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Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Axios Visuals

As natural disasters ravaged the country and Texas enacted lightning-rod abortion restrictions, Afghanistan still held the vast share of online attention last week, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.

Why it matters: Democrats are banking on the Afghanistan chaos having little impact on the 2022 midterms. But the data, which comes as Biden's approval rating slid underwater, shows the potential potency of a story unfolding thousands of miles away.

By the numbers: Afghanistan stories generated 6.5 times more engagement on social media than those about Hurricane Ida and its remnants in the Northeast, the second-biggest story last week.

  • That can't be explained by simply the volume of coverage. Afghanistan stories generated a per-article rate of 290 social media likes, comments or shares — compared with 54 interactions for each storm-related article.

The big question: Will these critical engagements break through with independent or Democratic swing voters or simply energize the GOP base?

  • Eight of the top 10 stories last week came from right-wing outlets: four from the Daily Wire, two from Fox News, and one from Breitbart and Newsmax. Conservative media has been revving up audiences.
  • Top-performing stories took on a strident, anti-Biden tone. They included scathing words about the president from the parents of Marines killed in last month's Kabul airport attack, as well as calls for Biden and military leadership to resign.
  • But many Democrats expect voters to see it as a far-off issue that pales in comparison to their concerns about the U.S. economy, COVID-19 or health care.

Go deeper

Updated Aug 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden hasn't ruled out sending more troops to Kabul, national security adviser says

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that President Biden hasn't ruled sending more troops to the airport in Kabul, but "at the moment, we believe we have sufficient forces on the ground.”

The big picture: The president's senior national security team made the rounds on the Sunday political talk shows to explain — and defend — the Biden administration's handling of the ongoing turbulence in Afghanistan.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adults

Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel on Friday unanimously endorsed a booster shot for adult recipients of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after the initial dose.

Why it matters: The advisory committee raised concerns about a dearth of data to support their decision but ultimately decided to support an additional shot for those over 18.

Capitol Police officer indicted for obstructing Jan. 6 investigation

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

A U.S. Capitol Police officer has been indicted on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping hide evidence of a participant's involvement in the Jan. 6 riot.

Driving the news: Officer Michael A. Riley, 50, is accused of telling the unidentified participant, referred to as "Person 1," in the Jan. 6 riot to delete posts from Facebook, which showed them in the Capitol during the attack.