NDN Blog

With new data, the costs of the President's failed COVID19 response becoming clearer

As more economic and public health data becomes available, the more the nation is becoming aware of the extraordinary costs of the President’s ongoing failure to craft a successful national response to the COVID19 virus.

While Congress is the midst of addressing our daunting short term economic challenges, far more must be done in the coming days to stop the spread of the virus. 

Nine weeks into this crisis and the nation still has no plan to stop COVID.  Our elected leaders from across the country should come together around a plan as ambitious as the economic plan close to passing today.  While there are many good ideas on the table, NDN believes there are four key things we must do right now to prevent COVID from doing unimaginable harm to the nation in the days ahead:  

1) Surge supplies/beds/staff to the medical front lines

2) Implement a national 3 week stay at home program

3) Crash/stand up a national testing/isolation regime like South Korea’s

4) Fund a “Manhattan Project” for a vaccine/therapeutics/testing/equipment both for COVID and to prepare for future pandemics

Our nation’s leaders shouldn’t accept the President’s ongoing failure to respond to the COVID threat; all of us should demand he step up here and do what the American people and all of the experts expect him to do – tame COVID, and then stand our society and economy back up later this spring and summer.

Can the governors of the big, afflicted states band togethter to create a pressure campaign against our flailing President? Work with Senate and House leaders, leaders of other nations? If the President won't lead America now, others must. 

A New Role for Elected Officials — Community Truth Teller, COVID Navigator

This essay first appeared on Medium on Wed, 3/25. 

How a nation manages its information landscape in a pandemic is of vital importance. As we are learning, the ill-informed acts of a few can have a dramatic impact on the rest of us. We are now, and will be for perhaps the next eighteen months to two years, truly all in this together in ways which are not always so in a big, diverse nation like our own.

Thus, I think it is important for Democrats and responsible Republicans at all levels of government to dramatically step up their engagement with their constituents in the coming months. With travel and traditional legislating being significantly cut back, our elected leaders have more time to be using modern communications tools to become very present in the lives of their communities, at a time when accurate information can be the difference between life and death. Using tools like Zoom that allow large face to face conversations will not just be effective at communicating vital information, but will also keep the human connection that so many of us are struggling to maintain.

It’s my hope that in the coming days, our elected leaders across the country take responsibility for their community’s information environment, and dramatically raise their levels of engagement. We’ve seen examples of this from Governors like Andrew Cuomo, JB Pritzker, Jay Insee, Gavin Newsom, and Gina Raimondo. Joe Biden has built a TV studio in his house, and is now running his campaign from here. A new Politico story out this morning by Sarah Ferris details the efforts of recently elected House Members to lead important conversations back home. She reports:

“[Rep. Dean] Philips, a Minnesota Democrat, said the forced isolation was “strangely accommodating” for his job at this moment, which consists of a lot of phone calls but zero hours of fundraising or lengthy flights to Washington.“ There’s a silver lining in this,” he said. “It’s fair to say I’m communicating with more constituents, more broadly and more deeply, right now, than I’ve been able to in a year and a half in Congress.

The leaders of every level of government, from the US Senate to city councils, should establish a process to help their colleagues transition to and succeed in this new model of communications and leadership. State parties can do this too, as can organizations like the Democratic Governors Organization and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. We should have a sense of urgency about this project, seeing it as just as important as surging equipment to frontline hospitals or standing up our national testing regime.

This national project is particularly important given the torrent of misinformation, lies, and magical thinking coming from the President’s Twitter feed and press briefing each day. There is no question that the President’s failure to have an honest conversation with the American people over these past few months has left us all more unprepared than we should have been; and allowed people to unknowingly take actions which endangered themselves and others. The President’s failure to be honest with all of us, to prepare us for what was to come, and to encourage us take prudent steps to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities has been among the biggest failures of his response to COVID — and it is one we must learn from.

I also think that we Democrats have historically undervalued the importance of “official communications” in our understanding of how we talk to constituents and voters. Some of this has to do with consultants not making money off of videos produced in legislative offices or tele-town halls, thus creating a financial incentive for prioritizing campaign communications. I’m not saying ads don’t matter; but we can do both, and we should have a realistic understanding of the positives and negatives of each approach.

