While Super Tuesday left the Democrats with a pair of front-runners whom President Donald Trump believes he can define and defeat, there are still some private worries in the White House.
There is concern that the Democrats' messy nomination contest may end up producing an emboldened version of the very man who once worried Trump so much as a foe that it led to the president's impeachment.
That would be Joe Biden.
Still, there was plenty for Trump to like in Tuesday's 14-state round of voting that transformed the Democratic race into a delegate shootout between an avowed proponent of democratic socialism (Bernie Sanders) and a longtime Washington insider (Biden). It banished from the race former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose endless millions had gotten under the president's skin, and it pushed aside Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who could have proved to be a formidable rhetorical challenger against Trump.
That sets up Trump to run for reelection on familiar territory and allows him to revive some of the same lines of attack that proved successful in 2016.
The public reaction from Trump and his campaign on Wednesday was gleeful as Biden's remarkable campaign comeback reset the Democratic nomination fight into a two-candidate contest with Sanders.
Those around the president have long asserted that Sanders, with his unapologetic support for "Medicare for All," free college and other wish list items, is too liberal for most of the nation. They also believe Biden has lost a step and is saddled with a decadeslong Washington record and questions surrounding the conduct of his son Hunter.
"Truly is a 'heads we win, tails they lose' situation," said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh.
But there are some caveats in the campaign's confidence.
Trump and his team have spent the last year trying to lump the Democratic contenders together as left-wing radicals. Biden's working-class appeal and more pragmatic policy approach aren't a ready fit with that GOP framing. Trump allies have pointed to Biden's embrace of liberal positions on gun control, but he steered clear of the more extreme positions of his rivals on health care.
Watching the results Tuesday night from the White House residence, Trump cheered the collapse of Bloomberg, who sank more than $500 million of his own money into his campaign yet performed woefully the first day his name appeared on the ballot.
The president unleashed a series of tweets the next morning that belittled the Democratic field — including Warren, who was assessing whether to move forward — and he was so eager to talk about the race that he invited reporters to ask him about it during a White House meeting with airline executives.
"No questions about the election?" Trump asked before registering several hot takes that would not be out of place on the morning cable news shows he frequently watches.
Before Bloomberg dropped out Wednesday morning, Trump goaded the billionaire, who has promised to continue his free-spending anti-Trump effort on behalf of the eventual Democratic nominee.
"You can't buy an election," Trump said. "It's a beautiful thing."
Trump took particular delight in Bloomberg's implosion, having long resented the former mayor's significantly greater wealth and ease in moving around Manhattan's elite social circles. He told confidants that Bloomberg's political downfall, beginning with a widely panned debate performance last month, should forever silence those in the media who claimed that he was jealous of Bloomberg or that the "wrong" New York billionaire was sitting in the Oval Office, according to a Republican close to the White House who was not authorized to discuss private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The president has long publicly pined for Sanders as a general election foe, his campaign making the case that the Vermont senator's liberal views would turn off voters in potential Democratic pickup states like Arizona and Georgia even though that may be offset with some strength in the Rust Belt.
Eager to put his thumb on the scale in the opposing party's primary process, Trump tried to stoke divisions among Democrats by continuing to claim that the party was trying to steal the election from Sanders. The president has attempted to sow doubt about the fairness of the contest with hopes of persuading some of the Vermont senator's aggrieved, hardcore followers to stay home in November.
But Biden remained the main focus for Trump and his advisers.
The former vice president has long been viewed as the candidate who could best revive the winning coalition that twice propelled his former boss, Barack Obama, into office, and the one who could siphon away support from the white working class voters who, particularly in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, propelled Trump to victory.
Trump and his aides long fanned controversy about Biden's younger son, Hunter, and his work for a troubled Ukrainian gas company, Burisma. But it was their efforts to pressure the Ukrainians to investigate Biden that led to the congressional inquiry that resulted in Trump's eventual impeachment in December.
The president's reelection campaign signaled confidence in defeating Biden, who has been prone to gaffes and misstatements and struggled to raise money and, until the last few days, to generate enthusiasm among Democrats. They also made clear that they would reintroduce corruption allegations against his son.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, is looking into Hunter Biden's ties with Burisma. And Trump, in a interview Wednesday with Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity, said: "That will be a major issue in the campaign. I will bring that up all the time."
