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Biden's final nomination run stalls on national lockdown

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Allies: Joe Biden and former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. Photo: Reuters

Allies: Joe Biden and former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

Allies: Joe Biden and former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. Photo: Reuters

FORMER US vice-president Joe Biden looks to have a clear path to taking on President Donald Trump in November with only the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic seemingly standing in his way.

Mr Biden holds an essentially insurmountable delegate lead over his last remaining rival, Bernie Sanders, yet the Vermont senator remains in the race.

And with several states delaying their primaries to avoid the spread of Covid-19, Mr Biden can't reach the required majority of pledged convention delegates until May or June.

The former vice-president, who proudly calls himself a "tactile politician", can't chase those votes in public because he's essentially confined to his Delaware home like any other American in a quasi-national quarantine. His new campaign manager and her staff are working from home, too.

For now, Mr Biden's campaign has little choice but to embrace an unprecedented political purgatory.

"Three weeks ago, we were on the verge of collapse as a campaign, so this is a very recent phenomenon," said Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn, insisting the 77-year-old remains focused on playing a productive role in the coronavirus response and sewing up a nominating fight that he doesn't see as finished.

"We will figure out how to put together a general election campaign for this difficult time," Ms Dunn said.

Mr Biden is confident enough in his position, campaign co-chairman Cedric Richmond said, that he's started to consider possibilities for a running mate. But Mr Richmond said no vetting process has begun in earnest.

His former Democratic presidential rivals have coalesced around him, too. On Wednesday alone, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard dropped out of the race and threw her full support behind Mr Biden, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted he had the "right experience, empathy, and character to lead".

Mr Biden announced Jen O'Malley Dillon, a veteran Democratic operative, as his new campaign manager on March 12, two days after another round of primary victories widened his lead over Mr Sanders. But in the same gathering where Ms O'Malley Dillon was introduced, she and Mr Dunn told the staff they were shuttering the Philadelphia headquarters and all other Biden offices.

With social distancing already taking hold, Mr Biden and his wife Jill addressed the group by telephone from their Wilmington home.

The campaign has promised the expected build-out from a relatively shoestring staff - growth having been hampered by Mr Biden's inconsistent fundraising until his recent primary victories - into a national footprint befitting a nominee. But as Ms O'Malley Dillon plots general election strategy, there's little evidence that mass hiring is imminent.

Mathematically, there aren't enough delegates up in April for Mr Biden to claim the nomination. More likely he'd need to win 75pc of the delegates from scheduled contests to win the nomination outright on May 19 with Mr Sanders still in the race. If he doesn't, June 2 would become his more likely clinching date.

Both candidates have indicated they won't descend into a bitter fight.

Mr Sanders was at home in Vermont on Thursday, beginning to speak to top supporters about his campaign going forward.

His team understands he has virtually no chance but they also said Mr Sanders wants to leave on his own terms. In an email to supporters, Mr Sanders didn't ask for campaign contributions for the second straight day - an indication he won't be in the race much longer.

Irish Independent