In the coming months, our leaders need to be patriots, not partisans, and really lean into this new COVID-era leadership and communications model. It is what people need now, it will save lives, and it will help us learn how to live in a new way. We should not underestimate the collective power of thousands of elected officials at all levels of government leaning in and talking to their communities honestly and forthrightly to provide the kind of information corrective to Trump that the nation needs if we are to defeat the virus in the days ahead. Beating this thing will be the work of all of us, not just our leaders in DC — this one truly requires everyone to do their part.

The President’s plan to combat COVID19 has failed. Congress must step in — now

The US had two choices on how to combat COVID-19 - a national shut down or an universal testing/isolation regime like in South Korea. Nine weeks into the crisis, the US has done neither, and so now we have some of the fastest growing infection rates that any country has experienced since the pandemic began.

Time is running out to prevent the virus from becoming something which fundamentally alters the American way of life. The President has made it clear that he cannot lead us through the crisis, and thus is it time for Congress to take responsibility for developing and implementing a true national plan. We only have a few days to get this done.

In recent days, expert opinion has converged about what we must do:

1) Surge supplies/beds/staff to the medical front lines

2) Implement a national 3 week stay at home program

3) Crash/stand up a national testing/isolation regime like in South Korea

4) Fund a “Manhattan Project” for a vaccine/therapeutics/testing/equipment both for COVID and to prepare for future pandemics

The economy and our society cannot stand back up until the virus is tamed. Washington’s focus on stimulus and worker support, while important, should have come after a national plan to combat the virus was in place. We have no choice now except to work on both in the days ahead.

It is critical that Congress also find time to pass the Klobuchar/Wyden bill that would help institute a national vote by mail program for the 2020 election. While so much else is up in the air, Americans should have the certainty of knowing that our democracy marches on, undaunted.

Finally, we need to focus far more attention on our young people. Both to help them better protect themselves from getting the virus and to help them and their families cope with what could be difficult months at home, away from school.

The President’s plan has failed, and Congress must step in now to develop a clear national strategy to tame the virus. There is no higher priority in the days ahead.

COVID Daily - Natl Stay at Home Now, Surge Health Supplies, More Tests - Sat Edition

This is a live document which was last updated Sat March 28th at 948am. 

Top Lines

Saturday morning's numbers from the COVID Tracking Project:

101,369 Positives

703,912 Tests 

States over 50,000 cases - NY

Over 10,000 cases - NJ

States over 2,500 cases - CA, FL, IL, LA, MA, MI, PA, WA

States over 1,000 cases - CO, CT, GA, IN, OH, TN, TX

As this FT analysis and chart shows the US is currently experiencing what may be the most serious surge of new cases of any nation since the pandemic began.  This global tracker now has the US, with 5% of the world's population, clocking in with 16% of all the world's infections.  The FT's data suggests the world has to start worrying about Turkey - it's current infection suggests the virus is really out of control there.

Current growth in the US puts us at 500,000-600,000 cases by next Friday and 3m-4m in two weeks time.  If the curve is flattening here, and that is not clear, it is not flattening nearly fast enough. 

Testing continues to improve, with our fourth day in a row of over 100,000.  Progress here has been important and meaningful, but as we continually remind, on a per capita basis Germany has been at close to 300,000 a day, and South Korea at 130,000-140,000 a day, for weeks.  So we are still trailing their daily testing numbers but lag very far behind in the total # of tests conducted over the past few months; and we're a little concerned that after rapid growth the daily testing rate seems to have leveled off at a number far too low for what is needed now. 

Clearly with many accounts of 6-10 day turnarounds and "millions" of tests on their way the Administration dangerously oversold their initial response to the testing fiasco, and far more must be done to get us to where we need to be (we discuss this below).  We also have to consider whether current levels of testing, or even slightly improved levels, will be adequate if we start getting into hundreds of thousands new infections each day. 

It should be noted that we are using private data, as the government's efforts to track what is happening with the COVID19 pandemic - from test results to masks - has been truly awful. The truth is that our testing regime starting so late and still in its early days we really have no idea whats going on with the virus here in the US. 

America Needs A Plan to Defeat COVID19, Not More Magical Thinking

Almost ten weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, it is hard to put into words has little the US government has done to tackle the public health side of this crisis.  The President’s main initiative, his travel bans, clearly didn’t work; the testing regime still isn’t up and running; the President's unwillingness to provide equipment to hospitals remains reckless, inexplicable and sadistic; social distancing and school/business closures have all been done at the state and local level despite the disease being everywhere (That the President allowed Florida's Spring Break partying to continue last week was a sign of the lack of seriousness of his efforts). 

