Frank Luntz to CNN: I am begging you to stop putting Anthony Fauci on television

“Every time he speaks, he actually turns off people,” he says to Anderson Cooper of Fauci in the clip below. Luntz’s Republican focus groups have been telling him that for months, before the partisan gap on vaccinations began to widen and long before Fauci came under scrutiny for his agency’s role in funding bat research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

He’s almost uniquely incapable of persuading reluctant Republicans, a key demographic, to get their shots at this point. So why are the White House and cable news networks still running him out there as the face of the national vaccination effort?

On the other hand, why is Luntz pushing this message on CNN, which few Republicans watch? If he’s serious about replacing Fauci with Dr. Tom Frieden as public vaccine liaison to try to flip more Republicans, he should be making this point on Fox. Watch, then read on.

I continue to believe that data is the best persuader when it comes to vaccination. For instance, this doesn’t seem like a coincidence:

Neither does this:

Cases are also down today in the UK for the fifth day in a row, a shockingly optimistic turn after the huge initial surge of Delta infections. It’s impossible to believe that a less vaccinated country would have gotten off so easily from the same variant that decimated India just a few months ago. We may be in for a similarly truncated Delta wave, especially if we can get a bunch more holdouts immunized over the next month. Advice from Frieden would do more than advice from Fauci at this point to make that happen.

Advice from anyone would probably do more than advice from Fauci at this point.

Despite the good news from the UK and what it presages for our summer wave, the White House is huddling about tightening restrictions again. Ed already wrote about the CDC’s predictable turn back towards recommending indoor masking even for vaccinated people, but Team Biden may go further. According to Politico, they might start nudging states with low vaccination rates to reimpose mask mandates and private businesses to begin requiring vaccination among employees:

[O]fficials are split on the merits of issuing new federal guidelines, with some fearing they will be politicized and embolden new Republican attacks. This camp believes recommending proof of vaccination would raise the specter of “vaccine passports” — an increasingly potent conservative talking point — and alienate and stigmatize portions of the country where individuals have chosen not to get the shot. And they fear calls to reimpose mask mandates will be futile.

“It’s political,” one of the people said. “They think people like [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis and company are just waiting for the White House to announce some kind of vaccine mandate and then they’re going to jump on it for political reasons.”

Some of the medical officials on the White House Covid team who’ve been pushing for measures like vaccine verification believe they could provide a jolt to the nation’s lagging immunization effort and, at the very least, press state and local officials to consider reverting to some of the strict public health measures that helped slow the spread of Covid-19 earlier in the pandemic.

What can the White House do, realistically? They can’t require states to impose mandates, and “recommending” them wouldn’t matter to states with low vaccination rates since they trend red. Having a Democratic administration champion private vaccine mandates will also backfire since it’ll shift Republican perceptions of the practice from something that a business owner is entitled to do as a matter of basic property rights to something that businesses are under duress to do from the president. And needless to say, any red-state business that requires proof of vaccination after Biden has endorsed the idea will be deemed a cultural “traitor.”

It’s the high vaccination areas like San Francisco, which don’t actually need to mandate vaccine passports, that will end up doing it in an act of cultural solidarity. Sigh.

Frankly, encouraging vaccine passports while the CDC is back to asking vaccinated people to mask is a heck of a mixed message. Get vaccinated so that you aren’t subject to the same restrictions as the unvaccinated … except that you’ll still be subject to the same masking restrictions as the unvaccinated. Huh?

I don’t think Frieden, Fauci, or anyone else is going to reach the guy who owns this restaurant or his customers. Exit question: How do you “prove” that you’re unvaccinated? Bring in a negative antibody test?