But some in Trump's orbit questioned the bullishness with which the campaign professed to view Biden, believing the former vice president's universal name ID and likability would make it more difficult to brand him as a socialist. Biden has proved resilient — his resurgence was rivaled by few in modern campaign history — and has consolidated moderate support while showcasing his strength among African American voters, a segment of the electorate the president's campaign hopes to win over.
"This looks very much like Biden's race to lose at this point," said Chris Wilson, a GOP consultant. "He's clearly strong not just with African Americans, but also with white Democrats outside of the socialist left. The field on the establishment/progressive side of the ballot has cleared for him to run head-to-head with Bernie in the remaining states."
Biden's comeback also coincided with the unforeseen crisis of the coronavirus, which the Trump campaign recognizes will be a test of the administration's competence. Already, concerns about the spread of the virus have roiled the stock market, which Trump has often used as a measure of his successful handling of the economy.
But despite the growing worry, Trump couldn't help but admire Biden's resurgence. On Wednesday, he called it an "incredible comeback, when you think about it."
Elizabeth Warren huddled with her campaign advisers on Wednesday to determine if there was a reason to stay in the Democratic presidential race after a dismal Super Tuesday that saw her finishing no higher than third in any state — including her own.
An aide to the Massachusetts senator said she was speaking to staffers and assessing the path forward. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal campaign moves.
The disappointing results in Massachusetts — and a decidedly underwhelming showing in other Super Tuesday contests — marked a striking collapse for the onetime favorite of progressives who was known for having a plan for nearly everything. Warren had built an impressive campaign infrastructure stretching across much of the country, but it didn't help her much in the 14 states that went to the polls on the biggest day on the Democratic primary calendar.
On top of mediocre showings in the first four contests — she never finished higher than third place there, either — Warren trailed significantly in the delegate count. Tuesday's results could speed her exit from the race.
Warren finished well behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who won the Massachusetts primary, and fellow progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who attracted 10,000-plus people to a rally last weekend on Boston Common — mere miles from Warren's home near Harvard University.
Sanders said Wednesday afternoon that he had spoken to Warren earlier in the day, though it was unclear whether she would endorse him — or anyone else — should she leave the race.
On Super Tuesday, as results were starting to come in, Warren appeared set on remaining in the race. Speaking to supporters in Detroit ahead of next week's Michigan primary, she introduced herself as "the woman who's going to beat Donald Trump." The senator encouraged supporters to tune out the results and vote for the person they believed would be the best president, saying: "Prediction has been a terrible business and the pundits have gotten it wrong over and over."
"You don't get what you don't fight for. I am in this fight," she added.
Warren's campaign had all the early markers of success — robust poll numbers, impressive fundraising and a national organization -- but she was squeezed out by Sanders, who had an immovable base of support among progressives she needed to win over. Ahead of Tuesday's vote, Warren's campaign said it was betting on a contested convention — though with a quickly consolidating field, that was no sure bet, and she appeared set to enter that convention trailing at least two candidates significantly in the delegate count.
Trump, who follows the Democratic nomination fight closely and enjoys stoking divisions within the party, sought to blame Warren for Sanders' lackluster Super Tuesday showing.
"Wow! If Elizabeth Warren wasn't in the race, Bernie Sanders would have EASILY won Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas, not to mention various other states," he tweeted. He added: "She may very well go down as the all time great SPOILER!
He weighed in on the Democratic field again during a meeting at the White House later Wednesday, calling Warren "selfish" for staying in the race.
Warren's lagging performance threatened to force out from the race its last top female contender — only Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard remains, and she has earned just one delegate, from her native American Samoa.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar dropped out Monday, joining Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to endorse Biden's surging candidacy. It marked an unexpected twist in a party that had used the votes and energy of women to retake control of the House, primarily with female candidates, just two years ago.
Warren's campaign began with enormous promise that she could carry that momentum into the presidential race. Last summer, she drew tens of thousands of supporters to Manhattan's Washington Square Park, a scene that was repeated in places like Washington state and Minnesota.
She appeared to hit her stride as she hammered the idea that more moderate Democratic candidates, including Biden, weren't ambitious enough to roll back Trump's policies and were too reliant on political consultants and fickle polling.