Last Thursday the President reiterated that he doesn't believe that fighting COVID19 is a federal responsibility despite his "wartime" language. The lack of a national strategy to mitigate the spread of the virus will end up costing us many many lives and untold damage to our economy and society more broadly; that the President is relentlessly lying and misninforming all of us about what is happening makes it all that much more worse. 

The exploding infection rate here in the US proves the President's approach hasn't worked.  In recent weeks expert opinion has settled around a plan similar to the one we've been advocating (below) - national stay at home, surge medical equipment/beds/staff to the front lines, a testing/isolation regime like South Korea's (NDN's #4 is a Manhattan Project for a vaccine/testing/etc).  The economy cannot stand back up until the virus is tamed, and time for the President's magical thinking to end.  As we wrote earlier this week, now that Congress has taken dramatic steps to aid the US economy, it must step in now and make sure America finally has a plan to defeat the virus.  Our hope is that Speaker Pelosi form some kind of alliance with the nation's governors to not just get this plan in place but oversee its implementation in the coming months.  Getting America stood back up depends on it. 

For more on what we need to do right now see these pieces by

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel

Drs. Carroll and Jha

Professors Romer and Garber 

Laurie Garrett

Ed Yong 

NDN's been asking  our readers and members to call Congress every day until the President puts a plan in place and is clearly producing real results.  As we say above, the plan should include 3 core elements:

Surge Equipment/Beds/Staff To the Frontlines – The President and Congress have to take responsibility for a national plan to handle the extraordinary health care crisis that the nation will face in just a few days’ time.  We need wartime-level production of protective gear, ventilators, ICU beds, and isolation/quarantine wards.  We will need a way to employ more health care workers too – perhaps with temporary unemployment rising there can be a way to take qualified people and crash train them as hospital/health care staff. 

The President’s refusal to take responsibility for this part of our national response remains hard to understand and explain.  Congress must step in here and force both a funded national strategy and compliance with it in the coming days.  If the President really wants to show his support for a robust US healthcare system, the President should withdraw his support for a lawsuit which could cripple the ACA in the midst of this pandemic and encourage every state to expand Medicaid so more of our citizens get the care they need.  That states are being allowed to reopen the ACA sign up window is a welcome and smart step. 

On the "way overdue but good news" front it appears the Army Corp of Engineers is beginning to be deployed to help build more medical facilities in US hot spots. On Friday the President did take two additional steps which could be meaningful in the days ahead - he began nationalizing the supply chain for medical equipment, and he has started to mobilize the military to provide more direct personnel support fo the front lines in the days ahead.

More, Better, Faster Tests – While things have gotten much better on the testing front, we still have a very long way to go before our tests are ubiquitous and rapid – everywhere and done in minutes/hours, not days.  If we are ever to return to normal, efforts to aggressively screen and isolate those with infection (in public buildings, ports of entry, schools, and sports arenas) will have to become routine – like texting a friend.  This Guardian story looks at how mass testing helped slow the virus's spread in one Italian town, and this new article in Science magazine explains how mass testing was key to South Korea's flattening of the curve without major lock downs.  This new Atlantic article by Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer is an excellent deep dive on the importance of testing, and our massive failure to get it right so far. 

Developing ways of proving that you’ve had the virus and are now immune will also be really important, and would require, obviously, that every single American be tested at some point.  We found this thread by Yale Professor Nicholas Christakis to be helpful in understanding the issues around immunity and the need for rapid, ubiqitous "serological" tests which are of a different kind than the "PCR" tests which are being deployed right now. 

So, yes, we are talking about billions, not tens of thousands, of tests. The government should be making this kind of ubiquitous rapid testing regime part of the mandate of a new “Manhattan Project” which works to not just defeat COVID but give America far better tools to fight future pandemics.  For more on the need for crashing a broad regime for advance a vaccine, therapeutics, hospital equipment and diagnostics see this thread from Dr. Scott Gottlieb and this Boston Globe op-ed from Senator Markey and Peter Slavin.   

