It feels like every few minutes, something really surprising happens because of the coronavirus. Now the Democratic presidential debate that was scheduled for Sunday night in Phoenix, Arizona, is moved to Washington, D.C.; also, Jorge Ramos of Univision, who was scheduled to moderate, will not participate. He was “possibly exposed to coronavirus. While he is not exhibiting any symptoms, he has stepped down from his role” as moderator. He will be replaced by Univision’s Ilia Calderón.
Heading into this, there was little political upside for Joe Biden to participate in Sunday’s debate. He’s ahead by 154 delegates, and the four states voting next week — presuming voters in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio will still be able to go to the polls safely next week? — all look pro-Biden, as does Georgia the week after. While Bernie Sanders is not mathematically eliminated, he needs to stop Biden from winning 1,127 of the remaining 2239 — a bit more than 50 percent of the remaining delegates — to prevent Biden from hitting 1,991 delegates and clinching the nomination. (If no candidate reaches a majority of pledged delegates, superdelegates — party leaders and officials — are allowed to vote, and a candidate must get 2,376 delegates to become the nominee. The vast majority of the superdelegates prefer Biden to Sanders.)
Biden is eager to begin his general election campaign against Trump, and he appears to be in a position where he can largely ignore Sanders. Does he bother with Sunday’s debate? And considering how rapidly everything else in American life is being canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus, how certain is it that Sunday’s debate will go on as scheduled?