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The Daily 202: Many Republicans don’t want the coronavirus vaccine. Trump could change that.

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with Mariana Alfaro

Welcome to The Daily 202 newsletter! Today, we look at whether Trump's secret coronavirus vaccination was a missed opportunity. But don’t miss the latest on the rescue package, major nominations, coronavirus vaccines and variants. Sometimes local or regional news is national news in disguise, so send me your most interesting items from outside the Beltway. And tell your friends to sign up here.

In the campaign to get Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus, especially those aimed at populations skeptical of getting inoculated, Donald Trump has missed his chance to be Elvis Presley.

The former president quietly got vaccinated in January before leaving the White House instead of getting his shot in public as Presley did in 1956 to encourage people to take what was then the relatively new polio vaccine.

But the former president’s rock-star status among Republicans could still help overcome deep GOP skepticism about immunizations.

On Sunday, Trump devoted a significant section of his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference to the effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine in record time, and declared: “Everybody go get your shot.” It was the first time he delivered that message.

While there has been a lot of reporting about communities of color being skeptical of getting the vaccine, poll after poll of public opinion has found that Republicans are among the most resistant to getting a shot.

Just 41 percent of them say they have been vaccinated or will do so as soon as possible. (That’s the same number as Black adults.)

Polling shows that Trump remains the dominant force within the Republican Party. Sixty percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents say they want him to continue to lead the party. At least one Democratic pollster has found Trump’s favorability with GOP voters at 78 percent.

An aide to Trump did not return an email asking whether the former president saw a role for himself in promoting vaccinations.

“The image of himself and Melania Trump getting the vaccine would have sent an important symbol, especially to any members of his base who might be skeptical of the vaccine,” said Doug Heye, a veteran GOP communications adviser. “Unfortunately, whether it was because getting a shot would have made him look weak, or whatever, Trump missed his chance.

The man who used his celebrity to pry open the doors of the Oval Office would not have been the first to use star power to get needles into the arms of wary Americans.

Presley, booked on the Ed Sullivan Show in October 1956 to play “Hound Dog” for an audience of screaming fans, took a break after finishing rehearsals in the afternoon, rolled up his left sleeve, and received what was then still the relatively new polio vaccine.

“He is setting a fine example for the youth of the country,” the New York City Commissioner of Health, Leona Baumgartner, said at the time, noting that just 10 percent of the city’s teens had been vaccinated.

Post-WWII polio outbreaks had been infecting 60,000 Americans annually, mostly children, and disabling about 35,000 of them, by the time Jonas Salk developed a vaccine.

But the shot did not catch on immediately.

In fact, when Presley appeared on the Sullivan show, immunization levels among American teens were at an abysmal 0.6 percent,” according to Scientific American. “[A]fter he publicly did so, vaccination rates among American youth skyrocketed to 80 percent after just six months.” 

There are other examples that suggest a big potential payoff in awareness of medical conditions after celebrity campaigns: Australian singer/songwriter Kylie Minogue’s 2005 announcement that she had breast cancer and subsequent efforts to raise awareness about the disease is credited with sharply increasing the number of young women seeking screenings.

In the last year, the coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 514,000 American lives. Washington Post data shows that 50.7 million have been vaccinated.

The Ad Council the people behind iconic campaigns like Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk, Smokey Bear, and Love Has No Labels recently launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to encourage Americans to get vaccinated.

In a statement, the Ad Council said its package of television, radio, print and digital ads aimed to win over skeptics “across race, ethnicity, and party lines, including in rural and Caucasian” communities. Notably, the organization said it would “work with faith leaders in rural areas (including white evangelical leaders) to reach” the religious White Americans so central to Trump’s political success.

The Biden White House did not return an email asking whether it planned to target Republicans specifically.

President Biden got his two doses publicly, as did Vice President Harris. That probably won't sway Republicans. 

“The experience we’ve had with diverse communities is that the key point is to have a local leader convey the message and lead by example,” said Moncef Slaoui, the former chief science adviser to Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine-development drive. “Any other intervention from higher up, from far away, from someone they don’t relate to doesn’t work, and is counterproductive.”

Former vice president Mike Pence, and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who publicized their inoculations, might not carry as much weight. 

During the effort last year to recruit candidates for vaccine clinical trials, officials enlisted local church groups, preachers, teachers, business leaders, athletes and others to convince Americans to sign up, Slaoui said in our interview. Personal physicians helped, too.

