Campaign 2020

Get up-to-date 2020 Campaign news from our reporters

Driving Joe Biden’s campaign comeback: Voices of Virginia’s black voters

RICHMOND, Virginia– Former Vice President Joe Biden swept Virginia on Mar. 3, despite early polls showing Biden, Sen....

“It’s not easy”: Bernie Sanders struggles with youth voter turnout ahead of the general election

WASHINGTON – It’s not easy. Sen. Bernie Sanders began his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination with hopes of...

How Warren fell, and took down Bloomberg with her

WASHINGTON -- Before she ended her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Elizabeth Warren went after...

First-generation voters take to the polls in California primary

LOS ANGELES – Jorge Bravo paces back-and-forth outside of a polling place in South Gate, Calif., as his 18-year-old daughter Guadalupe casts her first ballot.

Guadalupe Bravo is not only a first-time voter, but a first-generation voter. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she said she casts her ballot on behalf of herself, her family and her community. The LA neighborhood where Bravo lives is 95 percent Latinx.

“Sometimes our voices aren’t really heard so voting is a great way to voice out our opinions,” Bravo said.

In 2020, millennials and Generation Z will make up 37% of the electorate. Of the 73 million millennials in the United States today, 48 million are first generation, according to the Council for Opportunity in Education.

Bravo said she made the decision to cast a ballot without much convincing. The Bernie Sanders supporter said she did not learn to vote from her parents, like some of her peers. She relied on teachers and Google to decipher the logistics of voting.

“It’s kind of scary just because I don’t know what to expect,” Bravo said. “Actually before this I searched up do I need to take anything to vote. But I’m really excited to start now that I can.”

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has repeatedly said increasing voter turnout is paramount to taking back the White House. First-time voters, including first-generation voters, are a critical demographic in increasing Democratic voter turnout. Republicans, meanwhile, have been showing up in historic numbers for President Trump in the early state primaries.

Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan organization aimed at pushing people to the polls, said they reach first-generation voters via text and social media. They provide educational information to break down language barriers, for both first-generation voters and immigrants who are naturalized citizens.

“We are all about not only educating young voters,” said Rock the Vote Digital Director Teja Foster. “A lot of Americans are taught the voting process through generational repetitiveness or your parents taking you to the polls. First-generation voters don’t have that.”

Bravo said political conversations around the dinner table were not common in her house. Even so, she said some of her most fervent political beliefs developed because of her status as a first-generation American.

Beyond immigration reform, Bravo said she is an enthusiastic supporter of free four-year college, especially as she sees friends who are accepted into top-tier universities unable to pay for them.

“It’s been something that has been instilled in me for a very long time,” Bravo said. “You know, go to college so that you can pursue a good career, because we didn’t have that opportunity.”

Bravo’s friend Nisa Jones, who is excited to cast her first ballot in November, said protecting the planet is the most pressing issue. She also wants to see family separation stop, but emphasized environmental policy as her top priority.

“If we don’t have somewhere to live, then nobody’s going to be able to vote, regardless of immigration status,” Jones said.

Like Bravo, Jones said she learned about the political process at school. She said current events quizzes and AP Government have inspired her to keep up with political news.

Bravo’s father said he’s proud to see Guadalupe and her two older siblings taking advantage of the opportunity to vote.

“By voting, she’s giving the power to someone who we hope will work for everyone the same without considering their social class,” Jorge Bravo said.

The younger Bravo said she thinks about the fact that she will be able to take her children to the polls, and teach them about the voting process.

“It’s great because I didn’t have that opportunity but I will be able to help my children,” Bravo said.

As Bravo walked out of the polling place, flashing a thumbs up to onlookers and quickly putting on her “I voted” sticker, she offered a suggestion to make voting more accessible for first-generation voters.

“Some of the terminology was a little bit confusing so that kind of threw me off a little bit.”

Come November, Bravo said she’ll brush up on her voting vocabulary and return to the polls.

“I think it’s important for everybody to voice their opinions and to have a say in what goes on in our country,” said Bravo.

