Biden and Sanders will face off in debates without an audience and contact between candidates and voters will be minimized.
In an election involving two 70-year-old candidates, it is normal that the coronavirus is not just a political issue but a very personal concern. Bernie Sanders is 78 years old and had a heart attack less than six months ago; Joe Biden has already turned 77, and there is a brain aneurysm on his record . Democratic primaries are held within an obvious risk group.
Six states voted Tuesday and the big news on Election Night, in addition to a solid victory for Joe Biden, was that there really was no Election Night: the two candidates decided to cancel their rallies because of the coronavirus. In the middle of winter, these kinds of events in which thousands of people crowd in an enclosed space screaming and singing are the worst nightmare of an epidemiologist. And as much as the candidates love to take a mass bath, right now that way of campaigning represents a danger for themselves, for their voters and for the country.
Former Vice President and Democratic candidate Joe Biden
Sanders is famous for its massive rallies, while Biden has had a little more trouble filling. The former vice president has announced that he will celebrate in a virtual way the events that he has planned in the coming days in the states of Florida and Illinois, where next to Ohio there will be primaries next Tuesday. At the moment, the Sanders campaign has not announced any changes to its plans for the next few days.
However, no one will find it more painful to cancel rallies than Trump, 73, who is passionate about the genre. After much minimizing the virus and saying that he would go ahead with his rallies, the White House has announced that from now on they will go case by case deciding whether the event is to be held or not. However, there is a reality: For the first time in months, Trump has no rally on his agenda.
Silent debates and difficult choices
Fear of the coronavirus will also change debates in the Democratic primaries. The audience that normally laughs applauds and says “oh” during a face-to-face between candidates is going to disappear. When Biden and Sanders shake hands (or bump their elbows) next Sunday in Phoenix, they will do so in perfect silence. CNN has decided, after being asked by both candidates, that in the first televised debate between the two, there be no public. “Our number one priority is and will continue to be security,” they said.
Although limiting direct contact between voters and candidates is going to complicate their lives, the effects of the coronavirus go far beyond campaigning. The elections themselves will have difficulties: in the California and Texas primaries, there were already polling station workers who did not attend due to the coronavirus, and disinfectants had to be applied in several voting centers to prevent the voting machines from becoming outbreaks of contagion.
Another different debate is how the coronavirus can affect the electoral participation in these primaries: those over 65 votes the most and now they are also the most aware of not getting it. That group largely supports Joe Biden, and if his participation drops, that could have political consequences.