and about 3 in 10 were 65 or older.”

While Super Tuesday certainly shifted the election into gear, there is still a long way to go. Only 18 states have voted, and just under 40% of delegates have been allocated.

While Biden has had a strong showing in the south, he has not really been tested in the midwest, and he has not won any of the states west of Texas, which have all gone to Bernie.

That is worth mentioning because next Tuesday, Washington state and Idaho are voting in the west, while Michigan and North Dakota are voting in the Midwest— all states Bernie won in 2016.

See what others are saying: (FiveThirtyEight) (The Washington Post) (NPR)

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NY Gov. Cuomo Aides Reportedly Altered Nursing Home Death Toll Data

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  • Aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) altered a July report from the state’s Department of Health to cover up the extent of COVID-related deaths in nursing homes, according to Thursday reports from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
  • Last month, Cuomo admitted that his administration withheld death toll data in order to prevent a possible federal misconduct investigation. 
  • However, the new reports claim Cuomo’s staffers attempted to conceal the true numbers earlier than previously known by directly altering the DOH’s report to exclude nursing home residents who died in outside facilities.  
  • The DOH then used the incomplete number to claim New York had lower nursing home deaths than other states that included out-of-facility deaths when in reality their figures were much higher than everywhere else in the country.

New York Nursing Home Scandal Escalates

Advisers to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) allegedly re-wrote a report from health officials to conceal the number of COVID-related deaths in the state’s nursing homes, according to new reports published by The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Thursday.

Both Democrats and Republicans accused the Cuomo administration of intentionally withholding the full toll last month after his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, apologized to state legislators for refusing to provide data they requested in August. DeRosa explained that they had sidelined the request in order to prevent a possible misconduct investigation that stemmed from a similar inquiry by the Department of Justice.

Legislators and the DOJ had asked for the data after the state’s Health Department published a report in July detailing the impact of a controversial nursing home policy Cuomo had enacted at the beginning of the pandemic in March.

The policy, which Cuomo later rescinded in May, prohibited nursing homes from refusing to re-admit residents or admit new residents from hospitals solely on the basis that they had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The directive was aimed at keeping hospital admittance low and mirrored similar actions other states had taken at the time, but many nursing home operators and legislators claimed the move had encouraged the spread of the virus amongst one of the most vulnerable populations.

The Health Department’s July report, however, found the policy was not to blame. Additionally, the agency also said the 6,432 nursing home residents that had died was lower than figures in other northeastern states when measured as a percentage of the population.

Lawmakers requested to see the data behind the report, and suspicions arose when the Cuomo administration refused to provide the information, launching a nearly six-month battle.

State Attorney General Report 

Then at the end of January, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D)  published a report claiming the administration had undercounted the nursing home deaths by the thousands, and that Cuomo’s March directive may have been responsible for higher deaths.

The Health Department’s report, James said, had left out residents who had died of COVID in outside facilities such as hospitals, but still claimed New York’s tolls were lower than other states that had counted residents who died in other places.

Shortly after James’ report, the department publicized more than 3,800 unreported deaths of nursing home residents who had died of COVID-19 in hospitals.

Cuomo refused to address the controversy for weeks, only speaking out after DeRosa’s comments leaked. During a press conference on Feb. 15, he took responsibility for not fulfilling the request for data sooner, but insisted that the nursing home deaths had always been reported correctly and transparently, arguing the difference was just a matter of “categorization.”

What the New Reports Reveal

Both Cuomo and DeRosa have maintained that they withheld the data from legislators out of concern that the Trump administration would politicize the DOJ inquiry.

However, the new reports from The Times and WSJ allege that Cuomo and his aides had actually started hiding the true numbers months earlier and directly altered the Health Department’s July report.

According to a draft of the Health Department’s July report seen by the outlets and at least half a dozen people with direct knowledge, the initial version of the report contained a chart that put the nursing home death toll at 9,250 — 50% higher than the figure that was later included in the final version.

The chart also compared the full total including residents who died in hospitals to the same totals in other states, revealing that New York’s deaths far surpassed that of all others. At the time, the state with the next-highest nursing home deaths was New Jersey with 6,150.