“For vaccination, the exact same thing should be done,” he said.

Asked whether the Trump administration had considered reaching out specifically to Republicans, Slaoui replied: “Not with the White House, but definitely with the HHS [Health and Human Services Department]. It was engaging populations in general, including Republicans, definitely.”

What happened?

“Somewhere after November 3rd the attention just moved away from all the plans that were being set up,” Slaoui said.

What’s happening now

FBI director Christopher Wray said the bureau considers the Jan. 6 Capitol assault domestic terrorism. “That siege was criminal behavior plain and simple, and it’s behavior that we – the FBI – view as domestic terrorism,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.  

Wray said he has not seen evidence that “fake Trump supporters” or “antifa” were involved in the attack. Some Trump allies have tried to rewrite the attack’s history by claiming that left-wing agitators were behind the riot. Wray attributed the attack to “militia violent extremism” and, in some cases, “racially motivated violent extremism, specifically advocating for the White race.”

Wray said he did not personally see the Jan. 5 memo the FBI’s Norfolk field office sent several Capitol security agencies warning about a potential attack. Wray said this raw intelligence was shared with D.C. agencies, including the Capitol Police, in three different ways: Email, verbally, and through a law enforcement portal. 

U.S. prosecutors believe the Proud Boys planned to break into the Capitol from as many points as possible. Prosecutors said Ethan Nordean, 30, of Seattle was nominated by members of the group to take charge of the breach and carried out a plan to split into groups to break in. (Spencer Hsu)

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray on March 2 said that there was no evidence of fake Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Video: Reuters)

The CDC will release guidelines for vaccinated Americans that sketch out small steps toward normalcy. The guidance will recommend that Americans continue wearing masks in public and that they limit their gatherings to small groups of other fully vaccinated individuals. The guidelines, which could be released as early as Thursday, will also include a section on travel, Politico reports

Merck will help make the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine, Biden will announce today. The unusual pact between fierce competitors could sharply boost the supply of the newly authorized vaccine, Laurie McGinley and Christopher Rowland report.  

New satellite images reveal that North Korea recently took steps to conceal a facility that U.S. agencies believe is being used to store nuclear weapons, CNN reports. The “could add to the growing sense of urgency from critics who argue the Biden administration needs to articulate a clear strategy on how it will deal with Kim Jong Un going forward.”  

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) should step down if he’s lost the public’s trust. De Blasio said Cuomo’s apology to the women who’ve accused him of sexual harassment was a non-apology and instead “belittles” what happens, Politico’s Amanda Eisenberg reports

Vernon E. Jordan Jr., the lawyer and D.C. political broker, died at 85. Jordan was, for years, one of the most influential figures in Washington, despite never holding elective office or working for the federal government, Matt Schudel reports. He reached the peak of his quiet authority in the 1990s, when he was among President Bill Clinton’s closest advisers. 

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Lunchtime reads from The Post

… and beyond

  • “‘Your personality deforms’: Navalny sent to notoriously harsh prison,” by the Times’s Andrew E. Kramer and Steven Erlanger: “Russia’s prison service has not officially disclosed Navalny’s whereabouts … Nevertheless, the news reports on state-run outlets offered an early glimpse of the likely conditions of his imprisonment. The site, Penal Colony No. 2 … But the colony is known for strict enforcement of rules and for making extensive use of a separate, harsher, punishment facility within its walls where inmates are not allowed to mingle or even talk among themselves.” 
  • Last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev marks 90th birthday in quarantine,” by AFP’s Anna Smolchenko: “‘He is in quarantine in hospital for the duration of the pandemic,’ Vladimir Polyakov, spokesman for the Gorbachev Foundation, [said]. ‘He is tired of this, like the rest of us.’ ” Congratulations have poured in from around the world, including from Putin, Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polyakov said. 

The first 100 days

Sen. Lisa Murkowski met with Neera Tanden and is expected to signal which way she’ll vote on her nomination soon. 
  • The Alaska Republican said her meeting with the embattled Office of Management and Budget nominee “was good," per CBS News. Still, Murkowski told reporters that she has not made up her mind yet and that she has some “follow-up questions.” 
  • Other nominations are moving along: The Senate is poised to confirm Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) today as commerce secretary. So far, 11 of Biden’s 23 Cabinet-level nominees who require Senate approval have been confirmed. 
U.S. sanctions on Russia for the poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny are coming.

