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What will Democrats do now that primary has become effectively a two-horse race?

The departure last week of several big hitters means voters have less alternatives when deciding who will be Donald Trump’s opponent.


Senator Bernie Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Senator Bernie Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Senator Bernie Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Much has changed since last week’s Super Tuesday started to thin out the field of Democrats vying for the party’s backing to challenge Donald Trump for the presidency.

Mike Bloomberg’s campaign ended hours after he first appeared on the ballot paper with a meagre win in American Samoa to show for the billionaire’s huge investment while Elizabeth Warren withdrew from the race after failing to win a state contest, almost certainly meaning it will be a man in his 70s who takes the oath of office in January next year.

US Election
(PA Graphics)

Although Tulsi Gabbard is still campaigning, it is almost certain that either Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders will be the party’s nominee meaning the president will probably have youth on his side in November.

– Can Mr Sanders get back on track in Michigan?

It is a mistake to focus too much on one state as last week proved.

After all, Mr Sanders won Super Tuesday’s biggest delegate prize, California, and still finished the day with fewer delegates than Mr Biden.

With that warning, Michigan deserves attention this week.

Election 2020 Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (Paul Sancya/AP)

The Midwestern state offers the largest trove of delegates on Tuesday and, almost as importantly, serves as a huge symbolic test of Mr Sanders’ remaining political strength.

Michigan helped rescue his candidacy four years ago, and it sits as one of three key battlegrounds Democrats desperately need to win in November.

Going in this time, Mr Sanders’ team had been supremely confident about his standing with the state and its large working-class population, at least until last week.

Mr Sanders knows he will not win them all, but he cannot afford to lose this one.

– How does Joe Biden handle front-runner status this time?

Mr Biden has plenty of experience as a front-runner.

And he has not always fared so well under the bright lights that go with it.

After nearly being forced from the race last month following a dreadful start, the 77-year-old gaffe-prone Democrat gets another chance to prove he belongs on top.

Election 2020 Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks at Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi (Rogelio V.Solis/AP)

He will benefit from a lack of establishment alternatives should he stumble.

He will also benefit from the new phase of the race, which has essentially become a series of national contests where voters will not get to see the candidates as closely as they did in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Still, make no mistake: Mr Biden will face a new wave of fire from the right and the left this week as he seeks to tighten his grip on the Democrats’ presidential nomination.

– Will Ms Warren help unite progressives?

Ms Warren’s silence has been notable.

As a crush of establishment Democrats raced to line up behind Mr Biden, the fiery progressive senator has refused to endorse her closest ideological ally, Mr Sanders.

There was obvious tension between Ms Warren and Mr Sanders during the primary, yet the same could be said of the many moderate candidates who are now standing behind Mr Biden.

Election 2020 Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren is politically closer to Bernie Sanders but is yet to endorse either of the two principal contenders (Steven Senne/AP)

Every day Ms Warren sits on the sidelines hurts Mr Sanders.

He desperately needs a united progressive wing to defeat Mr Biden, yet key pieces of Ms Warren’s coalition are holding back until she makes her move.

This is the kind of decision that could have dramatic short- and long-term consequences for the progressive movement.

– How will a two-man debate change things?

There have never been fewer than six Democrats on the debate stage at one time in the 2020 primary season.

Next Sunday in Arizona, there will be just two.

And in case you missed it, neither is a woman or a person of colour or under the age of 77.

Donald Trump is younger than either man who is likely to face him in November (AP)
Donald Trump is younger than either man who is likely to face him in November (AP)

There are clear ideological differences, of course.

Despite Mr Biden and Mr Sanders’ superficial similarities, the silver-haired septuagenarians will face off representing starkly different views of the future of the Democratic Party and the nation.

Mr Sanders thinks he will benefit from having more time to delve into issues of substance.

And with more than four decades in Washington, Mr Biden has a long record to answer for.

There will be an unmistakably new dynamic on stage that may give voters their best glimpse so far of how each candidate would perform in a one-on-one debate with President Donald Trump this autumn.

– Can Donald Trump handle the Covid-19 outbreak?

The Republican president is facing the greatest leadership test of his first term.

And, so far, Mr Trump is struggling to grasp basic facts about the rapidly escalating Covid-19 threat, which has infected hundreds of Americans across 34 states and counting.

That is even as he and his administration publicly declared last week that the virus was contained.

And beyond public health, the economic fallout could be disastrous.

Wall Street just suffered its worst week in more than a decade, and travel companies are bracing for massive losses.

President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One (Alex Brandon/AP)

The general election is just eight months away.

Mr Trump needs to show he can lead the country through this growing crisis or face the consequences in November.

– And will the campaign itself be affected by the virus?

There is no need to panic, but Covid-19 threatens to shape American life in 2020 far more than some expected.

Public officials are planning for the likelihood that professional sports will be played in empty arenas.

White House
The White House, Washington DC (Andrew Parsons/PA)

Airlines have begun cancelling flights.

And schools are being closed.

It is fair to wonder whether political events may be curtailed sooner rather than later.

Even if the death toll remains relatively low, this epidemic may affect all of us in some way before it is over.