WASHINGTON – Presidential politics move fast. What we’re watching heading into a new week on the 2020 campaign:
Days to next set of primaries (Indiana, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, District of Columbia): 1
Days to general election: 155
THE NARRATIVE The only real open question going into Tuesday's eight primaries is whether Joe Biden will rack up enough votes to formally clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. That he we will win those contests is not in doubt.
The former vice president needs to win 89% of all delegates at stake to do so. That sounds easy since he's the last candidate standing in a once-crowded primary field. But supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have continued to urge voters to cast ballots for him so he can amass delegates and have a greater influence on the party policy platform ahead of the Democratic National Convention.
Biden has met the 89% threshold in only two contests since Super Tuesday: Mississippi (94%) and Nebraska (100%). Protests nationwide, as well as the coronavirus, meanwhile, continue to overshadow the presidential race. Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all had earlier primaries that were pushed back to Tuesday because of the pandemic. New Jersey was supposed to vote Tuesday but delayed its primary until July 7.
THE BIG QUESTIONS
Will mail-in voting pass another key test?
Nearly all of Tuesday's primary balloting will be by mail, just like in most of the states voting in recent weeks amid the vrius outbreak, including Ohio. Still, activists in Maryland and Pennsylvania have expressed concerns that delays in efforts to send ballots to eligible voters may mean they don't arrive in time for the primaries there — and similar problems could arise in other places.
President Donald Trump has been an outspoken critic of increasing voting by mail for November's election, arguing it is a recipe for widespread fraud — even though such cases are exceedingly rare. He's also hinted that political calculations could be at the core of his claims about protecting voter integrity, tweeting that widespread mail-in ballots "WILL ALSO LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY.”
Will this be Steve King's last stand?
A Republican congressional primary in Iowa on Tuesday could cripple the career of veteran Republican Steve King, who was stripped of his committee assignments last year after suggesting that white nationalism wasn't offensive. King is facing four challengers for his party's nomination.
Iowa's Democratic presidential caucus was marred by chaos. This time, officials mailed out absentee ballot request forms so voters could participate in the primary by mail — but in-person balloting will also be available.
How much worse will it get?
Racially charged protests erupted at virtually the same time the United States surpassed the 100,000 coronavirus deaths, even as the economic downturn sparked by shutdown efforts to slow the pandemic continued to deepen. More than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment, and the nation's Gross Domestic Product fell at an annual rate of 5% in the first quarter.
As many states start to ease stay-at-home orders, Trump is arguing that an economic recovery could be quick and has begun touting the slogan “Transition to Greatness.”
Biden has struck a far more somber tone. He says that the Trump administration's incompetence in the face of the virus cost lives and that, while he will use the outbreak to push for an overhauled economy that can work better for more Americans, he's not making any promises about how long it might take. Instead, the former vice president is urging people to listen to health experts and authorities rather than rush back to some approximation of normal life.
Will some top veepstakes contenders see their stock fall?
The violence raging across the nation is likely to increase pressure on Biden to choose an African American woman as his running mate.
Among those who are now in the spotlight: Rep. Val Demmings of Florida, a former police chief who also served on the House committee that voted to impeach Trump, and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, who struck out powerfully against the violence in her city.
They would join an unofficial list that also includes Sen. Kamala Harris of California and former Georgia state legislator Stacey Abrams, among others.
Some top Democrats have suggested that the fallout from Minnesota will remove home-state Sen. Amy Klobuchar from Biden's perceived shortlist for running mate. Meanwhile, two governors had coronavrius-related dust-ups that could perhaps hurt their standing on Biden's perceived shortlist for the veepstakes. Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer faced fierce criticism and eventually suggested her husband was joking when he attempted to use her name to pressure a dock owner to move their boat into the water ahead of his trip to their vacation home for Memorial Day weekend. Whitmer had urged residents to “think long and hard” about such travel.
Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico was criticized for ordering jewelry online and picking it up at an Albuquerque store amid stay-at-home orders she directed.
Biden said he hoped to make a pick by around Aug. 1.
THE FINAL THOUGHT
The violence over the weekend underscored a core truism of presidential politics. It is the uncontrollable events, rather than the controlled ones, that typically determine the outcome.
A global pandemic and economic free fall would have seemed to be enough to make that true. But now add violent protests rooted in what Biden has called “systemic” racism.
2020 Watch runs every Monday and provides a look at the week ahead in the 2020 election.
Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”