But Warren has been unable to consolidate the support of the Democratic Party's most liberal wing against the race's other top progressive, Sanders. Both support universal, government-sponsored health care, tuition-free public college and aggressive climate change fighting measures while forgoing big fundraisers in favor of small donations fueled by the internet.
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 11 on Wednesday with a patient succumbing in California — the first reported fatality outside Washington state — as federal authorities announced an investigation of the Seattle-area nursing home where most of the victims were stricken.
Officials in California's Placer County, near Sacramento, said an elderly person who tested positive after returning from a San Francisco-to-Mexico cruise had died. The victim had underlying health problems, authorities said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency. Washington and Florida had already declared emergencies.
Washington also announced another death, bringing its total to 10. Most of those who died were residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle. At least 39 cases have been reported in the Seattle area, where researchers say the virus may have been circulating undetected for weeks.
Seema Verma, head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the agency is sending inspectors to Life Care along with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to figure out what happened and determine whether the nursing home followed guidelines for preventing infections.
Last April, the state fined Life Care $67,000 over infection-control deficiencies following two flu outbreaks that affected 17 patients and staff. An unannounced follow-up inspection in June determined that Life Care had corrected the problems, Verma said.
Meanwhile, public officials in Washington came under pressure to take more aggressive steps against the outbreak, including closing schools and canceling large events. While the state and Seattle have declared emergencies, giving leaders broad powers to suspend activities, they have not issued any orders to do so.
"We have encouraged people who are responsible for large gatherings to give consideration whether it really makes sense to carry those on right now," Gov. Jay Inslee said. "Right now, we are deferring to the judgment ... of these organizations."
While some individual schools and businesses have shut down, the governor said large-scale school closings have not been ordered because "there are so many ramifications for families and businesses," especially for health care workers who might not be able to go to work because of child care responsibilities.
Local and state health officials have not recommended school closings unless the schools have had a confirmed case of the disease.
Jennifer Hayles, 41, of Kirkland said she was appalled that Inslee and health officials haven't canceled next week's Emerald City Comic Con. The four-day cosplay and pop-culture event draws close to 100,000 people each year, and some participants, including D.C. Comics and Penguin Random House, have pulled out over the virus.
Hayles said she spent hundreds of dollars on tickets and other items related to the event but will have to skip it because she has a compromised immune system.
"There's a lot of people who are talking about the economic cost of people forced to pull out of Comic Con, but if we have an explosion of cases of coronavirus, the economic cost is going to be much higher," Hayles said.
Comic Con's organizer, Reedpop, announced Wednesday that it would make an exception to its no-refunds policy for those who want their money back, but said it remained committed to holding the event unless local, state or federal officials change their guidance.
Lakshmi Unni said that she was keeping her son, an eighth-grader at Redmond Middle School in Seattle's eastern suburbs, home on Wednesday and that she had urged the school board and principal to close.
"Yesterday at least three kids were coughing," Unni said. "We don't know if they were sick with the virus, but if they do become sick, the chances of spreading are very, very high."
Some schools, businesses and other employers aren't waiting.
Seattle and King County public health officials urged businesses to allow employees to work remotely if possible, and the county said it will allow telecommuting for some of its workers for the next three weeks.
Microsoft said it has asked its Seattle-area workers who can do their jobs at home to work from home until March 25. The directive also affects Microsoft employees in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Redmond, Washington-based company said employees should still come in if they work at a data center, retail store or other location where their presence is needed, unless they have an underlying health condition, are over 60 or fall into other categories that health authorities say pose higher risks.
Microsoft is also asking people to cancel travel to its Puget Sound and Bay Area campuses unless it is "essential for the continuity of Microsoft." The company is also canceling non-essential business travel to other regions where the virus is active.
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle announced it is canceling events at the complex and requiring nonessential staff to work remotely at least through the end of the month to lessen the chance of infection among patients with weakened immune systems.
School officials in Renton, south of Seattle, announced that Hazen High School will close for the rest of the week after a student tested positive for the coronavirus. Online petitions urged officials to close other schools on Seattle's east side.
The F5 technology company closed its 44-story tower in downtown Seattle after learning an employee had been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Outdoor recreation giant REI shut down its Seattle-area operations for two days as a precaution.
A federal immigration field office near Tukwila also closed after an employee visited the Kirkland nursing home. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the move was a precaution and the place will remain shut for 14 days.
