Beto O'Rourke campaigns in Iowa over the weekend. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beto O’Rourke has projected a mostly blank canvas during the first week of his 2020 presidential campaign — often asking voters for solutions rather than outlining policy specifics himself.

Why it matters: Most of the 2020 Dems don't have huge differences in their policy visions. So personality becomes paramount in these early days.

  • "We’re going to define ourselves by our aspirations, our ambitions and the ability to bring this country together," he said in Milwaukee.

Be smart ... O'Rourke has something you can't buy: People are interested in him and excited about him. Now, his challenge is putting meat on the bone.

  • On March 30 (a week from Saturday), O'Rourke will hold his official campaign kickoff in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. The campaign says he "will lay out his priorities and his vision ... to move this country forward."
  • After a rocky rollout, O'Rourke has to get the substance and calibration of that speech just right — his one chance to make a first impression on most voters amid a crowded field.

As in the 2016 election, voters in 2020 have a lot of feelings about what's wrong with the country, and want to project those feelings onto someone.

  • "They want to see a leader with a vision who they can believe in and someone they think can beat Trump," said Jim Messina, campaign manager for President Obama's re-election. "No one has a policy platform after two days."
  • In 2016, Trump tapped into the American's rage and pain. He made people feel seen who had felt ignored. O'Rourke is making a similar play by focusing on massive challenges of the age, from climate change to white privilege to an overwhelming feeling of political division.

O'Rourke has talked policy more than you might realize from the coverage:

  • He has proposed banning assault weapons, wants to create a public option for health insurance, favors a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, and advocated for debt-free college.
  • But, as the Washington Post's Jenna Johnson writes: "As a presidential candidate, O’Rourke has heavily focused not on specifics but on two sentiments: positivity and humility."

The bottom line: Beto's opening feat — raising more than any other 2020 Democrat in his campaign's first 24 hours — shows his potential as a vessel for voters' hopes, dreams, and fears.

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Trump signs bill to prevent government shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and President Trump arrives at the U.S. Capitol in March. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Trump signed a bill to extend current levels of government funding into early December, White House spokesperson Judd Deere confirmed early Thursday.

Driving the news: The Senate on Tuesday passed the legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10. The move averts a government shutdown before the Nov. 3 election, though funding did expire briefly before the bill was signed.

Editor's note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

Updated 29 mins ago - Science

In photos: Deadly wildfires devastate California's wine country

The Shady Fire ravages a home as it approaches Santa Rosa in Napa County, California, on Sept. 28. The blaze is part of the massive Glass Fire Complex, which has razed over 51,620 acres at 2% containment. Photo: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1700 firefighters are battling 26 major blazes across California, including in the heart of the wine country, where one mega-blaze claimed the lives of three people and forced thousands of others to evacuate this week.

The big picture: More than 8,100 wildfires have burned across a record 39 million-plus acres, killing 29 people and razing almost 7,900 structures in California this year, per Cal Fire. Just like the deadly blazes of 2017, the wine country has become a wildfires epicenter. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma, and Shasta counties.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 33,880,896 — Total deaths: 1,012,964 — Total recoveries: 23,551,663Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 7,232,823 — Total deaths: 206,887 — Total recoveries: 2,840,688 — Total tests: 103,939,667Map.
  3. Education: School-aged children now make up 10% of all U.S COVID-19 cases.
  4. Health: Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine won't be ready until 2021
  5. Travel: CDC: 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like cases found on cruise ships in U.S. waters — Airlines begin mass layoffs while clinging to hope for federal aid
  6. Business: Real-time data show economy's rebound slowing but still going.
  7. Sports: Steelers-Titans NFL game delayed after coronavirus outbreak.