COVID mandates loom over all levels of politics: The Note

A bit like COVID-19 itself, the issue can be everywhere yet hard to find.

November 05, 2021, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

There was little direct evidence to suggest that this week's political shockers were directly related to the pandemic.

But a bit like COVID-19 itself, the issue can be everywhere yet at the same time hard to find.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, whose leadership during the pandemic was central to his political persona, squeaked by in his reelection race, according to an ABC News projection. In Virginia, Glenn Youngkin became governor-elect after running against mask and vaccine mandates and also speaking to parents' frustration over a third consecutive school year marred by COVID restrictions.

According to exit polls there, the relatively small portion of voters -- 15% -- who named the pandemic as their top issue broke 84-16% for Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden after he speaks during the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Nov. 1, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland.
President Joe Biden after he speaks during the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Nov. 1, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland.
Evan Vucci/AP

At the same time, among voters who thought neither Youngkin nor McAuliffe could be trusted to handle the pandemic, Youngkin won 63-35%. That indicates a preference for more of a hands-off approach among voters who think COVID will be around a while.

The White House is heading in the opposite direction. The Biden administration Thursday laid out plans to enforce a vaccine mandate for most private-sector workers starting Jan. 4; White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the president is confident the mandate won't worsen supply-chain disruptions and that it will save lives.

The move puts questions of how leaders handle COVID front and center in the midterm election year. Multiple states with Republican leaders -- including a few with governors who are 2024 contenders -- announced immediate plans to take the Biden administration to court, and lawsuits are also coming in from small business groups.

President Joe Biden ran on the promise of ending the pandemic far more than he did on the infrastructure and social spending plans he wants enacted. His promises are likely to come up against real-world frustrations that permeate virtually all aspects of Americans' lives.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

With an eye to both midterm elections and 2024, a host of Republican lawmakers are slated to descend on Las Vegas for the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting this weekend.

Among the GOP heavyweights on the agenda are numerous possible 2024 contenders. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former Vice President Mike Pence are all scheduled to speak.

In the aftermath of an Election Day thrashing for Democrats, GOP lawmakers will likely use some time to take a victory lap. But how the possible candidates describe the reasons for those electoral victories will differ.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump reacts after his speech during a rally at the Iowa States Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 9, 2021.
Former President Donald Trump reacts after his speech during a rally at the Iowa States Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 9, 2021.
Rachel Mummey/Reuters

Some could suggest the lesson to be learned from Election Day is that continued allegiance to former President Donald Trump is still a winning strategy. Others could point to the GOP's gubernatorial gain in Virginia as proof that Republicans can win without sticking closely to Trump.

The event could also offer some insight into how each of the potential presidential hopefuls will frame their candidacy should they launch White House bids.

The TIP with Oren Oppenheim

A newcomer's victory could be the biggest political shocker this week.

Edward Durr, a Republican who was a commercial truck driver, beat longtime New Jersey state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, in the race for his state Senate seat, according to The Associated Press.

PHOTO: New Jersey State Sen. Stephen Sweeney answers questions during an event in Trenton, N.J., Oct. 1, 2009.
New Jersey State Sen. Stephen Sweeney answers questions during an event in Trenton, N.J., Oct. 1, 2009.
Mel Evans/AP

In campaign videos, Durr both criticized Sweeney and portrayed himself as an everyman.

"The Senate president has spent 20 years in Trenton; higher taxes, increasing debt and a rising cost of living. We deserve better," he said in one video, before getting on his motorcycle and revving it up.

Sweeney, first elected to the state Senate in 2002, is the longest-serving state Senate president in New Jersey history and sometimes clashed with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. And Murphy himself faced a tougher-than-expected reelection bid against Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli.

Durr's win could underscore how Democratic officials who thought they could coast to reelection now find themselves in possible danger.

ONE MORE THING

ABC News presents special coverage of the memorial service for Gen. Colin Powell on Friday, beginning at approximately noon ET. "World News Tonight" anchor David Muir will lead the network's coverage of "Honoring a Patriot: General Colin Powell" from New York, with chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz live from the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and live reports from "Nightline" co-anchor Byron Pitts, chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas and chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. On Friday morning's episode ABC's Steve Osunsami reports on the trial of three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. Then, ABC's Dierdre Bolton breaks down the economics of high gas prices. And, Brad visits an oyster farm that's protecting New York from climate change. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WEEKEND

  • President Joe Biden receives the president's daily brief at 9:30 a.m. He then delivers remarks on the October Jobs Report. Later, he and first lady Jill Biden attend the funeral of Colin Powell at the National Cathedral. The president heads to Rehoboth Beach in the evening.
  • Principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a press briefing at 2:30.
  • ABC News provides special coverage of the trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, beginning Friday at 9 a.m. ET on ABC News Live and across its programs and platforms.
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sens. Ted Cruz, Rick Scott, Lindsey Graham and Ron DeSantis all speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas this weekend.
  • Sunday on ABC's "This Week": The Powerhouse Roundtable discusses all the week's politics with ABC News Political Director Rick Klein, former DNC Chair and ABC News Contributor Donna Brazile, Dispatch Staff Writer and ABC News Contributor Sarah Isgur and co-author of "Peril" and The Washington Post National Political Reporter Robert Costa.
  • 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 day's top stories in politics. Please check back Monday for the latest.

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