Last Saturday we received good news on the testing front - the FDA announced the approval of a rapid point of care PCR COVID19 test by the California company, Cepheid.  This test will be particularly important in hospitals and other triage facilities, and in keeping our front line health care professionals from getting sick themselves.  On Friday Abbott announced FDA approval for a 5-13 minute desktop PRC test - a huge advance if it is can realized in the coming weeks. 

Implement National Stay at Home/Develop A National Strategy For Students and Kids – As part of eventually developing a true national "stay at home" social/physical distancing strategy (incl with the federal workforce), the US govt will have to help communities and families come to terms with what it means that kids may be home until the fall semester (no schools, summer activities).  This is a large and important area which needs far more attention and creativity, but two initial thoughts:

1) Their Health – the early messages about young people being less vulnerable to COVID-19 and thus somehow less responsible has to be corrected aggressively in the days ahead.  We know from data that young people in other countries have become infected at very high rates, and seem to be critical to the rapid transmission of COVID.  But it is also for themselves – early data here in the US show that young people are turning up in ICU units at much higher rates than in China, and COVID can permanently damage the lungs of anyone infected. 

Gov Cuomo weighed in last Saturday on the need to change our collective mindset about young people, Tweeting "Younger people listen up: 55% of NYS #Coronavirus cases are ages 18-49. Young people aren’t invincible. You can get this and you can give it to someone older you love. You shouldn’t endanger your own health & you certainly shouldn't endanger other people's health. #StayAtHome." More leadership like this please.

2) Their sanity - What do we do with our kids for the next six months if schools and summer camps are cancelled? This is not just a sanity thing for these students and families - having kids at home will make it far harder to stand the economy back up when the virus ebbs. 

It is our recommendation that all schools and colleges involved in distance learning now develop a “pandemic module” to help young people better understand how to stay safe, reduce infection, and navigate the rigors of life at home, away from their friends and the lives they’ve built for themselves.  These kinds of courses may be the most valuable things that schools can do in the months ahead.

Do note that after weeks of embracing a strategy similar to what the President is apparently now fliting with, the UK has now gone into a full national "stay at home" approach for three weeks.  India has also announced a three week stay at home period.  It is time the US does the same.  A new Morning Consult poll shows supprt for a national stay at home period to be 77/19 - dramatic level of support for immediate, comprehensive action. 

The President's floating "Easter" as a return to normal date was deeply dangerous. It undermines the current social distancing efforts underway, and moves on the oppositive direction we should be heading in.  Perhaps the nation thought can use that date as a way of measuring whether our national government has gotten COVID under control, and if not, the President should resign and make way for others who can get the job done. 

Demand A Plan, More Focus on Young People, Vote By Mail

This document has moved to a new url, which you can find here.

Call Congress, Demand A National COVID-19 Response Plan Today

Over the past 10 days, we’ve been calling on the President and Mitch McConnell to match the leadership we’ve seen come from the House in fashioning a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 crisis.  

The President’s mismanagement of the crisis has been a breathtaking sight. Eight weeks since our first COVID case, and twelve since the President was first briefed about the dangers of COVID, our national testing plan is still not up and running and thus we still can’t identify, isolate, and treat those who’ve been infected by a virus whose carriers are frequently asymptomatic; we have no strategy to build hospital beds/quarantine spaces and ensure that our medical professionals have the equipment they need to care for the sick; critical positions in the federal government’s response hierarchy, like the DHS Secretary, remain unfilled; and leadership is desperately lacking in ensuring that our elections run smoothly this year and in figuring out what to do with all of our kids if schools and summer activities remain closed and unavailable.  While the President did finally weigh in on social distancing strategies and closures yesterday, it was days after steps had already been widely implemented across the country and of course inconsistent with the guidance given by the CDC earlier that day. 

We urge everyone reading this to call your Senators and Representative every morning until a plan is in place and it is achieving clear, daily reported results.  The Senate and House must do more than legislate now – they must create a select committee of some kind to interface with the Administration each day to help expedite decision making, and hold our errant President and his team accountable.  The President has already demonstrated that he is not up to the task of leading us through this crisis, and Congress must either adopt some new kind of partnership with him or work to remove him – just allowing his dangerous flailing to continue each day is unacceptable – more can be done. 

