The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the APTA - Biden looks for Super Tuesday surge; coronavirus fears heighten

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Al Weaver is the newsletter master today while Alexis Simendinger enjoys an extended weekend. Find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

***  Good morning! One more day until Super Tuesday … 246 days until Election Day! ***

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Democrats advance tax plan through hurdles MORE is alive and well after his resounding victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday and is looking to carry that momentum into Super Tuesday, when 14 states weigh in and more than one-third of the delegates will be doled out in what could be the most consequential night of the race for the Democratic nomination. 


Saturday’s result shakes up the race in myriad ways heading into Tuesday, especially for the former vice president. After three underwhelming performances and the rising threat Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack trillion tax hike the opposite of 'good investment' Progressive groups call for Puerto Rico Fiscal Control Board to be abolished MORE (I-Vt.) posed to him and the rest of the field, Biden finally possesses the momentum that every moderate in the race has pined for but hasn’t been able to keep hold of heading into Tuesday. Some of that is visibly evident, including an uptick in fundraising and the continued rollout of key endorsements. 


More than anything, it could put a damper on Sanders, who had been riding high after his blowout win two Saturdays ago in Nevada and within striking distance of putting the nail in the coffin of Biden’s presidential aspirations. According to multiple polls released on Sunday, Biden is nipping at the Vermont Independent’s heels in a cadre of key states on the Super Tuesday map. However, Sanders has zeroed in on Tuesday, which will prove critical to his ability to hit the needed 1,991-delegate mark to nab the nomination before the convention. 


For example, while Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWithout drastic changes, Democrats are on track to lose big in 2022 Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary The tragedy of 9/11 — an inflection point in American history MORE, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegPete and Chasten Buttigieg welcome twins Coalition urges Democrats to restore billion in transit funding Say it ain't so, Joe MORE and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Boston set to elect first female mayor Progressive groups call for Puerto Rico Fiscal Control Board to be abolished MORE (D-Mass.) spent Sunday in Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” Sanders held a pair of massive rallies in California as he pushes to win the lion’s share of the state’s 415 delegates — the biggest prize on the Democratic primary calendar. Additionally, Biden has sparingly campaigned in Super Tuesday states, creating potential issues on that front (The New York Times).


Niall Stanage: The Memo: Biden's big victory means it's game on for Super Tuesday. 


The New York Times: Why some suburban women are wary of Bernie Sanders.


Robert Costa, The Washington Post: Biden seeks to consolidate Democrats with momentum of his S.C. victory.


The post-South Carolina fallout continued on Sunday night when Buttigieg surprisingly announced the suspension of his campaign following a pair of lackluster performances in South Carolina and Nevada, and no clear avenue to win the party’s nomination. 


Buttigieg, who became the first openly gay candidate to win delegates with his victory in Iowa, made the abrupt announcement during a speech to supporters in South Bend (The Hill).


"Today is a moment of truth. The truth is that the path has narrowed to a close, for our candidacy if not for our cause,” Buttigieg said. "We have a responsibility to consider the effect of remaining in this race any further.”


“I will do everything in my power to make sure we have a new Democratic president come January," he added. However, Buttigieg gave no indication that he will endorse any candidate prior to Tuesday’s contests or down the road.





Buttigieg’s exit, along with Tom SteyerTom SteyerOvernight Energy: 'Eye of fire,' Exxon lobbyist's comments fuel renewed attacks on oil industry | Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline | More than 75 companies ask Congress to pass clean electricity standard Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline Six things to watch as California heads for recall election MORE’s departure on Saturday night, means the field has narrowed to five serious candidates, with the potential for more to drop out following Tuesday’s results. While some have remained in the race, it has become evident that some do not have a concrete path to the nomination outside of the party’s convention. Warren’s campaign admitted as much in a memo on Sunday that any path runs through the summer confab in Milwaukee.


The New York Times: As Buttigieg exits race, Biden seeks edge against Sanders on Super Tuesday.


The Hill: Biden steps up attacks on Sanders as Super Tuesday approaches.


Politico: Biden's surprise ray of hope in California.


Matt Flegenheimer and Katie Glueck, The New York Times: Biden called his shot. He won. Is it enough?


Outside of Steyer, Bloomberg may have had the worst night of any Democratic candidate, even though he wasn’t competing in the Palmetto State. After deciding against making a play in the final early vote state, Bloomberg’s lane to victory shrank considerably over the weekend as it banked largely on Biden’s campaign becoming obsolete by Super Tuesday. 


“The whole rationale of his candidacy was that he wanted to represent that center-left wing of the party, and he felt Biden was going to falter. That plan has gone awry now. Biden hasn't faltered,” said David AxelrodDavid AxelrodThe Memo: Democrats vent frustration with Biden on Afghanistan Psaki dismisses Axelrod's criticism of Biden on Afghanistan Axelrod says Biden should have 'embraced' failures of Afghanistan exit MORE, previously a top adviser to former President Obama, on Saturday night. “As long as Biden is competitive in this race, as he apparently will be now, where's the path for Bloomberg here?"


