COVID backlash threatens incumbents at all levels: The Note

The TAKE with Rick Klein

One might think, two years into the pandemic, that the storyline of elected officials flouting their own COVID guidelines in public would have run its course — or at least that leaders wouldn’t let themselves get photographed behaving the way they tell others not to.

But from Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisting pressure to resign amid new revelations of lockdown-era parties to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and two prominent mayors pictured maskless at a football game, the political sensitivities around COVID behavior are clearly as strong as ever.

It’s also clear that it doesn’t take a British government report or Magic Johnson’s Instagram account to pose a threat to a leader’s future in this anxious era. The backlash against COVID-era policies — including some still in place — is popping up in all manner of races, sometimes in unpredictable ways.

On the progressive side, in recall elections taking place two weeks from Tuesday, school board members in San Francisco could lose their jobs over how they handled COVID. Among Republicans, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine could lose his May primary in a race where his main challenger has put what he calls “draconian” and “overreacting” policies front and center.

Newsom easily beat back a recall effort of his own last year that drew momentum from an infamous photo that showed him with friends at a fancy restaurant when gatherings like that were banned. Asked on Monday about the pictures taken at the game, Newsom suggested he should have acted differently.

“I made a mis — I mean, I was trying to be gracious. I took the mask off for a brief second,” Newsom said.

As he knows better than most, it doesn’t take much more than that to spark a public outcry.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Biden’s coming SCOTUS pick will be historic not only because of the race and gender of the nominee but also because of the disparaging conversation around her nomination.

After all, this still unchosen nominee’s qualifications for the bench are not being questioned because of her judicial philosophy. Legal credentials, schooling, or her record haven’t been the subject of debate. Her judicial fitness isn’t in doubt because of some alleged past indiscretion. It is her mere identity — Black and female — that has sparked a flood of backlash.

“The fact that he is willing to make a promise at the outset that it must be a Black woman I’ve got to say that’s offensive,” said Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “Black women are what, 6 percent of the U.S. population? He’s saying to 94 percent of Americans ‘I don’t give a damn about you, you are ineligible.'”

Cruz’s statement implies that the more than 21 million Black women are relatively insignificant.

It is important to note that this is not the first time a president has stated his intent to nominate a certain kind of person to the Court. The latest example is Amy Coney Barrett. Prior to her nomination, Trump openly stated that he would only consider female candidates.

During her confirmation, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who doubled down on his assertion that Biden’s pick would be the “beneficiary” of a quota Monday, didn’t raise concerns about Trump’s intentions. Wicker called Barrett an “inspiration to young women across this country,” including his daughters and granddaughters.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Despite being the most high-profile Republican on Trump’s 2022 hit list, Rep. Liz Cheney is still raking in cash and breaking her own fundraising records.

According to her latest campaign disclosure, Cheney broke her quarterly fundraising record by bringing in over $2 million since October 2021 and now enters 2022 with $4.7 million cash on hand. In the first three fundraising quarters of the past year, Cheney’s campaign respectively raised $1.5 million, $1.9 million and $1.7 million. The most recent quarter’s total brings her yearly haul to more than $7 million raised in 2021.

By comparison, Cheney’s Trump-endorsed challenger, Harriet Hageman, raised $443,000 in the fourth quarter. In a statement, Hageman’s campaign says she raised more than $1 million over the course of the last year, the bulk of which was raised after she announced her candidacy in September. Hageman goes into 2022 with $381,163 cash on hand, although her campaign says, “the actual current amount is higher because of funds raised since the end of the year.”

Over the past year, Cheney has attracted a slew of donors from across the aisle to help boost her campaign fundraising amid attacks from pro-Trump Republicans and shows no signs of altering her political stance despite facing challengers. Following Trump’s suggestion of pardoning Jan. 6 insurrectionists, Cheney tweeted, “He’d do it all again if given the chance.”

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

3 seats. That’s how many more Democratic-leaning seats New York’s proposed congressional map creates. In fact, according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis, this map puts Democrats in position to win between 77% and 85% of New York’s congressional seats and could help Democrats pick up three seats nationally. Read more from Nathaniel Rakich about New York’s map and what it’s road to passage looks like.


ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. Start Here begins Tuesday morning with the latest on the Boris Johnson ‘Partygate’ report from ABC’s James Longman. Then, ABC’s Steve Osunami explains the rejected plea deal for the man convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. And, we take a trip inside Beijing’s Olympics bubble with ABC’s Maggie Rulli as she details the steps athletes need to take to get in under strict COVID protocols.


  • President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris host Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley at 1:45 p.m.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at 1:30 p.m.
  • The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions holds a hearing to examine mental health and substance use disorders at 10 a.m.
  • The Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security holds a hearing to examine COVID-19 fraud and price gouging at 2:30 p.m.
  • Download the ABC News app and select “The Note” as an item of interest to receive the day’s sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day’s top stories in politics. Please check back Wednesday for the latest.