The heat is on: Californians call for climate change plans in the 2020 election

LOS ANGELES – Daniel Kohanbash could see the raging Getty Fire from a dorm room window at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“It smells like there’s a barbeque on campus, times ten,” Kohanbash said, a sophomore at UCLA. “It’s obviously something that was scary.”

The Getty Fire came close enough to UCLA’s campus for the university to cancel classes last October. The fire destroyed homes and caused dangerous air quality conditions as it blazed for days in Los Angeles. It was not a fatal fire, but more than 100 people died in California wildfires in 2018 and 2019, according to Cal Fire.

Some of the most devastating wildfires in California’s recent history have been ignited by power lines, not climate change. But experts said the effects of climate change — including high heat, drought and dry shrubbery — fan the flames.

“Climate change can set the stage by creating really favorable fuel conditions,” Katharine Reich of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability said. Reich said California can expect an increase in days hotter than 100 degrees.

Democratic candidates for president have appealed to California voters by promising to address climate change in the West Coast specifically. Former Vice President Joe Biden has committed to making progress on a California high-speed rail, in hopes of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said his Green New Deal can curtail California’s now infamous wildfires.

Experts say a shrinking water reservoir and rising sea level are also concerning California residents.

“It’s something that will impact everybody in some way or another,” Reich said. “Climate change isn’t going to spare you.”

While environmental legislation hits close to home in California to a higher degree, voters across the nation see climate change as a more pressing issue than ever, according to a recent survey from Climate Nexus, Yale and George Mason University. It’s second only to health care among Super Tuesday voters.

All the remaining candidates in the Democratic field have vowed to rejoin the Paris Agreement.

“We live in a system that was built on burning fossil fuels,” Reich said. “We can try to decarbonize our own lives as much as we can, but in the system we’ll only get so far. With collective political action we can actually start to change that system.”

Students at Virginia Commonwealth University gathered for a Super Tuesday watch party, and they left disappointed.

RICHMOND — Virginia Commonwealth University students felt the “Bern” at a Super Tuesday watch party as they anxiously waited for results, but a Bernie Sanders victory never came.

Nearly all of the VCU students who gathered to watch the election results on TV at an event organized by NextGen America, an organization committed to increasing the youth vote, voted for the Vermont Democratic presidential contender.

“I voted for Bernie Sanders because I really feel like he is working and has worked his whole life to create a more equitable society,” Samantha Jaffe said.

Sanders won Colorado, Utah and Vermont, but former Vice President Joe Biden was in the lead with the delegates to the national nominating convention, taking Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. It is likely that Sanders will win California and Biden will win Maine, but results are not conclusive yet. A big win in California may give Sanders the edge he needs to win a higher number of delegates.


CHARLOTTE, North Carolina–Former Vice President Joe Biden won the North Carolina Democratic primary on Tuesday in decisive fashion, capturing over 40% of the state’s vote while overtaking the national delegate lead and putting Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign on the defensive.

It’s been a big week for a man who had never won a presidential primary in his two previous campaigns. Biden’s victory came on the heels of the South Carolina Democratic primary, where he cruised to a dominant showing, picking up 48.4% of the vote. In the final days leading up to the pivotal Super Tuesday vote, two Democratic candidates –former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar –dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden.

Tuesday’s results were a far cry from where things stood in late February. An NBC News/Marist poll conducted Feb. 23-27 showed Sanders narrowly winning North Carolina with 26% of the vote, Biden in second at 24% and Bloomberg third at 15%.

Esi Bonney, a Charlotte resident, said she decided to vote for Biden after Klobuchar dropped out of the race.

“Knowing that she supported him, I felt like I should also do the same with my vote,” Bonney said.

At the Raleigh Times Bar in state capital, Biden’s supporters and campaign workers gathered as results from Tuesday’s votes came in, celebrating as their preferred candidate took home a resounding early win in Virginia.

And then, North Carolina.

