“The unvaccinated are beginning to feel discriminated against,” she said while eating a salad outside the Fairfax Whole Foods. “When you start to mandate people put something in their body, people get upset about limiting their personal choice and freedoms.”
Some Republican strategists say that Mr. Biden’s push will only prompt their voters to dig in their heels and become even more resistant to vaccination.
“The right thing healthwise is to get more people vaccinated of their own volition,” said Brad Todd, a consultant whose clients include Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Rick Scott of Florida. “The right of the country wants to make its own decisions and will do a lot of things to prove that.”
But Democrats believe that mandates are necessary to slow the spread of the pandemic, and are also good politics. How Mr. Biden handles the pandemic now, they argue, will set the tone for the midterm elections, which many party strategists believe will be won or lost over how Americans feel about the lingering impact of the virus on their pocketbooks, schools and jobs.
Democrats also see a political advantage in running against Republican governors who rejected public-health measures like masking and vaccine mandates — much as they sought to depict Republicans as extreme and unreasonable during the Trump administration and came away from the 2020 election with control of the White House and Congress.
“Have at it,” Mr. Biden said on Friday when asked about Republican threats to sue his administration over the mandates. “I am so disappointed that particularly some of the Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids — so cavalier for the health of their communities.”
For some voters, Mr. Biden is simply channeling their own exasperation.
“I spent the first year of Covid scared that we were going to kill my dad. Now that he’s fully vaccinated, I’m scared that I’m going to hurt my kids,” said Ravi Grivois-Shah, a family physician and school board member in Tucson, Ariz., who lives with his 74-year-old father and three children. “I’m sick of being scared. I’m sick of having to go through this again.”