Making matters worse was the reception Bloomberg received in Selma, on Sunday as nearly a dozen congregants turned their backs while he addressed attendees at Brown AME Church service. By contrast, Biden was lauded, with the Rev. Al Sharpton allowing him to sit on the dais during the service. Bloomberg sat in the front row. 


Reid Wilson, The Hill: On The Trail: Steyer flop a warning to Bloomberg.


The Hill: The 14 other key races to watch on Super Tuesday.


However, he still remains a major threat on Tuesday — the first time he will appear on the ballot. He sits in the top three in multiple contests, having bombarded Super Tuesday states with ads in recent months.


On the financial front, multiple candidates reported strong fundraising months, headlined by the $46.5 million raised by Sanders in February. Warren followed up with $29.3 million despite her lack of success in the first four contests, having finished no higher than third in any state. As for Biden, his cash intake was buoyed by Saturday’s win. He raised nearly $18 million in February, with $5 million of that coming on Saturday alone.


The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee announced early this morning that it raised $86 million in February, bringing the total brought in to more than $600 million. 


Democratic nomination betting odds: Sanders, -115 (bet $115 to win $100); Biden, +240 (bet $100 to win $240); Bloomberg, +600. 


The Sunday Shows: Super Tuesday, South Carolina primary share spotlight with coronavirus politics. 


Politico: Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSeven takeaways from California's recall election Live coverage: California voters to decide Newsom's fate Overnight Hillicon Valley — Ex-US intel operatives pay to settle hacking charges MORE (D-Minn.) rally in Minnesota canceled amid protests.





CORONAVIRUS: The Trump administration spent the weekend attempting to quell concerns about the rise of the coronavirus as cases continue to crop up in parts of the U.S. and the death toll rises internationally. 


Fears were heightened on Sunday, as five new cases of the virus were confirmed in New York, Washington, California, Illinois and Rhode Island, sparking a response from federal officials to increase testing and awareness. Vice President Pence said during one of his Sunday talk show appearances that more testing kits are being produced in order to detect and attempt to contain the outbreak. 


President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE and administration officials are expected to meet with pharmaceutical executives today and head on Friday to Atlanta to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a push to shine the light on the administration’s response (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).


In the U.S., 86 cases of the virus have been confirmed, while the first two deaths were reported over the weekend. Both were men from Washington (The Hill). 


Fears are also rising across Western Europe and Asia, as more than 60 countries have now reported cases, and the death total eclipsed 3,000 on Sunday. According to the latest data, there are 89,197 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide.


On Sunday, the Louvre Museum (see below) closed its doors in Paris as mass-gatherings have been minimized. In Japan, the Tokyo Marathon took place on Sunday, but with only 200 competitive runners taking part instead of the usual 30,000 who usual run in an effort to contain the virus (Fox News). 


According to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the administration is working to prevent shortages of drugs, but hoping those shortages would not last for an extended period of time. Pence and Azar continued to argue that the risk of being infected is low, though more will likely contract the virus, and fatalities are expected (The Wall Street Journal). 


“We will see more transmission of cases in the United States,” Azar told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It’s simply just a matter of math.”


In Italy, infections increased by 50 percent in only 24 hours on Sunday, forcing the U.S. to advise Americans against traveling to two regions in the northern part of the country that have been affected. The total number of people infected in the country rose to 1,694, while five more died, bringing the death total in Italy to 34. Eighty-three individuals have recovered from the virus (The Associated Press).


The Hill: 5 parts of the economy most at risk from coronavirus.


The Hill: House eyes vote on emergency coronavirus funding.


The Associated Press: Study: Coronavirus may have been around Seattle for weeks.


The Hill: Surgeon general: Stop buying masks.





INTERNATIONAL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Sunday that he will not move forward and free thousands of Taliban prisoners as negotiations are set to kick off between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban in the coming days 


Ghani’s comments throw fresh uncertainty into the implementation of a deal between the U.S. and the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan that has stretched for more than 18 years, which Trump has been eager to end (The Associated Press). 


“The government of Afghanistan has made no commitment to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners,” Ghani told reporters in Kabul a day after the deal was signed in Qatar. “The request has been made by the United States for the release of prisoners, and it can be part of the negotiations, but it cannot be a precondition.”


The deal between the U.S. and the Taliban indicated hopes that the 5,000 Taliban prisoners would be released prior to March 10 — the first day of talks between the two Afghan sides in Oslo, Norway. The Taliban would release nearly 1,000 prisoners. 


