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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Data: Newswhip; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

If you feel like you're suddenly spending a surprising amount of your days thinking and talking about Anthony Fauci, you're not alone. He's become the third-most talked about person online, according to data from NewsWhip provided to Axios.

Why it matters: Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health office that deals with infectious diseases, has quickly become a household name, and one of the few household names with (mostly) bipartisan credibility.

By the numbers: A Fox News poll last week shows Fauci has a 77% approval rating — well above any figure in the U.S. government.

  • According to our NewsWhip data, President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were the only people with more online mentions than Fauci over the last two weeks.

What they're saying: Of the top 40 stories about Fauci by interactions (likes, comments, shares) on social media, none had negative sentiment, and several were positively glowing. Those stories included:

  • "Dr. Anthony Fauci and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are the most trusted leaders in America on the coronavirus right now. Trump is not." (Business Insider)
  • "Thank God the Doctor Is In" (Maureen Dowd in the New York Times)
  • "Can we have daily briefings with just Trevor Noah, Dr. Fauci, and no one else? Please?" (Upworthy)

Between the lines: Fauci has been able to strike a rare balance that has mostly avoided alienating either side of the political aisle during the coronavirus crisis.

  • On sites with left-leaning audiences, the top Fauci-related stories focused on instances when he contradicted President Trump or gave more pessimistic forecasts than the president.
  • Right-leaning publishers' top stories have been about Fauci criticizing the press for seeking to create a rift between him and the president, and instances of praise for Trump.

Yes, but: The internet is still the internet. Fauci recently received a security detail, in response to "threats as well as unwelcome communications from fervent admirers," per the Washington Post.

  • Still, although some far-right commentators have worked to build distrust against Fauci, more Republicans approve of Fauci (85%) than Democrats (74%), per the Fox News poll.

The bottom line: In these polarized times, few people are trusted across the political spectrum — particularly when they’re standing behind a podium at the White House. Fauci has proven to be the exception.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Go deeper

34 mins ago - World

Zelensky questions U.S. warnings of "imminent" invasion in Biden call

Biden and Zelensky at the White House last October. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a back-and-forth in their call this evening about just how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be, according to three sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Biden has said previously that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably "move in" to Ukraine, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that "an invasion could come at any time."

Democrats stiff Biden as poll numbers hit low point

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Democrats in swing states and vulnerable districts in this year's pivotal midterms are distancing themselves from President Biden on social media as his poll numbers hit their lowest point.

Why it matters: The digital distance is one sign of the concern candidates feel about a person they'd normally embrace. Incumbent presidents — including one who believes he needs to come to their hometowns to sell his message — would normally be political gold for candidates from the same party.

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Tesla delays Cybertruck until 2023

Tesla debuts the Cybertruck in Hawthorne, Calif., on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Tesla is at risk of falling behind on one of the most critical products in the American auto industry: pickups.

Why it matters: Pickups are the most profitable segment in the business and account for the first, second and third best-selling vehicles in the country. Without a serious pickup strategy, Tesla could miss out on a huge source of future income.