Yesterday, on a call with the nation’s governors, the President deviated from any reasonable understanding of the Federal Government’s role in a crisis like this and told the governors that when it came to emergency hospital beds, ventilators, masks, and protective equipment for health care workers, they are on their own.  A new report says that a US-based company is ready to ramp up ventilator production but hasn’t been asked by the Federal government.  The Senate has yet to take up a House bill designed to mitigate some of the economic damage which was endorsed by the President and passed last Friday – because Mitch McConnell decided to give the Senate a long weekend off, in the middle of this extraordinary crisis.  McConnell did find time, however, to put the word out to old GOP judges that it is time to retire – so he can ram through dozens more younger judges before, it appears, the Republicans lose power this fall.  Always party over country it seems for Moscow Mitch – even in our time of COVID.

We are writing to you each day because the scale of the governing failure we are witnessing just must be more aggressively challenged by all of us.  We must rise up and demand more from our elected leaders and our government.  To be clear – the nation does not have a COVID-19 response plan.  Despite the 8 weeks, the warnings, and the deaths, we still haven’t taken the elemental steps which should have been taken in January to contain and defeat the virus.  What is happening now could have been avoided or at least mitigated – which is why we must demand the government act with informed strategic intent and stop making mistakes which will cost this great nation so dearly. 

Make your calls.  Stay informed.  Keep fighting.  We can and must do better.

Godspeed, Simon

Biden Leads, COVID19 To Do List, WTF McConnell?

While it is likely that the COVID-19 crisis will create a new political dynamic in America, the current climate very much favors the Democrats and Joe Biden.  In recent polling, Biden’s lead over Trump has been consistently 8-11 points, landslide territory.  Using Real Clear Politics, Biden is ahead in most of the battleground states, with more than enough to get to 270.  Using FiveThirtyEight, Trump’s job approval is about where it was on Election Day 2018 when Democrats won by 8.6 pts and the Congressional Generic is +7 for the Democrats now.   The new NBC/WSJ poll has Party ID at 44D-36R – 8 pts.  Wherever you look, the structure of the race is 7-10 pts right now for the Democrats, a formidable lead at this point.

You can find this strong Democratic trend in the important Senate races too.  Gideon (ME), Kelly (AZ), and Cunningham (NC) have leads of 4-5-6 in polls taken in the past few weeks.  Ernst had a bad poll last week in Iowa, and the two former governors, Bullock (MT) and Hickenlooper (CO), are in very strong positions in their races (though with no recent polling).  While the GOP is likely to win in AL, the primary there has gotten really messy.  Basically everything has broken against Mitch McConnell since the Senate trial ended – at this point we think Dems are more likely than not to get to 50 in the Senate.

Joe Biden leads by a large margin in the Democratic Primary, and has big leads in all the states voting tomorrow.  NBC/WSJ had it 61/32 yesterday, so there is evidence that Biden’s lead is actually growing now.  If people vote tomorrow and he sweeps all four contests, he could grow even more and it would be our hope that Bernie gets out by week’s end.  With voting a bit in question after Tuesday, Democrats may have to do some creative things to officially end their primary and make Biden the nominee, particularly if there are no Conventions this year – watch for more on this from NDN in the coming days.

Be Loud About COVID-19 - As we wrote to you yesterday, we hope everyone reading this message calls their Senators and Representative today and demands Congress stay in until the nation has a real plan in place to battle COVID-19.  Looking at what’s been done in other nations, it is just shocking to realize how little the President has done since our first case was diagnosed a full 8 weeks ago.   In addition to the House bill which passed on Friday and still awaits McConnell's return from a four day weekend, consider all that still needs to be done:

☑ Ensure  that our national testing regime is in place and working (we’ve tested as many people in 8 weeks as South Korea does every day, and we each had our first case at the same time)

☑ Initiate Herculean efforts to build hospital beds and provide the proper equipment needed by our health care professionals

☑ Establish a clear national policy on social distancing, and don’t leave such heavy lifting to states and localities alone

☑ Pass the new Wyden Senate bill which would fund and enable a national vote by mail program for the general election ensuring that the election takes place as scheduled

☑ Launch a comprehensive, effective screening system for the millions of people who come into the country each day

☑ Appoint a COVID-19 spokesperson who American can rely on each day, and who tells the truth

☑ Create a national advisory board which studies how other nations are tackling COVID and can rush successful tactics to deployment here in the US

☑ Stand up a public temperature measurement corps which will identify carriers in public spaces and rush them to rapid testing and treatment (something being done in many other countries)

☑ Nominate and confirm people in every agency involved in the national response for every unfilled position immediately so that we are at full strength to fight in the days ahead (DHS Secretary for example!)

