Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Last Call For Ukraine In The Membrame, Con't

Senate Republicans are making it very clear the goal now is to bury Joe Biden under the Burisma nonsense in an effort to help Bernie Sanders, their preferred candidate.

Just hours after Joe Biden surged to the top of the Democratic presidential pack, Senate Republicans announced a new phase of their investigation targeting the former vice president and his son Hunter.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told reporters on Wednesday that he is likely to release an interim report within one to two months on his panel’s probe of Hunter Biden’s ties to a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma.

“These are questions that Joe Biden has not adequately answered,” Johnson said. “And if I were a Democrat primary voter, I’d want these questions satisfactorily answered before I cast my final vote.”

Johnson insisted that the timing of his probe has nothing to do with the election calendar. But the renewed focus on Biden, coinciding with his surge to frontrunner status, has alarmed House Democrats as they brace for an all-out GOP assault on Biden and his son over an issue that was litigated at length during President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Sure.  Just like Hillary's "homebrew email server" in 2016, just like Benghazi in 2014, just like Obama's Kenyan birth certificate in 2008, just like Swift Boat Veterans for "truth" in 2004.

Democrats are now warily eyeing Trump’s Twitter feed — and his Republican allies in the Senate like Johnson — for the return of the widely discredited corruption charges against Biden that had seemed to fade from consciousness along with Biden’s flagging campaign. But after Biden’s Super Tuesday romp, the Democrats who led the impeachment drive against Trump for his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens are preparing for Burisma to make a return to the GOP playbook.

“After hearing nothing about Burisma over the course of the last couple weeks, the Republicans will revive it in a perfect demonstration of what this means to them, which is to be a cudgel to beat Joe Biden with,” said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

House Democrats are gearing up to charge Republicans who probe the Burisma matter with aiding a potential Russian disinformation campaign. Democrats raised alarms last year when reports, citing a third-party security firm, indicated Burisma had been hacked by Russian military operatives using tactics similar to those used to infiltrate the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

“I am concerned to see that in the Senate there seems to be a renewed interest in furthering these bogus Russian narratives through the use of their investigative powers,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). “I just think it’s so deeply destructive to be effectively working in a concert with Russian propaganda artists.”

Schiff said he would use his perch on the committee to call out adversaries for “furthering Kremlin narratives.”

Good, because they are.  

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

Meanwhile, Republicans are holding up new emergency legislation to combat COVID-19 because the bill House Democrats are putting forward sets a limit on how much drug companies can charge for a vaccine.

House and Senate leaders have run into last-minute snags on a $7.5 billion emergency package to combat the U.S. spread of coronavirus, including disputes over vaccine availability and hospital reimbursement costs.

Top Democrats say the House is still expected to vote on the package Wednesday, with the Senate likely to follow suit as soon as Thursday. But the timeline for unveiling that legislation has slipped, possibly as late as Wednesday morning, amid policy fights between the two parties.

With the number of U.S. cases steadily rising, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is negotiating with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to find a deal that could pass both chambers this week, doling out money quickly to state and local health departments.

The biggest issue, according to several people familiar with negotiations, involves a Democratic attempt to control the costs of vaccines and other treatments that are developed in response to the outbreak. Other issues include details of hospital reimbursement for uninsured patients and whether to pay for a provision to help expand telemedicine, which would cost roughly $500 million.
“Vaccines should be affordable. It’s just as simple as that,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), a top appropriator, said as she left a Democratic leadership meeting on Tuesday night.

“It’s going back and forth. That’s where we are,” DeLauro added. “There are no firm answers at the moment, but we’re moving toward getting this done and getting it done this week because the need is so critical. We have to get it done this week.”

Pelosi and her top deputies briefed their fellow Democrats on the status of the emergency funding package on Tuesday night and outlined the remaining issues. A final deal could still be reached Tuesday night, they said, but could take until Wednesday morning.

Republicans still want people who can't afford the vaccine to get sick and die.  Period.  Full stop.  And yes, COVID-19 is deadlier than originally thought.  Surprise!

World health officials said Tuesday the mortality rate for COVID-19 is 3.4% globally, higher than previous estimates of about 2%.

“Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. In comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected, he said.

The World Health Organization had said last week that the mortality rate of COVID-19 can differ, ranging from 0.7% to up to 4%, depending on the quality of the health-care system where it’s treated. Early in the outbreak, scientists had concluded the death rate was around 2.3%.

During a press briefing Monday, WHO officials said they don’t know how COVID-19 behaves, saying it’s not like influenza. They added that while much is known about the seasonal flu, such as how it’s transmitted and what treatments work to suppress the disease, that same information is still in question when it comes to the coronavirus.

