First the facts…
COVID-19 has ushered in changes to the lifestyle of Americans not seen since the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920. Not the least being the impending changes to our presidential primary process.
As of March 17 Donald Trump will have locked up the Republican nomination, requiring only the official vote of the GOP convention to make him his party’s certified candidate for president in 2020. (See Trailing by 5 points, can Trump surpass Reagan?)
On the other hand, as of that date Joe Biden, despite being on a primary victory roll with an virtually insurmountable delegate lead over Bernie Sanders, will still be only half way to the 1,991 delegates he needs to cinch the Democratic nomination.
So far two states, Georgia and Louisiana, have postponed their Democratic presidential primaries. Georgia from March 24 to May 19, and Louisiana from April 4 to June 20. There can be no doubt that additional state primaries will also be pushed forward.
The Democratic convention is scheduled for July 13 – 16 in Milwaukee.
…then the questions
Now, ask yourself, what happens if the COVID-19 crisis stretches out for three or four months as seems possible? How far into the future can the remaining Democratic primaries be pushed?
If primaries continue to be held despite the implementation of “social distancing”, which candidate’s supporters will be more likely to show up at the polls? (Biden’s campaign has the momentum and the support of a wider range of the electorate, but his supporters tend to be older and hence more at risk from COVID-19. Bernie’s supporters are more fanatical and, being younger, at a lower health risk from social interaction and so potentially more likely to get out an vote even though disheartened by Bernie’s failing campaign.)
What happens if primaries have to be cancelled before Biden garners the required 1,991 delegate votes?
What will be the response of Sanders and his embittered supporters if the Democratic National Committee amends the rules to award the nomination to the candidate with the most delegate votes at the convention even though that number does not reach 1,991?
Can the Democratic convention be delayed, or even moved? If so, what is the last practical date it can be held before the November election?
To what extent will the Republicans and their foreign troll “allies” attempt to interfere in a modified Democratic primary and convention process?
Lastly, behind all this lurks the Big Question of how will an extended COVID-19 pandemic impact the campaigning for all elected offices – local state or federal – between now and November?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Illness has affected American politics in the past, most notably William Henry Harrison’s death only a month into his term. As Nighan rightfully notes, “The impact of the sickness and death of W.H. Harrison was that his VP Tyler became the first unelected president. But there’s no real connection between any past presidential campaign and today’s mess.”