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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Biden’s Covid remarks had campaign overtones

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. Via the Associated Press, I learned that on this day in 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the end of coffee rationing. The rules had limited people to one pound of coffee every five weeks since they went into effect in November 1942.

The big idea

Biden’s Covid remarks: Public health? Or political health? Yes.

As The Daily 202 has documented, President Biden’s slide in the polls began in earnest last July, greased in part by the surging Delta variant of the coronavirus and a rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, right as he publicly hoped to declare independence from the virus.

So it’s no exaggeration to say his political health — and that of Democrats this November — rests in part on where the country stands when it comes to the pandemic.

That was the electoral backdrop for his speech Wednesday in the Rose Garden, which was ostensibly a report on his personal skirmish with the virus (he seemingly never developed serious symptoms and kept working) but sounded like the kind of pandemic reset he has repeatedly sought.

  • In his hastily announced remarks, Biden even took the time to contrast his experience to President Trump’s more serious fight with covid in October 2020 — explicitly painting a picture of progress against the pandemic since the Republican left office.

“Here’s the bottom line: When my predecessor got COVID, he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered,” Biden said. “When I got COVID, I worked from upstairs of the White House, in the offices upstairs, for that five-day period.”

Promises made, promises …

Biden’s 2020 campaign was anchored on several promises, including defeating the pandemic and restoring the economy to something approaching pre-pandemic health. With inflation confounding the second promise, the president seemed to focus on the first.

Biden wasn’t entirely exuberant. He noted “many of us are still going to get COVID even if we take the precautions,” acknowledged “unfortunately, this COVID is still with us, as it has been for two and a half years” and ruefully diagnosed “Covid isn’t gone.”

But, he said, vaccines (and boosters), widely available at-home testing, and treatment for infected Americans, like the paxlovid the president took after testing positive nearly a week ago, have reduced the danger to something more manageable.

  • COVID was killing thousands of Americans a day when I got here. That isn’t the case anymore.  You can live without fear by doing what I did: get boosted, get tested, and get treatment,” Biden said.

(In some ways, his attitude mirrors The Daily 202’s speculation in September 2021 that the war against the virus would eventually look like the war on terrorism, with the enemy far from stamped out but no longer as much of a factor in regular American life.)

A trifecta of electoral problems

Biden — and Democrats — are beset by three toxic global forces Americans regularly experience in their daily lives: The pandemic, high gas prices and inflation. Of these, it’s relatively easy to see why the president would talk up the response to Covid.

Gallup has said Biden’s approval ratings on managing the coronavirus tend to be higher than on other issues. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month gave Biden 50 percent approval on his response to the coronavirus — in contrast to a 31 percent overall approval rating, and 28 percent on the economy.

And back in May, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 51 percent of all adults approved of the president’s handling of the virus — his best showing since summer 2021 and up from 44 percent in February.

But, as my colleague Paul Kane documented at the time: “Democrats … remain skittish about taking any victory lap for fear of appearing like the president last year. Biden’s early popularity came amid the first wave of mass vaccinations and decreasing case numbers last spring and early summer, when voters approved of his pandemic performance by more than 2-to-1 margins, according to Post polls.”

“Then, after a premature victory declaration last July, several coronavirus variants ricocheted throughout the globe during the fall and winter, infecting tens of millions of Americans and killing hundreds of thousands. With inflation surging and crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine bursting open, Biden’s overall job approval plummeted.”

On Wednesday, Biden sounded more concerned with a premature surrender.

  • “Let’s keep investing in these tools — vaccinations, treatments, tests, and more — so we can help making them available to the American people on a permanent basis,” he said, before quickly correcting himself.

“When I say a ‘permanent basis’ — as long as they are needed.”

The White House did not acknowledge an email from The Daily 202 asking how they would address the issue of more Americans dying from the virus on his watch than under Trump.

In the past, though, Biden aides have underlined that unvaccinated Americans — in other words, those who have disregarded advice from the president and public health experts — and those without natural immunity that comes with having been infected face greater dangers.

What’s happening now

U.S. economy shrinks again in second quarter, reviving recession fears

“The U.S. economy shrank again for a second straight quarter, at a 0.9 percent annual rate, which has often signaled a recession,” Abha Bhattarai reports.

“The new figures, released Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, come at a tumultuous time for the economy, though economists disagree on the likelihood of a full-fledged economic slump. In the past, six months of contraction in economic growth has usually indicated a recession, although that determination is made by a separate panel of experts.

More: Biden to deliver remarks on economy after release of closely watched GDP report

Biden says it’s ‘no surprise’ the economy is slowing, country on ‘right path’

“Coming off of last year’s historic economic growth — and regaining all the private sector jobs lost during the pandemic crisis — it’s no surprise that the economy is slowing down as the Federal Reserve acts to bring down inflation,” Biden said in a statement. “But even as we face historic global challenges, we are on the right path and we will come through this transition stronger and more secure.”

  • “Biden’s statement came less than 90 minutes after the report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that the nation’s gross domestic product shrank at a 0.9 percent annual rate in the second quarter,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

House to vote on bill to subsidize U.S.-made semiconductor chips

“After the stunning news Wednesday night of a deal between Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Democratic leaders on a separate climate, health-care and taxes bill, House GOP leaders are now urging members to oppose the chips bill as retribution, potentially denying Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) a legislative win,” Amy B Wang reports.