They shouted as Biden was announced as the winner, jumped into each other’s arms and guffawed sarcastically as American Samoa gave Bloomberg his first primary delegates.

At the downtown Raleigh bar, Biden’s voters said the way that the former vice president has dealt with loss and hardship–his first wife and young daughter were killed in a car crash in 1972 and his son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 –resonated with them, and his values mirror closely those of North Carolina.

Allison Fenderson said she has always been a Biden supporter. She waited for him to enter the race in the 2016 presidential election, which he didn’t do in part because of the death of his son,and again this time. She said when he talks about his past hardships, North Carolinians can identify and “empathize” with him.

“North Carolinians are really looking for a leader who’s going to be empathetic,” said state Sen. Mike Woodward. “They really want to know what’s in your heart. Are you the kind of leader they can respect, the kind of leader they can follow?”

Bloomberg didn’t deliver the moderate challenge to Biden some thought he might. The former New York City mayor didn’t even reach the viability threshold, 15% support, in North Carolina—the state where he opened his first campaign office, located in Charlotte.

Fenderson said there’s a big difference between Bloomberg and Biden: wealth. For Fenderson, Joe is an “everyday, mainstream, work of the mill person,” while Bloomberg“just wants to throw money.”

“He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he has lived with a silver spoon in his mouth,” Fenderson said. “Our election is not for sale. Maybe for Republicans, but for people that believe in democracy and that the government belongs to the people, it’s not for sale.”

More than 1.3 million people voted in North Carolina’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, surpassing the total of about 1.1 million in the state’s 2016 Democratic primary.

North Carolina has stayed true to its history as a battleground state. President Donald Trump narrowly won North Carolina in the 2016 general election. That same year the state elected Democrat Roy Cooper as governor by a 0.2% vote margin. And in 2018, Democrats put a dent in the Republican stronghold in the North Carolina state legislature, winning back nine seats and taking away the Republican supermajority.

Mark Scott, a Republican voter, said he’s seen the state become more purple, though he’s lived inCharlotte for less than two years. Whichever party wins the state in 2020, he said, depends on who the Democrats nominate.

“I think it’s very up in the air at the moment,” Scott said.


RICHMOND, Virginia.– Former Vice President Joe Biden swept Virginia on Tuesday, despite early polls showing Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg running neck-and-neck. Virginia was one of the 10 Super Tuesday states Biden carried, giving him the front-runner status over Sanders.

“I wasn’t expecting such a commanding win,” said 47-year-old voter Katherine Jordan. “He has the best chance of healing the divisions in the country and reinstating our standing in the world,” said Jordan.

Biden finished first in Virginia with more than 50% of the Democratic vote and capturing 49 delegates to the national nominating convention, followed by Sanders at 23% with 19 delegates. Bloomberg finished fourth in the state behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., receiving less than 10% of the vote and no delegates.

Exit polls Tuesday showed black voters accounted for the majority of Biden’s Virginia victory.

“The black community stands strong behind Biden and as history, statistics and results show black people, especially black women, are showing up at the polls more than any other community,” said Richmond City Democratic Committee Chair Jamie Nolan.

Sanders is struggling to secure support from black voters and appeal to moderates, which was particularly true in Virginia.

Jacqueline Morgan, who grew up in “red, red, red” Northern Virginia – which now is more blue, wasn’t surprised by Biden’s win. Just last year, the state’s legislature flipped blue for the first time in 25 years, but Morgan said the Democrats in Virginia are moderate.

A self-described pragmatic, Morgan finds Sanders Medicare for All plan unrealistic. She thinks Biden can generate change incrementally.

“For Virginia, it’s a great day today,” said Morgan.

A Richmond resident for 35 years, Rhonda Gilmer said young voters and an increasingly diverse state population has helped new, progressive ideas take hold on the state.

“Biden could take that information and use his experience as well as his connections to push that agenda better than Bernie–he’s done it before.”

Gilmer says she doesn’t see a substantial difference between Biden and Sanders, but she says Biden can better understand the struggles of the working class.