Even a lowball estimate of 40% of adults infected and an 0.7% mortality rate, that's 600,000 dead.  Even if only 1% get infected and it's not an epidemic, that's still 15,000 dead, an extra 50% of a bad flu season's casualties.

And the high end, well...70% of the country's adults infected and 3.4% dead, well that's a number roughly the size of the Boston metro area.

The only question is how bad this is going to be.

Primary Positions, Con't

Joe Biden had a very good night last night on Super Tuesday, winning several Southern states (including Texas!) as well as Massachusetts and Minnesota, while Bernie Sanders won Vermont, Colorado, and Utah and the primary's biggest prize, California.  Five Thirty Eight's Sarah Frostenson recaps the Night Joe Came Back.

Well, it’ll still be days or weeks before we have the full vote total in California, and it’s still too close to call in Maine, but with Texas now in the win column for Biden, this evening’s top-line takeaway is even clearer: Biden mounted a comeback and won Super Tuesday.

In total, Biden won nine of the 15 primary contests at stake tonight, pulling off a number of upset victories, including a win in Minnesota (we’d projected Sanders would win there), a win in Massachusetts (Sanders again), and a win in Texas (that was more of a toss-up going into tonight), but basically Biden cleaned up across the board. He performed well in states where he wasn’t even really competing, and he proved he’s more than a regional candidate.

Sanders, on the other hand, did not have a great evening. He won just three states outright (Colorado, Utah and Vermont) and underperformed expectations. So far, he does seem on track to win delegate-rich California, though we won’t know the exact margin for a while yet.

Once all the Super Tuesday results are fully counted, 38 percent of delegates will have been awarded in the primary race, but this nomination fight is far from over, and there’s a real question about where it will go from here.

The big story from Super Tuesday was that young Democratic voters didn't show up for Bernie's revolution.  Not even close.

Exit polls for five southern states that Biden won – Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia – found that young voters did not show up at the polls in the numbers they did in 2016.

In addition, the Vermont senator has been grabbing a smaller share of them in most cases.
  •  In Alabama, only 7% of the voters were in the 17-29 range compared to 14% in 2016. Sanders won six of every 10 of those voters Tuesday compared to four of 10 in 2016.
  •  In North Carolina, 13% of Tuesday’s electorate were young voters, compared to 16% four years ago. Of those, 57% went for Sanders in 2020 compared to 69% in 2016.
  •  In South Carolina, young voters made up 11% of the electorate Tuesday compared to 15% in 2016. Sanders won 43% of those voters Tuesday compared to 54% four years ago.
  •  In Tennessee, 11% of those voters showed up Tuesday versus 15% in 2016. Sanders did better among that group Tuesday winning 65% compared to 61% four years ago.
  •  In Virginia, young voters comprised 13% of Tuesday’s vote compared to 16% in 2016. Sanders won 57% of those voters Tuesday compared to 69% four years ago.

Even Sanders’ home state of Vermont showed a lackluster turnout of young millennials and 'Gen Zers.' Only 10% of the state’s electorate were under 30 compared to 15% when he ran against Clinton, according to exit polls.

And a similar trend was playing out in Texas where 16% of voters were between 17 and 29 compared to 20% in 2016.

Sanders couldn't get the numbers he got from four years ago, even in his home state.  The why of that is two words: Liz Warren.  She split Sanders's votes far more than Bloomberg split Biden's haul.

And speaking of Liz Warren, she came in a distant third pretty much everywhere last night, even in her home state of Massachusetts.

Elizabeth Warren had a plan for winning. It didn't work: In 18 nomination contests, she hasn't finished above third place — including in her home state.

Now, she's facing political and financial pressures to get out.

Warren's campaign declined to comment on her next steps after her dismal Super Tuesday performance. But allies who speak regularly with the campaign say the mood was bleak. A small wave of last-minute endorsements from groups like EMILY’s List, along with late financial help from a super PAC, did not significantly move the needle.

That's left the Warren campaign to wonder whether a path forward exists. While the campaign had insisted it still saw an opening by going to the convention — she will likely collect at least several dozen delegates Tuesday — the results were far below their own publicly-released projections.

How well Bernie Sanders does from here depends on how long Liz Warren stays in the race.  As I said after Nevada, unless something happened that changed the entire trajectory of the primary race on Super Tuesday, Bernie was going to be the presumptive nominee.

That something was "Joe Biden winning in SC and both Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropping out and endorsing him."

It's a fight now.  Sanders remains ahead in national polling.  But Joe did something I thought that couldn't happen: he most likely ended up with more total delegates last night.  The resurrection of his campaign is something unprecedented. A week ago we were counting Biden out and Bernie running the table seemed all but assured.

The "all but" happened.

Let the battle commence.

[UPDATE] Bloomberg is out.

Bye, Mike.


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