Ghani told a news conference in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Sunday that this wasn’t a promise the United States could make. He said the release of any prisoners was a decision for his government to make and that he wasn’t ready to release prisoners before the start of negotiations.  


Despite the speed bump, the U.S. remains hopeful that the Oslo talks will take place in the near future, noting that prisoner releases have taken place in the past (Reuters). 


“It’s going to be rocky and bumpy,” Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoAmerica needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries Harris to hold fundraiser for McAuliffe ahead of Virginia governor's race It's in our interest to turn the page on relations with Suriname MORE told “Face the Nation.” “No one is under any false illusion that this won’t be a difficult conversation.”





North Korea: North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern sea from along the east coast on Monday, according to the South Korean defense ministry, marking the nation’s first weapons launch since late November (The New York Times).

According to The Associated Press, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles were fired near the coastal town of Wonsan and flew about 149 miles northeast. The South Korean and U.S. militaries are analyzing the launches together.


Israel: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference kicked off on Sunday with shots across the bow at Sanders over his call for conditions on U.S. support for Israel.


According to The Hill’s Laura Kelly, AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr opened the organization's three-day conference in Washington, D.C., by warning they will push back against “political leaders and their supporters” who call for conditions on Israeli support. Sanders is the lone Democratic candidate to make any such calls. 


“We face a collection of political leaders and their supporters who want to turn our political system away from Israel,” Kohr told the 18,000 attendees. “The pro-Israel community will work to defeat those who try to harm our friends and those who try to harm the U.S.-Israel relationship.”


Biden addressed the conference via a video message on Sunday, calling for an end to the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip (The Hill). Klobuchar is also expected to address attendees in a video message, while Bloomberg is scheduled to speak live in Washington to the conference on Monday — the only Democratic candidate to do so. 


The Hill: Sanders responds to attack from Israeli ambassador: Israel policy must “deal with the suffering of the Palestinian people as well.”

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Is this any way to pick a president? By Mark J. Rozell, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Coronavirus and the Tragedy of Iran, by Robert D. Kaplan, contributor, The Wall Street Journal. 


Public transportation is critical to getting people to work and school and keeping America’s economy strong. We must increase investment in this vital public service today to build the future we want. Learn more.


The House meets at noon.


The Senate reconvenes at 3 p.m and will resume consideration of the Advanced Geothermal Innovation Leadership Act. 


The president will meet with the president of Colombia at 10:30 a.m. and receive his intelligence briefing at 11:45 a.m. He will have lunch with Pence at 12:45 p.m. meet with executives from leading pharmaceutical companies to discuss vaccine development to combat COVID-19 at 3 p.m. The meeting was originally scheduled to discuss bipartisan efforts to lower prescription drug prices. The president tonight will headline a reelection rally in Charlotte, N.C., at 7 p.m.


Pence will address the AIPAC conference at 10:25 a.m. He will also participate in a video teleconference call with governors on the coronavirus at noon and a White House coronavirus task force meeting at 4 p.m.


Pompeo will also speak at AIPAC at 5 p.m.


The National Association of Counties is holding its annual legislative conference in Washington this week. Today’s speakers include Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHow lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation Overnight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling Connolly rips Wilson over 'you lie' during Blinken hearing MORE (D-Va.), Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben CarsonBen CarsonRepublicans are the 21st-century Know-Nothing Party Sunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Government indoctrination, whether 'critical' or 'patriotic,' is wrong MORE. Information is HERE.


In Israel, voters today head to the polls once again to try to form a government (The Associated Press).


Catch The Hill’s Campaign Report newsletter, with the latest from The Hill’s politics team. Sign up to receive evening updates, polling data and insights about the 2020 elections. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube


Supreme Court: In what will be the first abortion case before the Supreme Court since Trump's two nominees took the bench, the court will hear a conservative challenge on Wednesday to a 2014 Louisiana law that would mandate abortion providers be able to admit patients to a hospital within a 30-mile radius of the clinic (The Hill).





Immigration: A federal judge ruled on Sunday that the president’s appointment of Ken Cuccinelli to serve as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services violated a statute governing how federal government job vacancies are filled. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss voids a directive put in place under the former Virginia attorney general that limits how long asylum seekers can consult with counsel before it is determined whether they have a credible fear of persecution or torture  supporting their request (Bloomberg News).


Hockey: The NHL hit a public relations boon when David Ayres stepped in as the emergency goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 22. However, the love for the emergency role may be short-lived, as the league’s general managers will convene today to discuss overhauling the position. In the five years since the emergency goalie rule was implemented, it has only been used twice (The Associated Press). 


And finally … a Monday musical note! The Library of Congress will host an event at 7 p.m. in Washington tonight featuring a public conversation with country music celebrities Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood


Brooks, a famed country artist and legendary live performer, will become the youngest recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song on Wednesday. Information for the event can be found HERE