Biden Takes Charge as Coronavirus Spreads: This Week in the 2020 Race

The lecterns were separated by an epidemiologist-approved six feet. The candidates greeted each other with an elbow bump instead of a handshake.

The first topic was, of course, the coronavirus, and the candidates’ arguments reflected their starkly different worldviews. Mr. Biden cast the fight against the virus as something like a war, requiring a well-tested leader and a full, efficient mobilization of the country’s public health and military resources. Mr. Sanders framed the pandemic’s likely fallout as an indictment of current systems, and as evidence for the necessity of sweeping new programs like “Medicare for all” and economic safety nets.

The biggest non-virus-related moment came when Mr. Biden pledged unequivocally to choose a woman as his running mate if he won the nomination — and Mr. Sanders, prompted to make the same pledge, did not go as far. (“In all likelihood, I will,” he said.)

With no realistic path to the nomination, Mr. Sanders has a decision to make: Does he stick it out to the bitter end, potentially fracturing the party even further? Or does he drop out now and try to use his influence — and the need for Mr. Biden to win over some of his supporters — to push for a more progressive Democratic platform?

Advisers to Mr. Sanders said on Wednesday, after his losses the night before, that he was considering his next steps. His campaign stopped actively advertising on Facebook this week, which is often a precursor to dropping out.

Regardless of what Mr. Sanders decides or when he makes the decision, Mr. Biden has his own challenge ahead: winning over at least some members of the progressive wing of the party, many of whom are deeply disillusioned by Mr. Sanders’s losses. Toward that end, Mr. Biden has adopted some of Mr. Sanders’s proposals, like tuition-free public college.

  • Sydney Ember wrote this week about Mr. Sanders’s desire to continue fighting.

  • You can read more here about how Mr. Biden is trying to reach out to the left.

The Democratic primary officially became a two-person contest on Thursday after Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii dropped out and endorsed Mr. Biden.

Leaning on her military background, Ms. Gabbard — who had been the only woman remaining in the primary — railed for months against “regime-change wars” and advocated a noninterventionist foreign policy. But she won only two delegates in the primary contests, both in American Samoa, where she was born.

She announced last fall that she would not seek re-election to Congress.