Biden, Democrats seek to rally behind COVID efforts: The Note

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, "We are still at war with the virus"

The TAKE with Rick Klein

We're on the other side of the summer that brought us from "coming back together" in defeating COVID to fears of new outbreaks that could make everything fall apart.

President Joe Biden will take a more somber tone on Thursday than he did back on the Fourth of July, when he asserted that the nation was "closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus."

That prediction didn't age well. From here, the White House is promising to unveil six steps -- some familiar, and some new components to help protect kids going back to school -- in an acknowledgment that, as White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday, "We are still at war with the virus."

Democrats are putting faith in their ability to rally in support of that war again. That messaging is front and center in the closing days of the California gubernatorial recall, despite the fact that it gained initial momentum when a photo of Gov. Gavin Newsom seeming to flout COVID restrictions went viral last fall.

"It took one person, who is Gavin Newsom, to make hard decisions in a moment of crisis," Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday, in her first campaign event to help her home-state governor.

"Your vote could be the difference between protecting our kids and putting them at risk," former President Barack Obama said in a pro-Newsom television ad that started airing the same day.

Now, coming off the roughest stretch of his presidency, Biden and the Democratic Party are counting on their handling of COVID to help them bounce back.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is facing continued backlash over the passage of the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country and it has only gotten fiercer in the wake of his latest remarks on rape victims.

Abbot was asked about the fact that there is no exception in the law for victims of rape and incest. Under the law, victims of the aforementioned crimes are also subject to the ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

"Rape is a crime and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets," said Abbott Tuesday.

The notion of eliminating "all rapists from the streets" is a lofty goal for any leader, especially for a state that is still working to eliminate its backlog of thousands of untested rape kits. The White House press secretary offered a snarky response when asked about Abbott's comments Wednesday.

Psaki told ABC News chief White House correspondent Cecilia Vega that if Abbott has means to eliminate "all rapists or all rape from the United States, then there'd be bipartisan support for that." She also provided a message for women in Texas, "This law is a violation of your rights and we are going to do everything we can to provide assistance as quickly as we can."

Details of a federal response have been scant. The Department of Justice has pledged to protect women who seek out abortion care and abortion providers in Texas. Any other potential legal challenges to the Texas Heartbeat Act remain unclear, with White House officials saying the administration is still exploring options to combat the law.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The political battle over masking continues to evolve in Florida, where on Wednesday, a state circuit judge ruled in favor of allowing school mask mandates to be implemented. The move goes against Gov. Ron DeSantis' push to ban mask mandates in schools and the governor's administration is appealing the case.

Earlier this summer, DeSantis issued an executive order that directed the Florida education and state departments to put forth rules preventing mask mandates and allowing parents to choose whether kids should wear masks in school. The governor also threatened to withhold funding from school districts that went forward with instituting mask requirements. Wednesday's legal development currently prevents the Florida Department of Education from enforcing the governor's threat against defiant school districts.

The Republican governor's actions repeatedly put him at odds with the messaging coming from the White House, creating a sense of broader, political competitiveness given that DeSantis made it a point to align himself with pro-Trumpian policies. But as of September 2021, DeSantis is denying speculation about eyeing a 2024 presidential run.

"All the speculation about me is purely manufactured. I just do my job and, you know, we work hard. Obviously, our state has led on a lot of things. ... I hear all this stuff and honestly, it's nonsense, so I don't really know what to say to the rumors," DeSantis said during a Tuesday press conference.

ONE MORE THING

ABC News' "9/11/ Twenty Years Later: America Remembers" is a special week of coverage across the network and streaming news channel ABC News Live to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including four reflective primetime specials and a five-part documentary series, "9/11 + 20: The Longest Shadow." Thursday on ABC News Live Prime, senior Washington reporter Devin Dwyer reports from Dearborn, Michigan, home to thousands of American immigrant families from Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, to hear directly from residents and community leaders about the lasting impact of the 9/11 attacks.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning's episode features Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, on what doctors are hoping to hear from President Biden's "new strategy" for combating COVID. Then, an interview with a 9/11 family member who has been fighting the government for information about the attack and the alleged connections with Saudi Arabia. And, ABC News Chief Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis reports on opening statements in the trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Joe Biden receives the president's daily brief at 10:30 a.m. and delivers remarks on his plan to stop the delta variant of the coronavirus and boost COVID-19 vaccinations at 5 p.m.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris delivers the opening remarks at the U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue at 11 a.m. with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, USAID Administrator Samantha Power and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar. The vice president meets with abortion and reproductive health providers and patients from Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky and New Mexico to discuss the impact of Texas Senate Bill 8 and other restrictions on reproductive care at 3:30 p.m.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at 1 p.m.
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, an ABC News contributor, speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute "Time for Choosing Speaker Series" at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, at 6 p.m. PT.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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