Health officials in North Carolina reported that a person from Wake County tested positive for the illness after visiting the nursing home. The patient's flight from the Seattle area to the Raleigh-Durham airport raised fears other passengers were exposed to the virus.
"My understanding is we have the manifest. Now the trick is to go find them," said Robert Redfield of the CDC.
Life Care Center said on its website that it is screening employees for symptoms before they start work and as they leave. The nursing home is prohibiting visits from residents' family members.
Shortly before the California death was announced, Princess Cruise Lines notified passengers of its Grand Princess that federal health officials are investigating a "small cluster" of coronavirus cases connected to the ship's mid-February voyage. It asked current passengers to stay in their cabins until cleared by medical staff and said those who had been on the previous voyage should contact their doctor if they develop fever or other symptoms.
The Grand Princess is at sea off Mexico and will return early to San Francisco, where CDC and company officials will meet to determine the course of action, the cruise line said.
In Los Angeles, a contract medical worker who was conducting screenings at the city's main airport has tested positive for the virus. The person wore protective equipment while on the job so it was unclear how the worker contracted the virus, Homeland Security officials said.
In New York, health officials put hundreds of residents in self-quarantine after members of two families in the New York City suburb of New Rochelle were diagnosed with the virus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the disease appeared to have spread from a lawyer to his wife, two children, a neighbor and two others.
The new results brought the number of confirmed cases in the state to 11.
Tornadoes ripped across Tennessee early Tuesday, shredding at least 40 buildings and killing at least 19 people. One of the twisters caused severe damage across downtown Nashville, destroying the stained glass in a historic church and leaving hundreds of people homeless.
Daybreak revealed a landscape littered with blown-down walls and roofs, snapped power lines and huge broken trees, leaving city streets in gridlock. Schools, courts, transit lines, an airport and the state Capitol were closed, and some damaged polling stations had to be moved only hours before Super Tuesday voting began.
The death toll jumped to 19 on Tuesday, Tennessee Emergency Management Spokeswoman Maggie Hannan said, after police and fire crews spent hours pulling survivors and bodies from wrecked buildings.
"Last night was a reminder about how fragile life is," Nashville Mayor John Cooper said at a Tuesday morning news conference.
Nashville residents walked around in dismay as emergency crews closed off roads. Roofs had been torn off apartment buildings, large trees uprooted and debris littered many sidewalks. Walls were peeled away, exposing living rooms and kitchens in damaged homes. Mangled power lines and broken trees came to rest on cars, streets and piles of rubble.
"It is heartbreaking. We have had loss of life all across the state," said Gov. Bill Lee. He ordered all non-essential state workers to stay home before going up in a helicopter to survey the damage.
The tornadoes were spawned by a line of severe storms with a line of storms that stretched from near Montgomery, Alabama, into western Pennsylvania.
In Nashville, it tore through areas transformed by a recent building boom. Germantown and East Nashville are two of the city's trendiest neighborhoods, with restaurants, music venues, high-end apartment complexes and rising home prices threatening to drive out long-time residents.
"The dogs started barking before the sirens went off, they knew what was coming," said Paula Wade, of East Nashville. "Then we heard the roar ... Something made me just sit straight up in bed, and something came through the window right above my head. If I hadn't moved, I would've gotten a face full of glass."
Then she looked across the street and saw the damage at the East End United Methodist Church.
"It's this beautiful Richardson Romanesque church; the bell tower is gone, the triptych widow of Jesus the Good Shepherd that they just restored and put back up a few weeks ago is gone," she said.
Wade immediately recalled how a tornado damaged her own St. Ann's Episcopal church down the street in 1998.
"I had no idea that I still had some PTSD from that other experience so long ago, but the sound of the sirens, that low sound, there's just nothing like it. To look out and see the church, its just heartbreaking. It brings out everything that happened to St. Ann's."
The roof came crashing down on Ronald Baldwin and Harry Nahay in bedroom of the one-story brick home they share in East Nashville. "We couldn't get out. We couldn't get out," said Baldwin. "And so I just kept kicking and kicking until we finally made a hole."