According to The Times, the report was rewritten by three of Cuomo’s top staffers to remove the encompassing figures, including DeRosa. None of the officials had any public health expertise. The move reportedly set off a battle with health officials working on the report and further exacerbated the already tense relationship between Cuomo and his Health Department, which eventually prompted nine top officials to leave in February.  

The governor’s office responded to the reporters in a statement Thursday night from Special Counsel Beth Garvey, who said the out-of-facility data was omitted because the Health Department “could not confirm it had been adequately verified.” 

Gary Holmes, a spokesman for the Health Department, also told reporters the agency “was comfortable with the final report and believes fully in its conclusion that the primary driver that introduced Covid into the nursing homes was brought in by staff.”

The new allegations, however, come as Cuomo is already facing mounting political pressure and calls to resign over the nursing home scandal as well as recent accusations of sexual misconduct by three women, including two former employees.

After the third woman came forward, Cuomo apologized on Wednesday for the “pain” he caused, but rejected calls for his resignation. The FBI has opened an inquiry into the nursing home scandal, and the sexual harassment allegations will soon be investigated by state Attorney General James’ office.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal) (The Guardian)

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House Passes Landmark Elections Bill To Expand Voting Rights

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  • House Democrats passed the For the People Act on Wednesday, a broad voting rights bill that aims to enhance voting rights.
  • Among other measures, the legislation would mandate automatic voter registration, expand early and mail-in voting, restore voting rights to former felons, and impose new disclosure requirements for campaign donations and political advertising.
  • Democrats say the act is necessary to ensure American’s right to vote, especially as state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills that would roll back voting access and consolidate GOP power.
  • Republicans have argued that states, not the federal government, should decide how elections are run and claimed the new bill would lead to fraud that helps liberal candidates. 

House Approves For the People Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping elections bill Wednesday that aims to significantly expand federal voting rights all over the country.

The bill, called the For the People Act, was proposed by Democrats and passed 220 to 210 almost entirely along party lines. According to reports, if signed into law, it would be the most comprehensive enhancement of federal protections since the 1960s.

The bill contains a wide variety of provisions, but the most significant fall into two broader categories: creating uniform standards for voting and increasing financial transparency.

Regarding the voting rights standards, among other things, the bill would:

  • Weaken restrictive state voter ID laws.
  • Mandate that state governments use existing records to automatically register voters.
  • Guarantee no-excuse mail voting and at least 15 days of early voting for all federal elections.
  • Make it harder to purge voter rolls.
  • Restore voting rights to former felons.
  • End partisan gerrymandering by requiring states to appoint independent commissions to draw congressional districts.

As for what the bill aims to do regarding expanding transparency, it would:

  • Impose new disclosure requirements for “dark money” donations used to finance campaigns.
  • Create a public financing option for congressional campaigns.
  • Require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
  • Require tech platforms to disclose political advertising information.

Arguments For And Against

Democrats have argued that this legislation is essential to protecting and ensuring the right to vote. 

The task, they say, is especially important now because Republican-controlled state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills that would roll back voting access as a reaction to former President Donald Trump’s loss and efforts to undermine the election. Many Republicans have used Trump’s false claims about voter fraud to promote their legislation.

Democrats have said these bills are a very transparent attempt by Republicans to consolidate their power because they know they benefit from lower voter turnout, and thus their strategy to win more races is just simply to make voting harder. As a result, Democrats have said the For the People Act is key to combatting these bills

“Everything is at stake,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said Wednesday. “We must win this race, this fight.”

Republicans, for their part, have argued that states, not the federal government, should make changes to how elections are run, and that the legislation would lead to fraud that benefits Democrats. 

“House Democrats do not get to take their razor-thin majority — which voters just shrunk — and use it to steamroll states and localities to try and prevent themselves from losing even more seats next time,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in response to the bill’s passage.

However, many have disputed that claim by noting that there is no evidence of widespread fraud that helped Democrats in the last election. By contrast, there are years of evidence that Republicans do benefit from making it harder for people to vote and gerrymandering districts, a fact that McConnell himself seemed to acknowledge by implying that Democrats win more when voting rights are expanded.

