The Latest: Sanders, Biden to debate without live audience

DETROIT (AP) — The Latest on the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries (all times local):

6:20 p.m.

Democratic front-runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will debate as scheduled Sunday in Arizona amid the coronavirus outbreak — but without a live audience.

The Democratic National Committee says it is making the move “at the request of both campaigns and out of an abundance of caution.”

DNC Communications Director Xochitl Hinojosa says local public health officials had advised that the debate could continue as planned.

Both Biden and Sanders cancelled their election night events Tuesday in Ohio amid concerns about the epidemic.

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4:25 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is canceling a scheduled rally in Cleveland amid concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus.

Mike Casca, a spokesman for the 78-year-old Vermont senator, says the campaign is canceling the event “Out of concern for public health and safety.” Sanders had been set to speak there as results from Democratic primary voting taking place in six states rolled in Tuesday night.

“We are heeding the public warnings from Ohio state officials, who have communicated concern about holding large, indoor events during the coronavirus outbreak,” Casca said. “Sen. Sanders would like to express his regret to the thousands of Ohioans who had planned to attend the event tonight.”

Joe Biden is scheduled to hold his own rally in Cleveland later Tuesday. A spokesman for the 77-year-old former vice president indicated there was no cancellation coming, saying, “We’re headed to Cleveland.”

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2:20 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is picking up the endorsement of a U.S. House member who backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and praises the Vermont senator for leadership on issues affecting veterans and working families.

Rep. Mark Takano of California says in a video out Tuesday from the Sanders campaign that he’s supporting him in part because of Sanders’ “ability to get things done.”

Takano, who currently chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, cites Sanders’ previous leadership on the Senate counterpart body. His backing is the first for Sanders from a member of Congress in several weeks, while former Vice President Joe Biden has rolled out nearly 50 congressional endorsements this month alone.

Takano represents California, a delegate-rich prize that Sanders carried in last week’s Super Tuesday primaries. On Tuesday, six more states hold Democratic presidential primaries.

In the video, Takano — the first openly gay person of color elected to Congress — lauds Sanders’ early support for marriage equality, as well as his focus on issues including climate change and entitlement protections.

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11:35 a.m.

Joe Biden has faced down a pro-gun worker in a testy exchange over his plan to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

Biden spoke at an auto plant in Detroit on Tuesday and then was confronted by a worker in a hard hat who accused him of “actively trying to end our Second Amendment right.” Biden used an expletive to tell the worker he was “full of” it and hushed an aide who was trying to end the conversation.

Biden went on to say he supports the Second Amendment but added: “Do you need 100 rounds?”

The worker pointed to a “viral video” in which he alleged Biden said he would take away people’s guns. Biden replied that he “did not say that” and that the video was “lying.”

Biden otherwise received an overwhelmingly positive response from construction workers while courting the union vote in a final push as Michigan residents vote in the presidential primary.

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This item has been corrected to show that Biden got a response from construction workers, not autoworkers.

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10:55 a.m.

Joe Biden has received his third endorsement from a major national gun control group in as many days, this time from the Newtown Action Alliance.

The group was founded after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which killed 26 people, including 20 children. Biden also received the support of Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign in recent days.

Newtown Action Alliance chairwoman Po Murray said Tuesday in a statement Biden’s “support for gun violence prevention has never wavered.” The group notes the former vice president was appointed by President Barack Obama to lead a gun control task force after the 2012 Newtown massacre.

The endorsement is another indication Bernie Sanders’ spotty record on gun control could weigh him down in the Democratic presidential primary. Michigan and five other states are voting Tuesday at a critical point in the race.

Sanders has a D-minus rating from the National Rifle Association. But the Vermont senator has been criticized by opponents and gun control advocates for past opposition to background check legislation and support for shielding gun manufacturers from lawsuits over misuse of their guns.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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