A new David Leonhardt analysis in the New York Times goes into detail about how the President squandered his opportunity to contain COVID-19 and has continually mismanaged the response.  There is no question that the President’s incompetence will cost Americans lives – perhaps tens of thousands – and will have done historic damage to our economy and our society more broadly.  The President had the tools to contain COVID but chose not to use them. 

Given all this, it is our hope that among the things Congress does in the days ahead is put the President’s removal back on the table.  Given the President’s unprecedented bungling of our nation’s response, he should be taken out of the chain of command now – there simply is no way he can be trusted to do what’s right in the days ahead given how much he has gotten wrong over many months now. 

If You Don't Like Trump's COVID-19 Response, Blame Mitch McConnell

“The 15 [cases], within a couple of days, are going to be down to close to zero” — Donald Trump, 2/27/20

In January, Mitch McConnell had his chance. He could have removed Trump from office. The case the House brought was overwhelming. A majority of the country wanted Trump removed. 75% wanted to see all the evidence. This venal, unwell, incompetent, vainglorious man could have been gone. Pence could have brought in Nikki Haley and started fresh, working to put Trump in the GOP’s rear view mirror. Instead, Mitch, in what was one of the gravest political misjudgments in American history, decided to keep Trump in the White House, lashing himself and his Party to everything Donald did from then on.

And here we are. Dangerous politicization of the ODNI and DHS — the people who keep us safe. Incomprehensively mismanaged COVID-19 response. Plummeting global markets. A savage Russian-led oil price war designed to harm our domestic industries. Empty desks in critical positions throughout the government. Daily rantings, lying, and scary delusions of a Mad King, who seems increasingly disconnected from the world the rest of us live in. America is in a profound governing crisis, courtesy of Mitch McConnell.

The public hasn’t been happy with Mitch’s big decision. Polling since the President’s Senate trial ended has been universally bad for the GOP. The President trails Joe Biden by 7–10 pts; his job approval is a point lower today (-9.6) than it was on Election Day 2018 when Democrats won by 8.6 pts; the only battleground state he leads in today is Texas. The Congressional Generic has moved from +5 for Dems to +7.3 today, the largest it has been in some time, and now finds a similar margin as the national numbers (7–9 pts). Every Senate poll taken since the trial has the frontline GOPer (AZ, CO, ME, NC) down to their Dem challenger. A new Iowa poll has Senator Ernst losing 10 pts in her job approval, 57% to 47%, and her “hard re-elect” is just 41% (meaning she can lose). House GOPers are more likely to lose seats this cycle than gain them. After leading his party into three worst case elections in a row in 2017, 2018, and 2019, 2020 could be Donald and Mitch’s worst election yet. As can be seen below, recent well-regarded national polls have Trump losing decisively to Biden in 2020:

Biden 53, Trump 43 (CNN)

Biden 50, Trump 41 (YouGov/Yahoo)

Biden 49, Trump 41 (Fox)

Biden 52, Trump 45 (ABC/WaPo)

Biden 52, Trump 44 (NBC/WSJ)

If Joe Biden wins Michigan tomorrow — and the four most recent polls in the state have Biden up 41, 30, 24, and 21 points — the Democratic primary race is over and Sanders will have been beaten fair and square. It may take a while for him to get out, but the rationale for him continuing will not exist, particularly given the grave health issues he faces. Biden’s lead over Bernie is 16 points in the last two national polls, and he is far ahead in delegates. There just is no path for Bernie. 2020 is not 2016, and we shouldn’t expect a similar outcome in the primary or the general for the Democrats. In a new Medium piece, Simon offers some ideas on how the Biden campaign can continue to grow, innovate, and win, including adopting a #DemAvengers strategy of running with 15–20 people at the top of the ticket, not just 2; and re-imagining the “War Room” so it is 3–4 million people going to work every day, not just 200 kids in a headquarters.