“He [Biden] can go pound to pound with Trump and that’s what made my decision,” said Gilmer. “Biden’s going to win.”

Despite devoting far more resources to Virginia than any other candidate, Bloomberg failed to meet the threshold of getting 15 percent of the vote to be awarded delegates.

The billionaire mayor has seven field offices and 80 staffers and put $18 million of advertising into the state. He also made seven visits to Virginia, including a trip to McLean on Saturday.

Bloomberg also has ties to the state. He spent nearly $2.5 million in Virginia’s last election cycle to help the legislature flip blue. In 2013, Bloomberg’s political action committee also spent $1.7 million in ads to elect former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

But McAuliffe endorsed Biden on Saturday, after the former vice president’s landslide win in South Carolina–a win that triggered a number of endorsements from leading Democrats around the country and further damaged Sanders’ chances at maintaining his front-runner status.

Two significant endorsements came from former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who suspended their presidential campaigns on Sunday and Monday, respectively. Their endorsements invite moderate voters to consolidate support around Biden.

John Murray said he would have voted for Buttigieg to support the South Bend mayor’s historic run as the first openly gay presidential candidate but voted for Biden after Buttigieg’s endorsement.

“It showed we really needed somebody with experience and good judgement–someone who can really bring the whole country together,” said Murray.

Young Virginia voters support Sanders while older voters back Biden in super Tuesday contest

RICHMOND, Virginia.– Support for former Vice President Joe Biden’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination has surged in Virginia after his landslide victory in South Carolina Saturday, but he still trails behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-V.t., leading into the Super Tuesday vote.

Current polling results suggest Biden will claim victory in the Virginia Democratic primary, securing the state’s 99 delegates. Polls before his landslide win in South Carolina showed Virginia to be a tight race between Biden, Sanders and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

“Above everything else, I think Biden can beat Trump,” said Northumberland County resident Nolan Noel.

He said Biden’s experience will help him understand how to ensure health care for people like himself who have medical disabilities—in his case, congestive heart failure, kidney failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“I prefer to see somebody that’s more experienced instead of somebody else new on the ticket,” said Noel.

Democrats are competing on Super Tuesday for 1,357 delegates in 14 states and American Samoa — a third of the total convention delegates.

Virginia’s ballot including Democratic candidates who have dropped out of the presidential race (Angelina Campanile/MNS)

Results can make or break a candidate’s chances at winning the nomination. If one candidate pulls ahead with several hundred more delegates, it will be difficult for the others to catch up.

Richmond native Zanthia Mathis said she voted for Biden because of his push for equality. “We have the leader of the free world saying, ‘Make American Great Again.’ How about make it civil again? Joe will do that.”

Mathis said she originally considered voting for Bloomberg but ultimately decided to back Biden.

“He [Bloomberg] has the financial power to stay in the race and money has to meet money sometimes, which we have in the White House now, but I had to go with experience,” said Mathis.

While middle-aged and older voters are supporting Biden because of his familiarity with the duties of the commander-in-chief from serving beside President Barack Obama, Virginia’s young Democrats are backing Sanders because of his promise to end student loans and college debt.

“We’re voting for Bernie because he has the best shot at beating Trump and he’s trying to get rid of student loans,” said Virginia Commonwealth University sophomore Victoria Chege.

Although Sanders is projected to bring home the greatest number of delegates Tuesday, Biden has a more promising chance of winning states with a higher African American electorate such as Virginia and Alabama, where he’s spent the past few days campaigning.

A recent Monmouth University poll shows Biden beating Sanders among white voters (49% Biden to 40% Sanders) and Biden beating Sanders with an even wider margin among black voters (63% to 27%).

VCU junior Tim Edgerton originally supported Sanders but decided to vote for Biden last minute because of his educational promises.

“I was on the fence between Joe and Bernie, but I saw that Joe was really into paying teachers more and getting more funding for schools and that is something I’m really interested in because I’m an education major,” said Edgerton.



Medill Today | March 14, 2024