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Trump at the White House on Oct. 4. Photo: Tom Brenner for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Two recent New York Times opinion pieces get inside the minds of Republicans to help illuminate why voters and leaders so steadfastly defend President Trump.

The big picture: Only a few Republicans in Congress — namely, Ben Sasse and Mitt Romney — have criticized Trump for asking Ukraine or China to investigate Joe Biden, one of Trump's top political rivals, and his son.

1) David Brooks channels a Trump voter "Flyover Man" talking to "Urban Guy":

  • "I only see Democrats who’d make everything worse: Open the border! Socialism! More power to Washington! You could have paid attention to the forces driving Trumpism, but you ignored us."
  • "Here’s a confession. I used to think Trump was a jerk. Now, after three years of battle, I see him as my captain. He deserves my loyalty, thick and thin. See ya' in hell, brother."
  • Keep reading.

2) Peter Wehner, who worked for the 3 previous Republican presidents, on why Republicans are "yet again circling the Trump wagon":

  • "For many Republican members of Congress, the president is more popular among Republican voters in their districts and states than they are. "
  • A former member of Congress said Trump has “conditioned people in the base so much so that it’s just 'us versus them' and that if you give an inch on him, you’re just giving the other side what they want."
  • Keep reading.

Go deeper: Trump letter dares Pelosi to hold vote on impeachment inquiry

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

10 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.