The TAKE with Rick Klein
The road to 2022 goes through 2021, and this tenuous political and societal moment will showcase national trends. Plus, more involvement from national players.
President Joe Biden is set for his first in-person campaigning since taking office, with a Friday evening event alongside Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe just outside Washington in Arlington, Virginia.
McAuliffe captured the Democratic nomination and now hopes to recapture the governor's office by rallying behind the Biden agenda -- against a Republican former President Donald Trump has been praising of late.
It comes days after Vice President Kamala Harris confirmed that she will campaign for her longtime friend and home-state governor, Gavin Newsom, in the recall effort he's seeking to fend off in California.
The White House is pushing simple framing around the Biden agenda -- "more jobs," "tax cuts" and "lower costs," per a messaging document obtained by ABC News -- that belies concerns about all three of those items and more.
Biden has been able to demonstrate, if not runaway popularity, remarkable polling stability. His average job approval rating over his first six months in office has ranged from 51% to 55%, a smaller range than any modern president, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis published this week.
It's not clear, after another topsy-turvy, week, whether Biden's political prescription will move major legislative action -- or whether his leadership style will continue to make the right kind of progress against COVID-19.
But if Democrats hope to run on Bidenism in the midterms, it will get its first tests before the calendar turns.
The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper
While children remain largely unvaccinated with them returning to the classroom over the next few weeks, Florida's Republican governor is setting the stage for another round of mask politicization.
"We want our kids to be able to be kids, we need them to be able to breathe," Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday. "It's terribly uncomfortable for them to do it."
In his remarks, DeSantis said he would fight any federal attempts to mandate mask-wearing in schools. There are no such attempts in the works.
DeSantis' indignant flouting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance -- which calls for all unvaccinated people older than 2 to wear masks indoors -- could put schoolchildren at risk while the more contagious delta variant spreads.
"If I were a parent in Florida, that would be greatly concerning to me," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in response to a question about DeSantis' comments from ABC News White House correspondent Karen Travers.
What will Biden do about it? The answer for now is not much.
Psaki indicated Biden would continue to speak out and urge Americans to follow public health guidance while the Food and Drug Administration is working toward authorizing the vaccines for children under 12. She conceded that decisions about mask-wearing and other COVID-related measures are made on the local level.
The TIP with Alisa Wiersema
With two Republicans in the matchup for the state's 6th Congressional District, the outcome is guaranteed to further narrow Democrats' majority in Congress, but the importance of the winner's relationship -- or lack thereof -- to former President Donald Trump remains in question.
One of the contenders, Susan Wright, has had Trump's endorsement since before the crowded primary election took place in May. She also recently received the backing of Sen. Ted Cruz, who said he wants to see Wright bring "Texas values to the Washington swamp." Meanwhile, state Rep. Jake Ellzey is moving ahead with the backing of Trump-adjacent supporters like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Dan Crenshaw.
With Friday marking the last day of the contest's early voting period, it also remains to be seen whether third-party party spending -- primarily from the Club For Growth against Ellzey -- will leave any early imprints on the race. Despite those blows, Ellzey heads into Tuesday's matchup with a major fundraising advantage.
ONE MORE THING
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shot back at House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday, saying the Jan. 6 select committee is "deadly serious" after McCarthy accused Pelosi of an "egregious abuse of power." McCarthy on Thursday continued to insist that Pelosi's decision to veto two of his appointees is unprecedented. "I checked with the historian," McCarthy said following Pelosi's news conference.
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Friday morning's episode features ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who tells us what we should know about masks and breakthrough cases amid a delta variant-fueled COVID surge. ESPN's Pablo Torre breaks down the NFL's new strict rules around vaccinations. And ABC News foreign editor Kirit Radia explains what challenges Haiti will face after the funeral for its assassinated president. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
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