OAKLAND, Calif. - Former Vice President Joe Biden expanded his delegate lead after sweeping primaries in Arizona, Florida and Illinois. The results prompted more calls for Senator Bernie Sanders to drop out of the race, even an incorrect report saying he would.
His campaign called it "absolutely false" and re-upped this statement from his campaign manager: "The next primary contest is at least three weeks away. Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign. In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable."
An email to supporters did not ask for donations and the New York Times reports the campaign halted advertising on Facebook. Still, Sanders showed no sign of quitting, focusing his efforts on the coronavirus response. "In the midst of this crisis, what I believe we must do is empower Medicare to cover all medical bills during this emergency," said Sanders during an online address, focused on the response.
For the second week in a row, Biden spoke directly to Sanders' supporters after his big night. "And let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you," said Biden.
Sonoma State political science professor Dave McCuan says Biden is shifting his focus to November, where he'll need the kind of excitement Sanders carries. "If you’re looking at Joe Biden, you’re trying to recreate the narrative of Obama in 2008 with that enthusiasm," said McCuan. "To get there you’re going to need Bernie Sanders, and you’re going to need people not on the sidelines.”
McCuan doesn't expect Sanders to drop right away, because the race is effectively frozen by the coronavirus pandemic. He says it buys Sanders time to influence the party and even benefits Biden, too. “Extends his opportunity to be presidential, while at the same time, the Sanders campaign gets a little longer to linger in the race and decide what they want to do moving forward," said McCuan.