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 Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After years of holding their tongues, a few Republicans have started to separate themselves from President Trump and his possible political collapse, focusing on his carelessness with the virus.

Why it matters: A senior Republican official told me this is less about shaping this election, and more about preparing for the aftermath.

Most notably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in Kentucky on Thursday: "I haven't been to the White House since August the 6th."

  • "I personally didn't feel that they were approaching the protection from this illness in the same way that I thought was appropriate for the Senate [masks and distancing] ... I think we've shown that ... we can function safely." Video.

Also this week, in her sole face-to-face debate, embattled Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), pressed repeatedly, wouldn't say whether she's proud of her support for Trump, CNN reported.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C), who's in one of the closest Senate races, acknowledged in an interview with WRAL TV that he erred in going without a mask at a White House reception that has been linked to a cluster of cases, including his own.

  • "It's just another experience that tells me: Even when you think you're in a safe setting, you should always wear a mask," Tillis said.

Between the lines: Some top Republicans poured cold water on the idea that there's any point in Senate Republicans trying some dramatic new distancing.

  • But Politico noted: "Trump is simply too consumed by the resident chaos all around his West Wing in the closing weeks of his own reelection campaign to carry out punitive measures against GOP disloyalists."
  • And one experienced Republican consultant told me this may only be the beginning: "There will be a lot of finger points & backstabbing in next several weeks."

The bottom line, from Hans Nichols: Most Republican consultants fear that the White House is gone — they're pinning their hopes on the Senate. The last week has only made that clearer.


Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene contributed reporting.

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Go deeper

Off the Rails

Descent into madness

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

Off the Rails

Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

45 mins ago - Health

CDC panel recommends Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: The approval is the near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to accept the recommendation.