May 18, 2022 - Podcasts

What yesterday's primaries tell us about November

The closely watched GOP primary in Pennsylvania is still too close to call this morning. And in North Carolina incumbent representative Madison Cawthorn is out for the 11th district. Those are two of the top headlines from last night's primaries, which were also held in Idaho, Kentucky, and Oregon.

  • Plus, the push for answers about the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
  • And, the case for letting our lawns grow wild

Guests: Axios' Mike Allen and Barak Ravid

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, May 18th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: the push for answers about the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Plus, the case for letting our lawns grow wild.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: what our biggest primary night this season tells us about November.

The closely watched GOP primary in Pennsylvania is still too close to call this morning. And in North Carolina incumbent representative Madison Cawthorn is out for the 11th district. Those are two of the top headlines from last night's primaries, which were also held in Idaho, Kentucky, and Oregon. Here with how he's thinking about these results this morning is Axios co-founder Mike Allen. Good morning, Mike.

MIKE ALLEN: Good morning, Niala.

NIALA: Mike, first, last week you set up the big races in Pennsylvania for us on the Republican side for Senate, between Dr. Oz and Dave McCormick. Right now it's razor thin with ultra-MAGA candidate Kathy Barnette trailing, what does this tell us about whether or not MAGA has a winning formula right now?

MIKE: Well, it does, because that has been driving the conversation in Pennsylvania. But Niala, let's pause and say, this is a total surprise. Niala, look at these numbers with 94% of the vote in, Dr. Oz, Dave McCormick, each 31%. Listen to this - a difference of 2,700 votes out of 1.1 million cast. That's as close an election as you get in America.

Kathy Barnette, far behind they're 31%, each at 25%. She was surging at the end. Someone who was more MAGA than Trump's endorsed candidate, Dr. Oz. I can tell you Niala establishment Republicans in Washington, Republicans who think they're going to have a majority in the Senate, relieved that Kathy Barnette's out of their hair.

NIALA: What about on the progressive side? In Pennsylvania, we saw the more progressive candidate John Fetterman win. Does this line up with what voters are pushing for in other races?

MIKE: Yeah, so that's illuminating - Conor Lamb, more moderate, more Biden-esque, was someone who's gotten a lot of attention and funding. That race wasn't even close - 59%, 26%. John Fetterman, I can tell you is going to get a ton of media coverage, 6’8”. He's someone that the press is definitely drawn to.

NIALA: And in North Carolina, we saw the downfall of Madison Cawthorn. What's the significance of this loss for Republicans?

MIKE: Well, it just shows that a candidate can only sustain so many flaws and Madison Cawthorn, who was a rising star at President Trump's reelection convention. He was one of the key speakers and he'd been endorsed by President Trump in the past. This time, at the very last second when he was already in deep trouble, President Trump gave him a formal endorsement, but photos of him in lace on a cruise ship, lots of problems and lots of scandals all rushing out in the media. And I think there was a lot of people who thought that this youngest member of Congress by far just wasn't ready.

NIALA: The $10,000 question, Mike: do we have a clearer sense of what the balance of House and Senate might look like after last night?

MIKE: Well, last night is still kind of up in the air, but I can tell you that Democrats are more hopeful going to this election now that Roe is an issue. Republicans are going to try to keep inflation as the issue. Still very hard to see how you could make it work mathematically for Democrats to hang on to the House. Everyone on both sides expects a Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican House, but the Senate is very much in the balance. You could say that Republicans are favored to take it. But that's less sure all the time. We'll be able to say something more decisive about that when we have a Pennsylvania result. That's going to be awhile.

NIALA: Axios co-founder Mike Allen, author of the AM newsletter. Thanks Mike.

MIKE: Niala, have the best day.

NIALA: In a moment, we’re back with what we know about the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

It's been a week since Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot to death in the west bank. The Palestinian-American was covering and Israeli military raid on a refugee camp and witnesses say she was hit by Israeli fire. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Israeli police attacked mourners and pallbearers at her funeral over the weekend. And demonstrators around the world have taken to the streets to express outrage. Here to shed some light on this story and where it's headed is Barak Ravid, a contributing correspondent for Axios based in Tel Aviv. Hi Barak.


NIALA: What do we know now a week after her death, about how and why Shireen Abu Akleh was killed?

BARAK: Uh, we know after the autopsy that Shireen Abu Akleh was shot in her head. But the main question is still unanswered. I mean, who shot the bullet. And the situation right now is that the bullet was recovered from her body by a Palestinian medical examiner. But the guns that allegedly were used by the Israeli soldiers who were involved in the incident are in the hands of the Israelis. So this thing is more or less a situation where some people say the Israelis did it. Some people say, you know, Palestinian gunman were there, did it. And it's, it's very, I think, similar to the bigger picture of the conflict where both sides are not talking. There's great hatred, great suspicion, and a total inability to even start a discussion.

NIALA: What is not in question is how the Israeli police behave during the funeral, which is under investigation.

BARAK: You know, it's very simple. Dozens of policemen were at the scene, allegedly to make sure that the funeral procession goes on as planned. And then when several people there took the coffin and did not put it in the car that was supposed to drive it to the church and started walking with the coffin the policemen just stormed them with batons and started hitting them in the legs and the coffin at a certain point almost dropped to the floor. It was it was a scene that, you know, I'm describing it. I'm just asking whoever listens now, just go and watch it. The only thing that you you can think about when you watch is what are they doing. Because this thing doesn't make any sense. I've been covering this for 17 years. I saw some crazy shit in the Israeli- alestinian conflict, but this thing I got to tell you, I've never seen.

NIALA: Meanwhile, 32 journalists have been killed this year, doing their jobs, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

BARAK: Well, you know, I'm not the journalist who goes to war zones and, you know, I, I thought to myself, should I go to Ukraine? Should I not go to Ukraine? And I decided not to go and I really admire those who did go because you need to be on the ground to cover this thing. And it's the same way with any other a war zone. And, and by the way, this is why Shireen Abu Akleh was such an icon. You know, I met her several times in Israel and she's like this household name in Palestine and also among the Arab minority in Israel. Everybody knows who she is. She's the Clarissa Ward of covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And she lost her life, doing this and it's a great tragedy and it's something that I think reminds us that this everyday effort of being on the ground and seeing things in your own eyes, this is something that without it there won't be real journalism, And with it, there are great risks for our colleagues that are doing those things.

NIALA: Barak Ravid is a contributing correspondent for Axios based in Tel Aviv. Thanks, Barak.

BARAK: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: One last thing before we go today: if you’ve been noticing your neighbors’ lawns looking a little more unruly lately, it could be that they are taking part in No Mow May. That’s a campaign that encourages people to stop mowing their lawns this month to let plants like clover and dandelions grow, to provide food for important pollinators. It was started several years ago by a charity in the UK and has since been adopted in the US and is growing in popularity. Are you letting your lawn go wild to benefit the bees? We’d love to hear about it, text me at (202) 918-4893 – you can even send me a photo.

That’s all we’ve got for you today!

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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