Coronavirus reality is creating fear and uncertainty, and might be Trump's biggest challenge yet

Image: President Donald Trump tours the Center for Disease Control after a
President Donald Trump tours the Center for Disease Control after a coronavirus briefing in Atlanta, Ga., on March 6, 2020. Copyright Tom Brenner Reuters
Copyright Tom Brenner Reuters
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — Fear and uncertainty are now gripping the country's political and financial systems.

"Stocks across the world tumbled early Monday after a shocking all-out oil price war added to anxiety around the economic fallout from the spreading coronavirus," CNBC reports.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., announced Sunday that they will self-quarantine themselves after coming into contact with someone at the CPAC conference who tested positive for coronavirus, per NBC's Kasie Hunt and Alex Moe.

Gosar is even closing his congressional office.

Neither Cruz nor Gosnar say they're experiencing symptoms — but are rather acting out of caution.

And it all comes after President Trump's news conference Friday at the Centers for Disease Control, where he said it was his personal opinion to leave those Americans on that docked cruise ship, because they would increase the number of Americans with coronavirus ("Now, when they do that, our numbers are going to go up. Okay?").

Where he linked coronavirus tests with his impeachment ("The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect").

And where he attacked Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ("That governor is a snake").

Responding to the coronavirus isn't something that's in Trump's toolbox.

He can't threaten it with a primary challenge.

He can't call it a hoax or hold a rally against it.

And, as the New York Times' Peter Baker writes, he can't tweet it away.

Indeed, it was just two weeks ago when the president tweeted this: "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!"

Tweet of the day

Sanders opens up his 2016 playbook ahead of Tuesday's primaries

On "Meet the Press" yesterday, Bernie Sanders said that the upcoming Michigan primary was important to his campaign. ("Well, Michigan is obviously very important... To my mind, I think we've got a real shot to win here in Michigan because the agenda that we are talking about is an agenda that works for the working families of this state.")

He hit Dem rival Joe Biden on the issue of trade for selling out to corporate and wealthy interests. ("I helped lead the effort, as you may recall, against these disastrous trade agreements. I worked with the unions, not with the CEOs of large corporations. On the other hand, Joe Biden strongly supported these agreements… Joe Biden has received funding from some 60 billionaires.")

And he blamed his Super Tuesday losses on the Democratic "establishment" forcing Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to end their campaigns. ("If they had not withdrawn from the race before Super Tuesday, which was kind of a surprise to a lot of people, I suspect we would have won in Minnesota, we would have won in Maine, we would have won in Massachusetts.")

If those lines sound familiar, well, they are.

Here was Sanders — on "Meet the Press" in April of 2016 — saying that upcoming primaries were crucial to his success, even though he was trailing in the delegate count. ("We have the momentum. I think we stand a really good chance to do well in New York State, in Pennsylvania, and as we head into other states.")


Here was Sanders — in that same 2016 interview — going after Hillary Clinton's record on trade and her fundraising. ("Well, when you vote for virtually every trade agreement that has cost the workers of this country millions of jobs, when you support and continue to support fracking, despite the crisis that we have in terms of clean water, and essentially, when you have a Super PAC that is raising tens of millions of dollars from every special interest out there.")

And here was Sanders blaming his defeat — like in New York's closed primary in 2016 — on the system being against him. ("Today, 3 million people in the state of New York who are independents have lost their right to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary. That's wrong.")

By the way, on "Today" this morning, Pete Buttigieg responded to Sanders saying the Democratic establishment forced him to quit his 2020 race.

"I felt the pressure of voters making a decision," he told NBC's Craig Melvin. "It was clear the numbers weren't there."

2020 Vision: Biden holds double-digit national lead in CNN poll

A new national CNN poll finds Joe Biden with a 16-point lead over Bernie Sanders, with 52 percent of Dem voters saying they'd like to see Biden winning the party's nomination, while 36 percent prefer Sanders.


Sanders held a 3-point lead over Biden in CNN's last national poll back in January.

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden spends his day in Michigan, making a stop in Grand Rapids and holding a rally with Kamala Harris in Detroit… Bernie Sanders holds a rally in St. Louis and does a coronavirus roundtable in Detroit... And Jill Biden stumps in Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis.

Dispatches from NBC's campaign embeds

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are turning the attention to each other — but in different ways. In Michigan yesterday, Sanders remarked that this campaign wasn't just taking on Biden, but some of Biden's donors, NBC's Gary Grumbach reports: "We are taking on in this campaign, not just Joe Biden," Sanders said as the crowd booed after hearing Biden's name. "We're taking on the 60 billionaires who are funding his campaign, we're taking on the wall street executives who are helping to fund this campaign, we're taking on the corporate establishment, We're taking on the political establishment."

In Mississippi, Biden invoked Sanders to talk voter turnout, NBC's Marianna Sotomayor reports: "Biden said this growing movement to take down President Donald Trump is already evident given the increase of turnout in Super Tuesday contests last week, 'Senator Sanders is a good guy, and as he likes to say, we need a record turn out to beat Donald Trump. He's absolutely right and we're the campaign that's gonna do it,' Biden said in remarks that garnered loud cheers from the crowd."

Data Download: The number of the day is … 7.4 points

7.4 points.


That's the margin now in California's Democratic primary, where Bernie Sanders leads Joe Biden, 33.8 percent to 26.4 percent with 71 percent of the vote now in, according to NBC News' Decision Desk.

On Friday, the margin was closer to 9 points.

Meanwhile, Biden has extended his overall delegate lead over Sanders to 77 delegates — 652 to 575.

Biden's advantage was 69 delegates last Friday morning, 595 to 526.

The Lid: Can you rig it?

Don't miss the pod from Friday, when took a look behind the numbers of why Trump likes to say the Dem race is "rigged" against Bernie Sanders.


ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

Kasie Hunt and Alex Moe report on anxiety in Congress about the coronavirus as two members now say they'll self-quarantine after being in contact with a person who contracted it.

White House officials acknowledge that the president's tone on the virus is creating mixed messages.

Worth noting: The president doesn't have any rallies currently scheduled.

Cory Booker is endorsing Joe Biden, one day after Kamala Harris did the same.

Twitter and Facebook are taking different approaches to a manipulated video of Joe Biden being circulated by his foes.


The White House is hoping that disaffected Sanders supporters will propel Trump to the White House — again.

Trump Agenda: Rattled markets

Coronavirus and a shakeup in oil production have rattled global markets this morning.

The State Departmenttold older travelers to avoid cruise ships — despite the president's reluctance.

2020: Rage against the machine

Bernie Sanders said on Meet the Press that the Democratic establishment pressured Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to back Joe Biden.

Democrats want a women to be their nominee's running mate. But it's complicated.


Will Michigan save Sanders this time? Or end his campaign?

And could Biden surprise Sanders in Washington state?

POLITICO has more on the business woes of Joe Biden's brother, James.

Here's how the next few weeks of the primary calendar are working against Bernie Sanders.

Sanders is experimenting with some new lines of attack against Biden.


The New York Times looks at how the Trump campaign used a takeover of data and analytics to make the GOP its own.

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