As we look to protect our people and the economy from COVID-19 in the coming days, we also have to work to protect our democracy too. The President has used fictional national emergencies to do all sorts of things these past few years — confiscate money from DOD to build his border wall, repeatedly levy tariffs, etc. But now he has a real national emergency, and it is essential that responsible leaders of both parties establish a bi-partisan process for making the big decisions ahead of us; the danger of him using this moment to assume dictatorial control over the nation is a clear and present one, and our eyes need to be wide open here. He has already shown he cannot lead us through the COVID-19 crisis, and Congress is going to have to step in in some dramatic way to ensure that the damage he does is limited in the days ahead. Of course, the best course would be for him to resign, and let Pence take over. While remote, I am willing to bet the talk of this in GOP circles is more common now than people think, particularly after the President’s truly unhinged and terrifying performance at the CDC on Friday.

Coronavirus Crisis

Over the past few weeks, NDN has published several new analyses on the health, political, and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Below you can find our recent work on this subject as well as our recommendations to Congress and the Administration. 

Health Plan

Demand A Plan, More Focus On Young People, Vote By Mail - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 3/19/20 - The US government's response to COVID-19 has been inadequate, and isn't getting better. Mass rapid testing is needed now, as is a campaign to help young Americans stay safe. The US should also embrace national vote by mail for the fall election.

Call Congress, Demand A National COVID-19 Response Plan Today - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 3/17/20 - Eight weeks into the COVID19 crisis, the US govt is still without a national plan to combat the virus.  Call Congress today and demand they step up and force the Trump to do what is necessary to protect us. 

Economic Response

How Congress Should Build A Stimulus Package To Counter The Coronavirus Crisis - Chris Taylor, NDN, 3/19/20 - Congress should strive for a massive fiscal stimulus aimed at three broad goals: shore up the healthcare system and pandemic-response, provide aid to workers and businesses directly harmed by the pandemic, and conduct a massive cash transfer program to boost the overall economy.

Coronavirus Is An Economic Battle The Federal Reserve Can't Win - Rob Shapiro, The Washington Post, 3/5/20 - Our long-time contributor Rob Shapiro has a new piece in the Washington Post that discusses the economic consequences of the coronavirus and argues that recent efforts by the Fed to shore up the economy likely won't be enough to stop wider economic harm.

Political Effects

Biden Leads, COVID19 To Do List, WTF McConnell? - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 3/16/20 - As the Democratic Presidential primary ends, Joe Biden and the Democrats find themselves in a very strong electoral position.  Congress needs to step up and forge a national response to COVID19 our POTUS has failed to provide.

If You Don't Like Trump's COVID-19 Response, Blame Mitch McConnell - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 3/9/20 - Mitch has his chance to remove the Mad King from office, and blew it.  Now everything he does - include the blown COVID-19 response, is on Mitch and his colleagues. 

Biden Takes Control

Even for an era of unrelenting political drama, the events of the past few weeks will earn a special place in the history books. Some combination of Bloomberg’s debate fiasco, Biden’s improved public performances and strong showing in Nevada, fear of Bernie and grave Bernie missteps, Clyburn and South Carolina rallying for Biden, and the incredible sight of Pete/Amy/Beto with the VP in Texas produced one of the more extraordinary electoral nights in our storied history.

It is important to note that the movement towards Biden began before South Carolina. Polls taken midweek last week in FL and NC showed significant movement, as did some late polls in South Carolina. Polls taken on Sunday and Monday showed continued movement, leading us to write on Monday morning that “Biden has a real shot at keeping it close on delegates tomorrow night and then opening up a permanent electoral/polling lead by later in the week — one that if maintained should be enough over time to outpace Bernie on delegates and win the nomination.”

That the movement or surge as some are calling it began before South Carolina and didn’t have one cause of course makes it more durable and sustainable in the weeks ahead. It wasn’t a blip, or an accident, but something deep and profound, as we saw last night. And to us what that means is that we don’t know if this is a two person race for the Democratic nomination any more. Morning Consult had the race at 36 Biden, 28 Bernie yesterday morning. If Biden opens up a 10–15 point national lead against Bernie this week we think the race is functionally over (far more likely now that Bloomberg has withdrawn) and Bernie will not be able to catch the VP in the coming March states. Bernie showed last night that rather than expanding his coalition it has contracted, and he is running far below his 2016 numbers, even losing states he won last time. As of this writing, he only definitely broke 30% in CO, UT, and VT. He is below 30 in Texas and may very well be under 30 in CA as well when all the votes are counted.

