The TAKE with Rick Klein
The names of the variants have changed. So have the names of the approaching holidays impacted by restrictions and preventative measures.
Just about everything else seems to be caught in a loop of grim statistics, uncertain predictions and unchanging advice from experts. That goes for the politics as well, with President Joe Biden’s White House again finding itself pleading with the unvaccinated and warning about the consequences of not being careful about COVID.
“We know what works, and we’re going to continue to do what works,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday.
The reactions from some of Biden’s opponents don’t seem to change much either. Florida’s latest COVID numbers are less alarming than some big blue states — freeing Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., to decry restrictive policies.
“What are we on, like day 700 of the 15 days to slow the spread?” DeSantis said on Fox News Wednesday. “You give these people an inch, they will never let go. They are going to take a mile, they are going to restrict, they are going to mandate, they are going to lock you down.”
Assuming “these people” include the president, it’s been two weeks since Biden outlined a plan for winter that avoided new mandates or lockdowns. It also promised expanded free testing — a vow that already seems distant, with reports of hourslong lines across the country.
A series of recent polls, including from ABC/Ipsos and CNN, have found Biden’s approval rating on the pandemic to be substantially higher than his rating on just about any other major issue. But those numbers also reflect frustration that the country and the president still have to worry about COVID at all.
The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper
Vice President Kamala Harris’ dismissiveness about 2024 continues to fuel questions about whether President Joe Biden will run for reelection.
“I’m not going to talk about our conversations, but I will tell you this without any ambiguity: We do not talk about nor have we talked about re-election, because we haven’t completed our first year and we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Harris said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
It’s a sentiment Harris shared with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos in November when he asked if she discusses 2024 with the president. “Absolutely not,” Harris responded.
Biden himself and White House officials have publicly expressed that he intends to run for reelection but still, the question remains. Despite her historic role, many Democratic operatives don’t see Harris as a shoo-in for the nomination should Biden opt out of running for a second term.
It’s a conversation that has re-emerged ahead of Biden’s slated remarks at South Carolina State University’s graduation Friday. There, Biden will give a college diploma to Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., whose endorsement is credited with saving Biden’s 2020 campaign.
The TIP with Alisa Wiersema
Although Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal’s retirement announcement Monday isn’t likely to usher in a competitive race in the safely blue California district, the development signals a broader shift in the state’s Democrat-driven political landscape.
Three other California lawmakers announced plans to leave office at the end of their terms — Rep. Jackie Speier announced her decision to step down last month, and Rep. Karen Bass is running for mayor of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, across the aisle, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes plans to resign from political office to participate in former President Donald Trump’s media company.
Lowenthal served in the House for nearly a decade, and the Californian was an outspoken proponent of action to combat climate change as chair of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Over the course of the last year, a dozen House Democrats have announced plans to retire at the end of their terms, and six are leaving their congressional posts to seek higher office. So far, five Republicans announced they’d be stepping down when their terms end, while six launched campaigns for other political positions.
ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. On Friday morning, Start Here answers some frequently asked questions about omicron with epidemiologist Dr. John Brownstein. Then, ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports on the FDA’s abortion pill decision. And, legal expert Channa Lloyd explains what the jury will be looking for in Kim Potter’s trial. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WEEKEND