Anne Gearan reports that the Biden administration's sanctions block access to financial or other assets in the U.S. for top figures around Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Expect hearty debate and some late nights as the Senate takes up the stimulus bill, Sen. Schumer warns.  

The Senate majority leader intends to move the legislation forward this week, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report. Biden is rallying the Democratic troops behind it, convening a group of moderate-leaning senators a conference call Monday afternoon and addressing the weekly Senate Democratic lunch today. He will talk to the House Democratic caucus tomorrow evening.

  • Following the Monday call, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), the Senate’s swing vote, said he wants the bill “to be very targeted, helping the people that need help the most.” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said Biden was receptive but did not agree to specific changes. However, any concessions to moderates could alienate liberals. 
  • Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said there will be a vote during the debate on the $15 minimum wage. “My own personal view is that the Senate should ignore the parliamentarian’s advice, which is wrong in a number of respects,” he tweeted. “I am not sure, however, that my view at this point is the majority view in the Democratic Caucus.”
  • Sanders is among Senate Democratic leaders already eyeing provisions in Biden’s next big budget push. In a letter this morning, three Democratic chairs of the Senate’s major economic committees urged Biden to include expanded and recurring financial assistance for struggling families in his extensive “Build Back Better” plan the jobs and infrastructure bill expected to follow the relief package.  

Quote of the day

Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO who met with Biden last month to discuss infrastructure, said a bold infrastructure bill would also be “a racial justice bill, a covid safety bill and the most important climate bill of all time, all in one.” 

The future of the GOP

Trump might not be able to control Trumpism.

Philip Bump argues that, while the ideology Trumpism will endure in the GOP, Trump may not. “He’ll be able to endorse candidates, but a few stumbles there and his endorsement won’t be seen as essential. Even at a conference predicated on its enthusiasm for him, a third of attendees weren't eager to see him run again,” he points out, referencing Trump’s performance in this year’s CPAC poll:

Trump may already be planning a 2024 run, but first he must face continuing investigations against him.
  • In Georgia, “Fulton County prosecutors are expected to appear before a grand jury this week seeking subpoenas for documents and witnesses related to their investigation of Trump and some of his top associates for possible election fraud,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
  • In New York, Manhattan district attorney investigators examining the former president’s possible financial fraud have asked witnesses about Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s CFO, the Times reports. The focus on Weisselberg, who has served as the organization’s financial gatekeeper for over two decades, could step up pressure on him to cooperate with the investigation. 

Hot on the left

“Everyone in the community is cheering us on,” said Josh Brewer, the lead union organizer at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse. Brewer told the American Prospect that he didn’t anticipate the amount of support the unionizing effort has received from every major union in the country. “I would say that if we win, an important reason is that this is a union pocket,” he said. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post.) 

Hot on the right

Hyatt Hotels, which at first defended its decision to host CPAC, later condemned the conference’s stage design, which many said looked like a Nazi symbol. Conservatives now want the hotel chain to know they “will not be canceled.” In a letter to Hyatt chairman Thomas Pritzker, David Safavian, the general counsel of the American Conservative Union, said the chain’s statement “disparaged and defamed us” and said that the stage design was approved by Hyatt management. Safavian concluded by accusing the hotel chain of “attempting to silence legitimate political views.” 

CPAC Chair Matt Schlapp weighed in:

Maternal health coverage, visualized

This week in Washington

Biden will meet with Senate Democrats by phone today at 1:10 p.m. and will later deliver remarks on the pandemic at 4:15 p.m. 

Gary Gensler, nominated to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Rohit Chopra, nominated to lead the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, had a dual Senate hearing today at 10 a.m. Shalanda Young testified on her nomination to be OMB Deputy Director. 

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., the Senate Finance Committee will consider the nominations of Xavier Becerra to be secretary of Health and Human Services, Katherine Tai to be Trade representative, and Adewale Adeyemo to be deputy secretary of the Treasury.

On Thursday at 10 a.m., the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider Deb Haaland’s nomination to be interior secretary. 

The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, Maj. Gen. William Walker, will testify tomorrow during a Senate hearing about the Jan. 6 attack. 

In closing

Stephen Colbert said the allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo make Bill de Blasio the second most hated Democrat in New York: 

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