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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If it hasn't been clear to this point, it is now. Former President Donald Trump is likely to be the Republican nominee for president.

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DONALD TRUMP: November 5 is going to go down as the single most important day in the history of our country.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Trump spoke last night at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Florida, after largely sweeping Super Tuesday states.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: USA, USA, USA, USA.

INSKEEP: Nikki Haley picked up just one of the 15 Republican contests.

MARTIN: To help us walk through what happened and what the takeaways are, we have NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Michel.

MARTIN: So let's just start with your impressions of how it all went last night.

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, it went pretty much as expected. You know, Trump dominated in the GOP primaries across the country. He's not quite the presumptive nominee, but he now has a pretty insurmountable delegate lead, and he could clinch the nomination as soon as next Tuesday, possibly, or the following week. You know, President Biden did pretty well as well. You know, he also once again saw a not insignificant number of voters, though, choose uncommitted in places like Minnesota and Colorado. So Super Tuesday highlighted the strengths for both men, but also their vulnerabilities - you know, Trump with independents who sided with Nikki Haley and Biden with younger voters, especially Black and Latino younger voters who are key parts of the coalition that Biden needs to rebuild to have a shot in November.

MARTIN: But having said that, Domenico, we - it seems like we're headed for Groundhog Day with Trump versus Biden.

MONTANARO: Yeah, I don't know, and maybe eight more months of winter. I'm not sure. But I was struck last night by a feeling of deja vu and not exactly of 2020 but of 2016. We're seeing high levels of disaffection for both candidates, which could lead again to higher than usual votes for third-party candidates. And then there was Trump's victory speech, you know, taken live and uninterrupted on cable news. It was about immigration, his view painting a dire state of the country and that he alone can fix it. You know, one person Trump's speech didn't mention last night was Nikki Haley. It was all about Biden and the state of the country. Biden's team is also looking past the primaries, laying out in a memo just out this morning that - identifying a handful of states that they're already focusing on for the general election.

MARTIN: So let's talk about Nikki Haley for a minute. I understand that she didn't speak at all. So what's next for her?

MONTANARO: Yeah. There was no watch party, no speech, no surrogates out on your favorite broadcast outlets, like the one you're listening to, you know, making the case for her path forward. You know, her campaign just put out a statement that didn't hint at her future, pointed out that there's a large bloc of Republicans expressing deep concerns about Trump and called on the party to address those concerns. The question is, what do her supporters do in November? Exit polls showed big numbers of them say that they won't vote for Trump in the general election, but this is when feelings are the most raw. And this is what Super Tuesday is really about, to get all these hard feelings out of the way early enough to unify around one candidate. But also up in the air - what does Haley herself do? You know, she has some leverage here, given how she's done with the kinds of voters that Trump really needs to win in November. So does that mean she could still be considered for maybe VP? Does it mean she positions herself for 2028 since Trump and Biden can't be president after that election? But this is Trump's party, and any path to power within the party right now has to go through him and his base.

MARTIN: OK, in the time we have left, what other races stood out to you?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I want to point to North Carolina, where for governor, Republicans nominated a candidate in Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson. He could be the kind of lightning-rod candidate that could hurt Republicans' chances in a state that leans in their direction with some of the bigoted, antisemitic and conspiratorial things he's said in the past. And this kind of thing has happened repeatedly to the party in the last few election cycles. And remember, issues like abortion, immigration and the economy are why people vote and what matters probably more than the ages of the candidates.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: And now another down-ballot race we want to talk about with a bit of a twist.

INSKEEP: California voters picked two finalists to replace the late Senator Dianne Feinstein in a seat that is open for the first time since 1992, and the Democratic finalist found a way to choose his opponent.

MARTIN: Marisa Lagos covers California politics for member station KQED and is with us now. Good morning.

MARISA LAGOS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: All right. Tell us which two candidates made the runoff.

LAGOS: The Democrat's going to be Representative Adam Schiff. He's represented parts of Los Angeles in the House for more than two decades, and he led the first impeachment inquiry into former President Trump in 2019. And he's really made pushing back against Trump and, quote, "saving democracy" a centerpiece of his campaign. On the GOP side, we have former Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey, who retired in 1987 but is still fondly remembered by baseball fans. And he toyed with the idea of entering politics for decades but only jumped in this fall after Feinstein died. Here he is at a victory party in Palm Desert last night.

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STEVE GARVEY: This is the first game of a doubleheader, so keep the evening of November 5 open, as we will celebrate again.

LAGOS: So a lot more baseball references ahead for all of us here in California. And honestly, Garvey might not have made the top two in this primary at all without the help of Adam Schiff.

MARTIN: Say more about that.

LAGOS: Yeah, so Garvey entered late. He didn't raise a lot of money. He didn't do a ton of campaigning. But Schiff basically poured in $10 million into running ads about Garvey. This was largely on conservative media outlets like Fox News, and they were kind of ostensibly attack ads, painting Garvey as a Trump Republican. But for conservative voters, it served as an introduction to Garvey in a huge state where he couldn't afford to run TV ads of his own.

MARTIN: OK, so why would Schiff want to face Garvey this fall?