We assume that the race will continue through at least the end of March, and we believe the Biden campaign should welcome the fight. It is critical that the campaign takes the money it raises and starts to build out a more serious national operation, including beginning the process of creating more paid and organic state specific media and a rapid upgrade of the digital operation. Going head to head with Bernie these next few weeks and beating him will also create a clear end to the campaign, preventing the “rigged” narrative which was so debilitating in 2016 from returning.

When the dust begins to settle on the Democratic side, opinion makers are going to find Trump and the GOP looking at really bad general election numbers. Biden leads most national polls by 7–9 points; the Congressional generic is plus 7 Democrats; 538’s Trump job approval tacker among likely/registered voters is minus 8.9, slightly worse than Election Day 2018 when Trump/GOP lost the national House vote by 8.6 pts. This 7–9 point spread, a spread which opened up in the 2018 cycle, has been constant and steady for the past few years. An incumbent being down 7–9 points, in the low to mid 40s, is often a place impossible to come back from. It perhaps explains why Trump was willing to commit a series of felony level crimes to try to knock Biden from the race — he and his team know that beating Biden is going to be very very hard.

The battleground state picture is no better for Trump. Using Real Clear Politics, Trump trails Biden in AZ, FL, GA, MI, NC, PA, and WI and only leads in Texas, and there by just a few points. While we still have a long way to go in this race, if the general election were held today Biden would beat Trump, badly.

The Senate picture is also bad for the GOP. Assuming Dems lose Alabama, they need four pick ups to wrest control from Mitch McConnell if they win the Presidency. Most analysts believe Colorado is gone for the GOP though there are no recent polls. In Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly had led Senator McSally in every poll taken this cycle, and one had her at 39% (!) last week. A new poll in Maine has Democrat Sara Gideon ahead of Senator Susan Collins 43–42. A poll last week had Senator Tillis’s job approval at 38% (!) and Trump’s at 45/52 (-7 pts); a new NBC Marist poll has Tillis trailing Democrat Cal Cunningham 48–43. In these recent polls the incumbent Senate GOPers are all in the low 40s, even high 30s — again a place few incumbents ever come back from.

As for the Biden campaign now, some thoughts:

Develop A Clear Under 45 Year Old Strategy — The most important way the VP can expand his coalition in the days ahead is by developing and executing a clear strategy to reach and persuade younger Americans. This age cohort went Democratic by 28 pts in 2018, and are essential to the Party’s prospects in 2020. Engaging them will also be critical to Biden developing a truly modern digital campaign, one which can not only raise the money he needs but also begin to create the on-line army of amplifiers he needs to counter the daily barrage of disinformation surely to come from Trumpworld.

Re-Imagine The War Room — The DNC has a very competent rapid response team in place, but our networked world allows us to re-imagine it; rather than being a few dozen staff fighting it out each day, we should view the War Room as 3–4 million people in the day to day information war, wired into the HQ, taking their stuff and amplifying it through their networks, on and off line. As someone who helped design and run the original War Room in 1992, I can say it is time to update this concept for a new day.

Re-Design How A Presidential Campaign Is Run — To create the maximum amount of intensity and excitement this fall, the Biden campaign should learn from its historic Pete/Amy/Beto day and think of the campaign as 15–20 top Democrats (not just the candidate and VP) all working together to win the election. This allows the campaign to reach more voters every day and more states/media markets, and creates more agile and targeted rapid response and offensive messaging opportunities. I also think it will send a power signal that the Democratic Party is united, mature, and ready to lead and govern on Day 1. The contrast of this with Trump’s band of misfits, extremists, and criminals will be very very stark and powerful.

So while there were many contributors to the great Biden comeback last night, the most important in our mind was the improved performance of the candidate himself. There have been times in this primary where Biden had seemed lost — this is not uncommon in the long grueling primary fights we have here in America. But what is important is that when candidates get lost, to win, they have to get found; and Biden did get found. He righted his own ship, he raised his game, he became far more forceful and aggressive, more compelling, more Presidential. He made the sale. He has been really good these past few weeks, showing above everything else that he will be ready to hit the ground running in January if he wins.

And unlike our current President, who won only with aid from without — Russia, Comey letter, Jill Stein — and bending the rules, Joe Biden and his campaign are doing it on their own, against extraordinary odds and unprecedented opposition (Trump/Ukraine and Bloomberg), in their own way. Campaigns which have overcome adversity as Biden’s has are often the most powerful and successful as we predict this one will be.

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