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

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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Some have interpreted Gov. Gavin Newsom's win in the California recall election as a mandate for Democrats to go strong on COVID in their election campaigns.

The big picture: Supporting COVID measures to protect the public is the right stance for any elected official regardless of how the votes may fall.

  • But there is little evidence to suggest it is a winning campaign platform for Democrats in purple states, or for that matter, that Newsom might not have achieved the same result in Democrat-heavy California without his positions on COVID.

Driving the news: Nationally, according to our new KFF Vaccine Monitor, Democrats retain a slight edge over Republicans when it comes to who voters see as having the better approach to handling the pandemic.

  • But independents are divided, with 32% preferring what they see as the Democratic Party's approach, 27% the Republican Party's approach, and another 27% saying they prefer neither.
  • While most independent voters (61%) say the U.S. response to the pandemic hasn’t changed which party's candidates to support in future elections, 21% say it makes them more likely to support Republican candidates and 15% say it makes them more likely to support Democrats.

Between the lines: Independents also see the hot button COVID issues differently than Democrats do. 

  • For example, 77% of Democrats say employers should require employees to get vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption, compared with 44% of independents who say the same thing.        
  • 51% of independents say schools should require students and staff to wear masks compared with 83% of Democrats who say that.

State of play: Democratic candidates also have many other health issues to campaign on with wider support across the political spectrum, from drug price negotiation to Medicaid expansion to expanding Medicare benefits for seniors to strengthening ACA coverage and services for the disabled, assuming they pass some or all of those measures.

  • Almost 80% of the American people say they expect the U.S. will learn to live with an endemic lower level pandemic more like the flu, and more effective treatments in pill form are on the horizon.
  • That suggests the administration and Democrats can lay out a path forward voters will now accept as success on COVID without totally eradicating the virus in the U.S.
  • Republicans will rally their base using the response to COVID to mobilize anti-government and anti-administration fervor. But it is not at all clear that is a winning general election strategy.

The bottom line: The California recall shows that Democrats can also rally their base around strong public health measures.

  • But the general election will look nothing like a California recall with many purple states in play, and for both sides, by the time the midterm election takes shape, it may be that COVID is not the galvanizing issue it is today.

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated."
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated — Annual vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate — Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance — Arizona governor sues Biden administration over funds tied to mandates.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated Jan 6, 2022 - Health

CDC recommends Pfizer boosters for 12- to 17-year-olds

A health care worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a teenager in Long Beach, N.Y., in May. Photo: Johnny Milano/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday approved a CDC advisory committee's vote to recommend booster doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 17-year-olds.

Driving the news: The vote passed 13-1 earlier on Wednesday and will expand the number of children eligible for boosters as a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant spreads nationwide.

Top Senate Republican signals support for election reform

Sen. John Thune. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A top Republican is signaling his party isn't necessarily opposed to joining with Democrats to clarify an existing federal law to reduce the potential for election subversion.

Driving the news: While broader federal voting rights legislation remains mired in the Senate as long as the 60-vote filibuster rule applies, Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told Axios there's "some interest" among Senate Republicans in reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887.

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