LAGOS: We have a kind of unique primary system here. It's an open primary, so all the candidates run on one ballot in the primary, and the top two vote-getters move on to the runoff regardless of party. So in an overwhelmingly Democratic state where less than one-quarter of registered voters are Republican, Schiff wanted to head off his most formidable Democratic opponent, who was Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter, and it looks like it worked. He will now have a much easier time in the November general election.

MARTIN: I'm assuming that this was known that Schiff was doing this. How did that go over with other Democratic voters? You know, how did that tactic go over with them?

LAGOS: It doesn't seem to have really hurt him with his supporters. I think Porter's expressed a lot of anger, and I think that he could receive some blowback. But I mean, broadly, this is such a big state. I just - I don't know that a lot of voters were actually paying that close of attention. And it's looking to shape up to a pretty low turnout election generally, so it may not sting him ultimately, even though clearly there are some people who were not happy with the tactic.

MARTIN: So let's talk about how this race is going to look. And I understand that Schiff's election night party was almost taken over by people protesting the situation in Gaza.

LAGOS: Yeah, listen to this. This is how it sounded there.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Cease-fire now, cease-fire now...

ADAM SCHIFF: I want to thank you all...

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: ...Cease-fire now, cease-fire now, cease-fire now, cease-fire now.

LAGOS: You know, that protest echoes what we've seen elsewhere in the country, and it might be a taste of what's ahead, not just for Schiff but for President Biden, who did overwhelmingly win in California on Tuesday night's primary. But let's be clear - given the overwhelmingly Democratic electorate in California, it would be extraordinary if Garvey could really mount a serious challenge this fall.

MARTIN: So this isn't seen as a competitive race for Republicans. But there are some tight House races in California, and that could help decide who controls Congress next year. Is there any way in which this matchup could influence those races?

LAGOS: You know, it could. We're going to have to wait and see. I know some national Democrats are probably happy that there won't be an expensive Democrat-on-Democrat race between Schiff and Porter in this blue state that would suck money from elsewhere, but having Garvey up toward the top of the ticket could actually excite some GOP voters or conservatives who maybe aren't as enthusiastic about Trump. So we'll kind of have to see how that plays out.

MARTIN: That is KQED's Marisa Lagos. Marisa, thank you.

LAGOS: Thank you.

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MARTIN: If you've been experiencing chaos trying to navigate your health care the last few weeks, you are not alone.

INSKEEP: People around the country have had trouble filling their prescriptions. Many doctors have not been able to bill insurance providers, all because one company was targeted with a cyberattack.

MARTIN: NPR cybersecurity correspondent Jenna McLaughlin is here to tell us what's going on. Good morning, Jenna.

JENNA MCLAUGHLIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So this attack happened - what? - two weeks ago, and things still aren't back to normal?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, it's been over two weeks, and things are still messed up. At pharmacies, sources say things are starting to improve, but, you know, there are still major issues, like patients paying full price for drugs. Meanwhile, doctors are having problems submitting insurance claims and looking up patient medical histories. Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that they're stepping in to help provide emergency funding, but it's not totally clear how that will play out yet.

MARTIN: So how can this attack on a single company, which, frankly, many of us have probably never heard of, so profoundly disrupt the American health care system?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, basically a ransomware gang called BlackCat breached Change Healthcare. As a cybersecurity reporter, I hadn't heard of them either, but I sure got a crash course in exactly how important they are. Let me break it down. And, you know, it gets complicated, so bear with me. Change Healthcare is like a digital middleman. Pharmacies, doctors, clinics - they all use it to check patient's eligibility for services, look up their medical histories and then bill the insurance company for treatment. Now, they're owned by Optus (ph), which is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth, one of the largest health insurance companies in the country. But basically, Michel, what's important to know is that this is a big, juicy target for hackers. Once the payment platform went down, the whole health care system was disrupted. I spoke to Douglas Hoey - he is the CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association - about all this. Listen to how he described it.

DOUGLAS HOEY: One of the biggest lessons learned from this situation is that when we put all of our eggs in one basket, when that basket tips over, all the eggs crack, and there's none left. We're scrambled at that point.

MCLAUGHLIN: I also talked to a senior administration official at the White House. They've been working on this, and they said that this is an attack that's a real example of concentrated risk and the dangers of a single point of failure.

MARTIN: This is obviously very unnerving, so tell us more about what's being done to fix this.

MCLAUGHLIN: So part of the Health and Human Services announcement was that they wanted to help providers figure out ways to make their systems more resilient. If another company like Change Healthcare gets attacked tomorrow, providers should be able to easily switch to another similar one so that they can keep billing insurance without disruption. It turns out there are companies working on this very thing.

MARTIN: But have they been successful?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, actually I reached out to Zack Kanter. He's the founder of a technology company called Stedi. He actually ended our conversation on a positive note. Here's what he said.

ZACK KANTER: It's a very solvable problem. There's lots and lots of very capable people working on this, both at Stedi and at other companies. And it's - look, it's different than the power company going out, and you don't have a backup power source. In this case, it's just a matter of companies getting in touch.

MCLAUGHLIN: But even if that problem gets solved, tomorrow it could be something else. The cybersecurity standards need to improve across the board. Hopefully, Michel, this is a moment the health care industry learns from. You know, never let a good crisis go to waste.

MARTIN: NPR's cybersecurity correspondent Jenna McLaughlin. Jenna, thank you.

MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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