Also in East Nashville, the roaring wind woke Evan and Carlie Peters, but they had no time to reach the relative safety of an interior bathroom. "Within about 10 seconds, the house started shaking," Carlie Peters said. "The ceiling started coming down on us, so I jumped on top of the ground; he jumped on top of me. The ceiling landed on top of him. ... we're grateful to be alive, honestly," she said.
One tornado carved a path about 10 miles (16 kilometers) long, reportedly staying on the ground from near downtown Nashville along Interstate 40 to the city's eastern suburbs of Mt. Juliet, Lebanon and Hermitage.
"Our community has been impacted significantly," the Mt. Juliet Police Department tweeted. Homes were damaged and injuries were reported, the department said. "We continue to search for injured. Stay home if you can."
Videos posted online showed what appeared to be a well-defined tornado flashing with lightning as it moved quickly across the Nashville area.
Metro Nashville police said crews were responding to about 40 building collapses. Among them was the Basement East Nashville, a popular music venue that had just held an election rally for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The crowd left shortly before the twister struck, the Tennessean reported.
The disaster affected voting in Tennessee, one of 14 Super Tuesday states. Some polling sites in Nashville's Davidson County were moved, and sites there as well as in Wilson counties were opening an hour late but still closing at the same time, Secretary of State Tre Hargett announced.
Davidson County elections administrator Jeff Roberts said voters from anywhere in the county can go to two so-called "supersites" to cast their ballots. "Anyone that wants to vote, we want to create an opportunity for you," he said. Because poll workers will be navigating through a damaged city to deliver results Tuesday night, he said the tallying may take longer than anticipated.
A reported gas leak forced an evacuation of the IMT building in Germantown, according to WSMV-TV. Dozens of people, suddenly homeless, were seen carrying their belongings through garbage-strewn streets after the tornado blew through.
Nashville Electric tweeted that four of its substations were damaged in the tornado. Power outages were affecting more than 44,000 customers early Tuesday, the utility company said.
The governor's spokeswoman, Gillum Ferguson, said hundreds of people went to a Red Cross shelter for displaced residents at the Nashville Farmers Market, just north of the state capitol, but a power outage there forced people to move again to the Centennial Sportsplex.
The outage also extended to the Capitol, forcing the cancellation of legislative meetings.
The storm killed some animals and scattered others as it destroyed green houses and a barn at a Tennessee State University research station in North Nashville, causing damage that could total $90 million or more, said Mike Krause, who directs Tennessee's higher education commission.
Several airplane hangars were destroyed and power lines were downed at John C. Tune Airport, Nashville International's sister airport in West Nashville, where spokeswoman Kym Gerlock urged people to stay away until further notice.
Metro Nashville Public Schools said its schools would be closed Tuesday because of the tornado damage. Wilson County, just east of metro Nashville will close schools for the rest of the week.
The storm system left just scattered rain in its wake as it moved eastward. Strong cells capable of causing damage were spotted in central Alabama, eastern Tennessee and the western Carolinas.
Early morning storms also damaged homes and toppled trees in rural central Alabama, where the National Weather Service reported winds up to 60 mph (97 kmh) and issued tornado warnings for at least five counties.
In rural Bibb County southwest of Birmingham, seven poll workers were getting ready to open the doors to Super Tuesday voters at the Lawley Senior Activity Center when cellphone alerts began sounding a tornado warning about 6:45 a.m., said volunteer Gwen Thompson.
"Our children were calling too, telling us, 'Get in the bathroom!'" she said. "We all got in the bathroom and we're OK, but lots of trees are down." The storm knocked out electricity, Thompson said, but the precinct's two electronic voting machines had battery backups and people were casting ballots shortly thereafter.
"We've been voting by flashlight," Thompson said.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he has given the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan the go-ahead to begin the initial withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Speaking at a Pentagon news conference Monday, Esper said he was not sure whether the drawdown had begun, but said it is required to start within 10 days of the signing on Saturday of a peace deal with the Taliban. Esper said Gen. Scott Miller, the U.S. commander in Kabul, has the authority to begin withdrawal of forces to about 8,600 from the current total of nearly 13,000.
"We are going to show good faith and begin withdrawing our troops," Esper said.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there is no expectation that violence in Afghanistan will "go to zero" quickly, following the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement announced on Saturday.
Esper said the U.S. expects violence will "taper off," leading to a start by March 10 of peace negotiations among Afghan groups, including the Taliban.