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Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Several Republican senators defended Anthony Fauci after a string of attacks in recent days from President Trump, who has called the government's top infectious-disease expert "a disaster" and claimed without evidence that he's a Democrat.

Why it matters: As polls indicate warning signs for both Trump and down-ballot Republicans, more GOP leaders are urging the president to stop downplaying the pandemic and listen to advice from public health experts. Fauci is one of the most trusted voices in the country on coronavirus issues.

What they're saying:

  • Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate Republican whip, said to CNN about his advice for Trump: "Stay away from personal attacks. Quit attacking the media. Quit attacking Fauci and focus on issues. ... He's got to stay disciplined to do it, and I think that's how you're going to win over the middle people."
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) tweeted: "Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants. ... If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, & it would be safer to go back to school & back to work & out to eat."
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has frequently clashed with Trump, said, "Dr. Fauci is an esteemed professional with extraordinary expertise and capability, and I have full confidence in his leadership and capacity.”
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has remained close to Trump through his re-election bid, said, "I think in terms of Dr. Fauci, I trust his judgment."
  • Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), when asked if he agreed with Trump's comments, said, "I got a lot of confidence in Dr. Fauci."

The big picture: Several Republican senators have come out and criticized the president's actions and comments as the election nears, fearing his unpopularity could cost them the White House, Senate and House.

  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) gave one of the sharpest criticisms of the president of any Republican last week, calling Trump a "TV-obsessed, narcissistic individual" and saying he has "flirted with white supremacists."
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on Sunday he's disagreed with President Trump on trade agreements with China, budget deficits, COVID-19 stimulus aid, but has always brought up his concerns privately.

Go deeper: Trump attacks CNN as "dumb b*stards" for continuing to cover pandemic

Go deeper

The week the Trump show ended

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Donald Trump was eclipsed in media attention last week by President Biden for the first time since Trump took office, according to viewership data on the internet, on social media and on cable news.

Why it matters: After Trump crowded out nearly every other news figure and topic for five years, momentum of the new administration took hold last week and the former president retreated, partly by choice and partly by being forced off the big platforms.

Democrats weigh "Dr. Fauci of Ohio" in Senate race

Amy Acton. Photo: Public Domain

Some Democrats are looking to a political outsider described as the "Dr. Fauci of Ohio" to replace Rob Portman in the U.S. Senate.

Why it matters: Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, gained a grassroots following last year when she briefed Ohioans about the state of the coronavirus. Her celebrity could help in a Republican state, and against potential GOP rivals such as Rep. Jim Jordan.

Young people want checks on Big Tech's power

Data: Generation Lab; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The next generation of college-educated Americans thinks social media companies have too much power and influence on politics and need more government regulation, according to a new survey by Generation Lab for Axios.

Why it matters: The findings follow an election dominated by rampant disinformation about voting fraud on social media; companies' fraught efforts to stifle purveyors of disinformation including former President Trump; and a deadly Jan. 6 insurrection over the election organized largely online.