Biden, Newsom team up seeking COVID-19 momentum: The Note

Republicans are already claiming the California recall election may be rigged.

September 13, 2021, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

California Gov. Gavin Newsom went from offering a cautionary tale to charting the kind of course that Democrats may want to follow.

President Joe Biden is helping him get there -- and also hoping that Newsom helps him out along the way. The president will campaign alongside Newsom Monday in Long Beach, the day before voting ends in a recall effort that was emboldened by backlash to COVID-19 restrictions, but that might be decided by backlash to that backlash.

Just like recall proponents have used anger over mandates and shutdowns as an argument to replace the governor, Democrats are using COVID-19 as a case in point for why Newsom should stay.

Newsom's campaign has juiced ballot returns with concerns that a Republican governor would, as Newsom said last week, "walk us off that same COVID cliff" as GOP-led states like Texas and Florida. The leading Republican replacement candidate, Larry Elder, has promised to roll back vaccine and mask mandates immediately if he is sworn in.

Biden touches down in California having just unveiled sweeping federal vaccination mandates that reach deep into the private sector. Those moves brought outrage among conservatives, including some 19 Republican governors vowing to challenge his authority, in court or the court of public opinion.

On that point, Biden and Newsom are both counting on a vocal minority getting drowned out and outvoted by a broad majority that doesn't want more backsliding in fighting the pandemic. California may make for an imperfect test case, but lessons learned there will carry into other races in 2021 and 2022.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Senate Democrats don't have their house in order when it comes to the $3.5 trillion Democrats-only "human" infrastructure plan and it's a predicament that could tank both the budget reconciliation and the smaller bipartisan infrastructure deal passed by the Senate last month.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has thrown a wrench in much of the Biden agenda, has called for a "strategic pause" on the budget reconciliation plan that would allow Democrats to go it alone without Republican support. With a 50-50 Senate, Democrats need to be in lockstep to see it through and Manchin has made it clear he isn't with the rest of his party on this. Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress have rejected Manchin's "strategic pause."

"The urgency -- I can't understand why we can't take time to deliberate on this and work," Manchin told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

PHOTO: Sen. Joe Manchin, left, and Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Joe Manchin, left, prepares to chair a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Washington, Aug. 5, 2021. Sen. Bernie Sanders listens during a press conference to introduce The National Security Powers Act, July 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.
AP|The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE

In the House, some Democrats have threatened to delay the passage of the bipartisan plan until the reconciliation plan is passed. Senate Budget committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., warned that the ongoing divide could leave Americans without desperately needed infrastructure improvements.

"I think we're gonna work it out, but it would really be a terrible, terrible shame for the American people if both bills went down," Sanders told Stephanopoulos Sunday.

The Senate is back in session on Monday and the tentative deadline for Senate committees to turn in a draft of the legislation is Wednesday.

The TIP with Meg Cunningham

Although polls for California's recall election do not close until Tuesday night, some Republicans are preparing for issues with election integrity based on lies about the 2020 presidential election.

Trump has already claimed that the election is "probably rigged." And Elder, the leading Republican to potentially succeed Newsom, warned of "shenanigans" last week -- though he told ABC News Saturday, "So many people are going to vote to have it recalled, I'm not worried about fraud."

Elder had previously said that he believed President Joe Biden won the 2020 election "fairly and squarely." But he is now encouraging his supporters to call a hotline to report issues of voter fraud for litigation purposes in the recall, saying he fears there will be integrity issues similar to those of the 2020 election -- despite there being no widespread evidence of voter fraud in November.

"We're going to file lawsuits in a timely fashion," Elder said last week. The California GOP also has a network of lawyers standing by. "I don't know if there is fraud or not," the party chairwoman told the Los Angeles Times. "We are not messing around."


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Monday morning's episode features ABC News' Anne Flaherty on the mixed reaction to President Joe Biden's vaccination mandate. Then, ABC News' Zohreen Shah previews the California recall election after sitting down with Gov. Gavin Newsom and the leading Republican candidate, Larry Elder. And, in a special "America Strong" series, one woman tells her story of finding new homes and friendships for Afghan refugees in the U.S.


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