Despite Republican objections, recent polls have found that most Americans support having more voter protections. According to a January survey by Data for Progress, 67% of Americans back the For the People Act, including a majority of Republicans.

Still, the legislation is all but doomed in the Senate, which struck down an almost identical version passed by the House in 2019. While Democrats technically have a majority now, the current 50-50 split will require a minimum of 10 Republicans to join forces with all 50 Democrats to avoid the 60-vote legislative filibuster.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)

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Texas Governor Will Reopen State “100%” and End Mask Mandate Against Expert Advice

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  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Tuesday that he was opening the state “100%” and ending the mask mandate starting March 10, against health guidance from federal officials.
  • Abbott justified his decision by noting that nearly 6 million Texans have been vaccinated and hospitalizations are down in the state.
  • Experts, however, pointed out that less than 2 million of the state’s 29 million residents are fully inoculated, and the CDC currently ranks Texas 48th for vaccination rates out of all 50 states.
  • On Tuesday alone, governors in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan as well as local leaders in Chicago and San Francisco also announced plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

Abbott Announces Major COVID Policy Changes

Starting March 10, Texas will no longer have a state-wide mask mandate or any coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and facilities, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Tuesday.

The move represents the most expansive reopening of any state and makes Texas the largest state to lift its public masking requirement. However, it also goes entirely against the recommendation of the nation’s top experts.

During a press conference Monday, Rochelle Walensky, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned leaders against rolling back restrictions. She cited the fact that the recent nation-wide decline in cases has been stalling and that there has been community spread of the new variants  — three of which have been found in Texas, saying:

“With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” she said.

“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress,” she continued.

“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of covid-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.” 

Conditions in Texas

While cases have been declining in Texas, like most of the country, there is still a lot of data that makes Abbott’s decision especially concerning.

According to The New York Times tracker, Texas still ranks within the top ten states with the highest weekly cases per capita, reporting a weekly average of just over 7,200. Texas also has more hot-spot counties than any other state, according to Business Insider’s analysis of the Times data, which found that 10 counties have reported more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents on average over the last week. 

Notably, that number could be skewed because of the massive drop in the testing due to a recent storm that left millions without power and clean water. In fact, experts have warned that Texas could see more COVID cases in the fallout of the storm because people were forced to shelter together.

Abbott, however, did not focus on any of that in his announcement. Instead, he cited other metrics, noting that nearly 5.7 Texans have been vaccinated. He also pointed to declines in hospitalizations.

But both of these justifications are misleading. While it is true that Texas has vaccinated close to 6 million people, according to the CDC, less than 2 million out of 29 million state residents have received both doses needed to be considered fully inoculated. 

Beyond that, the CDC’s latest vaccination report ranks Texas 48th in vaccination rates out of all 50 states. Part of that is tied to the lag the state faced because of the storm, but experts still say this just proves that the state needs to be focus on catching up and vaccinating more people instead of rolling back restrictions.

To that point, public health officials have also pushed back against Abbott’s use of declining hospitalization rates as a rationale for his reopening plans. They warned that current hospitalization declines are already slowing and could reverse, and that will only get worse with reopenings.

Other States Reopen

Texas, however, is not the only state that has rolled back restrictions lately, or even just in the past 24 hours.

On Tuesday alone, the governors of Louisiana and Michigan as well as the mayors of Chicago and San Francisco all announced that they would be easing some restrictions on businesses and/or the capacity at which they operate.

Right after Abbott’s announcement, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) made a nearly identical one with an even shorter timeline. In a tweet, he said that starting Wednesday, he would lift all county mask mandates and allow businesses to “operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules.”

The recent easing of restrictions is part of a broader trend — and not just in states that have Republican governors or large conservative populations.

While California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) slammed Abbott’s move as “absolutely reckless,” he has also been widely condemned by leaders in his state for recently rolling back numerous restrictions.

Over the last few weeks, the Democratic governors of Virginia, North Carolina, and New York have all also lifted or otherwise modified regulations to make them less restrictive. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Dallas Morning News) (Business Insider)

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