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5 questions heading into Tuesday's Democratic primaries

Nikki Foster, democratic candidate for Ohio's first congressional district, votes early at the Warren County Board of Elections, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Lebanon, Ohio. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
March 16, 2020 - 10:55 PM

Four states are scheduled to hold Democratic presidential primaries on Tuesday amid a global pandemic and outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Here are five questions ahead of voting:

WILL THE ELECTIONS TAKE PLACE?

Nothing is certain in the age of the coronavirus. Three states scheduled to vote after Tuesday postponed their primaries, even though the four scheduled to vote this week — Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — initially vowed to push ahead.

Voting clusters large numbers of people at polling stations often staffed by older workers and volunteers — exactly the dynamic medical experts want to avoid right now. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday suggested delaying Tuesday's votes. And on Monday night, Ohio's Republican governor Mike DeWine agreed, saying the state's health director would declare a health emergency and order the polls closed.

WHO WILL VOTE?

Presuming voting is still on, who turns out? Turnout has surged in recent Democratic contests as a wave of suburban voters helped catapult former Vice-President Joe Biden to his solid lead in the race.

All of the states allow early voting, so there is a good chance that many people cast ballots remotely by mail. Still, it wouldn't be a surprise if turnout drops significantly.

CAN BIDEN KEEP PULLING AWAY?

Biden vaulted to his front-runner position on March 3, also known as Super Tuesday, and has never looked back. He added to his advantage in last week's primaries, besting Sanders in key states like Michigan and Missouri and dominating in Mississippi, where Biden's base of black voters gave him a massive delegate haul.

It's exceedingly difficult for Sanders to catch up with Biden at this point because the Democratic Party's rules award delegates proportionally. That means that even if the Vermont senator won the states up for grabs on Tuesday, he'd split their delegates with Biden.

CAN BIDEN REPAIR HIS STANDING WITH LATINOS?

Sanders is in a tough position, but he's made one noteworthy addition to his coalition — Latinos, who powered Sanders to wins in California and Nevada. Latino voters tend to be younger, and Sanders' support is largely youthful. But some Democratic Latinos are also angry at the heavy pace of deportations under the Obama administration.

Biden has taken steps to make up for that. Last night he joined Sanders in a pledge to suspend deportations for his first 100 days. Three of the four states scheduled to vote Tuesday have sizable Latino populations, and Florida, heavy with Cuban immigrants, may be an especially bad match for Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.

WILL TUESDAY BE CONCLUSIVE?

Tuesday's elections were already well underway with early voting before the full force of the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S. But that's not true of the half of the states that have still yet to cast ballots. Some could shift to mail-in contests; others, like Louisiana, have delayed their contests until June 22, after the traditional close of the nominating period. It's unclear, though, that there will be more days of large-scale voting.

Although Biden has assembled a strong coalition, there's still a significant split as liberal and especially younger voters overwhelmingly stick with Sanders. If the primary effectively ends Tuesday, can these voters be brought back into the fold? Or will Biden have to turn his attention to President Donald Trump in the general election without significant chunks of his party?

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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