A New Covid Outbreak at the White House

As the Senate prepares for a final vote on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, the Biden-Harris ticket makes a play for Texas. It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

Several aides to Vice President Mike Pence, including his chief of staff, have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days — and the administration is playing defense amid reports that it sought to conceal the news.

Two people briefed on the situation told Maggie Haberman that Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, had wanted to prevent the news media from finding out that at least four staff members in Pence’s inner circle had tested positive. A statement confirming the results came from a press aide, not the White House medical unit.

During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday, Meadows didn’t deny that he had tried to keep the information from becoming public. “Sharing personal information is not something that we should do, not something that we do actually do — unless it’s the vice president or the president or someone that’s very close to them where there’s people in harm’s way,” Meadows said.

He also pushed back against questions from CNN’s Jake Tapper on the administration’s failure to contain the virus. Saying that the president would refuse to “lock everybody down” or “quarantine all of America,” Meadows said that “we are not going to control the pandemic.” Instead, he said, the administration was focused on obtaining “vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”

President Trump has been complaining that Joe Biden and members of the news media focus too much on the coronavirus. “Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid,” he said on Saturday during a rally in North Carolina. But voters, particularly since the president’s positive virus test early this month, have said in various polls that they think Trump is not taking the threat of the disease seriously enough, including with those in his inner circle.

Kamala Harris will visit Texas this week, the Biden campaign told Democratic lawmakers yesterday. It’s the latest sign that the Democratic ticket sees picking up the Lone Star State as a real possibility this year.

Until recently, the Biden campaign had declined to invest heavily in the state, surmising that if he were to win Texas, he would probably have already won other, less difficult states such as North Carolina, Florida and Ohio, putting him over 270 electoral votes. But the campaign has been on the airwaves with ads in Texas since July, and this month it announced a $6 million ad buy there.

Polls have shown a tight race in Texas between Biden and Trump, typically with a slight edge for the president. And Senator John Cornyn, a Republican, has found himself in a close contest with his Democratic challenger, M.J. Hegar. Democrats’ increased strength is partly attributable to the state’s changing electorate, which is now about 50 percent nonwhite.

But it’s also being helped along by a swing away from Trump by many formerly Republican suburbanites. For Democrats, their growing strength in the suburbs has stoked new hope that the party can capture the State House, in a year when controlling it will have huge implications.

A Democratic majority would give the party a leg up in the federal redistricting process next year, in the wake of the 2020 census. Texas could conceivably be awarded as many as three new seats in Congress, given its population growth over the past 10 years.

The Senate is poised to vote today on the now-all-but-certain Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Senators voted yesterday to end debate and move forward with a vote, with Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins as the only Republican senators joining Democrats in voting “no.”

That gave Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, the simple majority he needed to clear the floor for a vote today.

Despite strident Democratic opposition, McConnell’s push to confirm Barrett has relied upon a largely united Republican Party, and has barreled ahead to the cusp of placing her on the court.

Nancy Pelosi has confirmed that she will run for another term as speaker of the House if the Democrats retain the House next year, as they are widely expected to do.

In 2018, when Democrats seized control of the chamber, Pelosi guaranteed that she would seek to remain speaker for no more than four years if her caucus elevated her to speaker again. Pelosi made the comments about running again yesterday during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who worked to rally behind-the-scenes opposition to Pelosi’s speakership two years ago, spoke later on the program and gave a caveat when asked if she would support Pelosi this time. “I am committed to making sure that we have the most progressive candidate there,” she said. “But if Speaker Pelosi is that most progressive candidate, then I will be supporting her.”

Photo of the day

A group of Postal Service enthusiasts sang and danced to promote voting in Honesdale, Pa., on Saturday.

Iowa: This presidential race is enough to make two grown farmers cry.

By Luke Broadwater

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Two Iowa farmers, separated by more than a hundred miles but by only a year in age, teared up while talking about the presidential race — for completely different reasons.

A supporter of Trump’s, Denny Gergen, a grain, corn and soybean farmer from northwest Iowa, became choked up thinking about how his way of life seemed to be slipping away, and about how Trump seemed to be the only politician who really cared.

“Trump supports the American farmer,” said Gergen, 69, who recently posted a large sign on his property that says “God Bless America and God Bless the American Farmer” next to signs encouraging passing drivers to vote to re-elect the president.

“There are farmers right now — they’re losing so much money, they cannot continue; they’re done,” Gergen said, speaking at a motorcycle rally in Sioux City to support Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa. “I’m just a small family farmer trying to make it.”

A three-hour drive away, near Iowa’s northern border with Minnesota, the other farmer, Raymond Smith, became emotional, too.

Smith, 68, whose family has owned a farm in Buffalo Center for more than 100 years, is supporting Biden and the Democrats.

“We were not very well-off when we were growing up,” Smith said as he showed Ernst’s Democratic opponent, the businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, around his farm. “But because of the Democratic programs, I was able to go to college. I get choked up when I think about how somebody else put their money up there, just to help me get started. And now I feel it’s my responsibility to pay whatever I can.”

Smith said that he liked and respected his neighbors who support Trump in his town of fewer than 900 people, but that he believed “we have a responsibility for all of us to do what we can to make democracy work.”

“I have a lot of people that don’t agree with me in the neighborhood, but that’s never stopped me in the past,” he said.

Trump won Iowa by a comfortable margin four years ago, but Biden had a narrow lead over Trump in the state in a New York Times/Siena College poll released on Wednesday.

A perennial battleground state where voters are known for their political independence, Iowa, whose population is 90 percent white, has voted for the winner of the presidential race in six of the past seven elections, including for Trump, Barack Obama twice and George W. Bush when he was seeking re-election.

Steven Peterson, 59, a Democrat who owns a greenhouse in Lake Mills, said he was supporting Biden in part because he was concerned about the future of the federal courts, should Trump win a second term.

“They’ve loaded up the courts,” Peterson said, referring to the Republicans and McConnell. “Not only the Supreme Court, but all the other courts. When President Obama was in office, basically, McConnell made sure we didn’t get any judges in anywhere. He blocked everything out. And then the next Republican president comes in and he gets 300 judges. It was unfair. I don’t think they should be putting in a justice right now. I think they need to wait.”

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