Russia: No deal yet on releasing Americans Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan

“Russia said Thursday that no concrete agreement has been reached in prisoner release negotiations with the United States, a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a ‘substantial proposal’ was made to Moscow to free two jailed Americans: WNBA star Brittney Griner and security consultant Paul Whelan,” Robyn Dixon and Adela Suliman report.

Democrats aim to move ahead with Manchin-blessed economic package next week

“The Democratic-led Senate is angling to move forward next week with a deal on a spending package brokered by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) that aims to lower health-care costs, combat climate change and reduce the federal deficit,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Rusty Bowers testified in D.C. Now he might lose his primary in Arizona.

“Bowers is convinced Trump lost the election. [Former state senator David Farnsworth] is convinced he did not,” Yvonne Wingett Sanchez reports.

"Bowers traveled to Capitol Hill in June to testify about extensive efforts by Trump and his allies to pressure him to undo a narrow loss in Arizona. Farnsworth, who aided Trump’s efforts to challenge the results, traveled to Prescott Valley on Friday to rally with the former president, who called Bowers a ‘RINO coward.’”

This American teacher also sits in a Russian jail, worried nobody cares

“For the past 11 months, [Marc Hilliard Fogel] has languished in Russian detention centers following his August 2021 arrest for trying to enter the country with about half an ounce of medical marijuana he’d been prescribed in the United States for chronic pain after numerous injuries and surgeries. First he endlessly awaited trial, often in crowded, smoke-choked cells. More recently, he has been serving the first weeks of an incomprehensible 14-year sentence handed down by a Russian judge in June,” Manuel Roig-Franzia reports.

Adam Schiff is jockeying to lead House Democrats. It won’t be easy.

“Schiff, who gained attention investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election before leading the first impeachment of President Donald Trump, is exploring a bid to lead the House Democratic caucus if Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) retires after the midterm elections, according to more than a dozen House members and top aides who have spoken directly with the congressman,” Marianna Sotomayor and Leigh Ann Caldwell report.

… and beyond

Pelosi and China: The making of a progressive hawk

“When Chinese officials chased Nancy Pelosi out of Tiananmen Square 31 years ago, the incident launched a surprising foreign policy approach that has pitted her against presidents of both parties and at times aligned her with conservatives,” Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.

How polio crept back into the U.S.

“In the U.S., public health agencies generally don’t test sewage for polio. Instead, they wait for people to show up sick in doctor’s offices or hospitals — a reactive strategy that can give this stealthy virus more time to circulate silently through the community before it is detected,” ProPublica's Robin Fields reports.

The latest on covid

School mask mandates return as latest coronavirus variants surge

“Mask mandates are making a comeback at public schools in Louisville. They could return to Los Angeles, after a possible decision this week. And outside Atlanta, where classes start in a matter of days, they are required for school employees,” Donna St. George reports.

The Biden agenda

Biden administration announces $400 million for rural internet access

“Biden’s administration announced on Thursday that it will provide $401 million to provide access to high-speed internet for 31,000 rural residents and businesses in 11 states, as part of Biden's drive to expand access to the web,” Reuters's Steve Holland reports.

Biden administration expected to soon declare monkeypox a health emergency

“The Biden administration is expected to declare monkeypox a public health emergency in the coming days, according to two people with knowledge of the matter,” Politico's Erin Banco and Adam Cancryn report.

Biden launches programs to help Americans deal with extreme heat and higher air-conditioning bills

“As summer temperatures have steadily risen in recent decades, air-conditioning costs have also sharply increased. On Wednesday — with more than 44 million Americans living in areas under an extreme heat warning — the White House announced a set of actions to defray those costs and boost solar power, to ensure that increased demand for electricity, which in some states is predominantly generated from sources that produce greenhouse gases, doesn’t make climate change even worse,” Yahoo News's Ben Adler reports.

Biden ends his covid isolation, urging Americans to get vaccinated

“Biden, who tested negative Wednesday morning and returned to in-person work a short time later, conceded that the virus is here to stay but stressed that his administration has made booster shots, at-home tests and antivirals available free, and emphasized that he was able to continue his work remotely,” Yasmeen Abutaleb reports.

Interest rates, visualized

“The Federal Reserve raised interest rates Wednesday by half a percentage point and scaled back other pandemic-era economic supports, strengthening its efforts to fight the highest inflation in 40 years and vowing to keep up the pressure as Americans continue to struggle,” Rachel Siegel and Abha Bhattarai report.

Hot on the left

It’s official: The attack on McMorrow backfired.

“The numbers are in and it’s official: The attack on Democratic Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow backfired,” Politico's Adam Wren reports.

“The Michigan Republican state senator who falsely described McMorrow as a ‘groomer’ in an April fundraising email raised less than $300 in the days following the solicitation, according to campaign finance filings. McMorrow, on the other hand, raised more than $1 million.”

Hot on the right

Pence endorses Kleefisch for governor in Wisconsin, breaking from Trump

“Former president Donald Trump and his vice president are again coming down on opposite sides in a Republican primary for governor, this time in Wisconsin,” Patrick Marley reports.

“Former vice president Mike Pence on Wednesday endorsed former Wisconsin lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch for governor. He backed her a day after Trump announced he would hold a rally in suburban Milwaukee next week for Tim Michels, a construction executive who is financing his campaign with his personal fortune.”

Today in Washington

At noon, Biden will deliver remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

Biden will speak about the economy and meet with CEOs at 2:15 p.m. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will attend.

In closing

The latest matchup: Biden v. covid

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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