On Politics: Trump Backs Off a Promise

By Giovanni Russonello

Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

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Where things stand

President Trump’s hopes that the economy would be “opened up” by Easter have come to an end. He announced on Sunday that the federal government would extend social-distancing guidelines until at least the end of April in its fight against the coronavirus. Trump also walked back his threat to institute a quarantine in the New York tristate area, the most heavily infected part of the country; instead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a 14-day travel advisory telling residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to “refrain from nonessential domestic travel.”

Though it is an election year, Trump’s main Democratic counterpart in the news media hasn’t been a presidential candidate. It’s been the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, whose measured, pathos-laden (and, significantly, largely factual) daily news conferences are typically accompanied by slide shows with information graphics. Even as he joins forces with the federal government to confront the crisis, Cuomo has made hard-to-miss digs at Trump — while presenting himself as a leader ready to take charge. “We have been behind on this virus from Day 1,” he said on Sunday. The governor said that rather than being “reactive,” he was seeking to “be proactive, get ahead of it.”

Meanwhile, Joe Biden is struggling to find a comfortable register in this virus-driven news cycle — or, for that matter, to tie the loop on the Democratic nomination in a virus-halted election. No candidate has ever lost the nomination after leading by as much as he is now. But amid all this upheaval, his arguments for electability aren’t looking ironclad. A newly released poll from ABC News and The Washington Post shows Biden neck-and-neck with Trump in a general election matchup. And Biden lags badly in terms of voter passion. Just 24 percent of his supporters say they’re “very enthusiastic” about supporting him, compared with a majority of Trump voters, according to the poll.

This year’s elections could become the first virtual campaign in history. And here’s another first: More than three million people filed for unemployment in just one week, quadrupling the previous record. How politicians respond to the needs of millions who now find themselves unable to pay rent or buy groceries will help define their legacies. “This is the question that is going to dominate the election: How did you perform in the great crisis?” Tom Cole, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, told our reporters Jonathan Martin, Reid J. Epstein and Maggie Haberman. As they point out in a new article, this year’s campaign could end up being radically shortened: It could be hard for national politicians — let alone down-ballot candidates — to rise above the noise of coronavirus anxieties until at least the start of autumn.

Photo of the weekend

President Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper watched the Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, depart Norfolk, Va., for New York City on Saturday to support the city’s response to the coronavirus.

A reporter’s view of how Asian-Americans have been targeted

By Matt Stevens

The past several weeks have been trying for everyone. And Asian-Americans in particular have had to worry about not only their health, but also their safety.

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