Aug 23, 2023 - Podcasts

How much will the first GOP debate matter

The first Republican presidential primary debate is tonight in Milwaukee. Fox News is moderating the event and eight candidates will hit the stage at 9 p.m. ET. But, former President Trump isn't one of them.

The big picture: Trump said on his Truth Social account Sunday he will "not be doing the debates." This begs the question – do debates even matter anymore? We take a deeper look at the answer to that question.

Guests: Axios' David Lindsey, Analis Bailey and Andrew Keatts.

Credits: Axios Today was produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Robin Linn and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can send questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.


NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It's Wednesday, August 23. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Today, new apartment construction on the West Coast is plummeting — what that means for housing. Plus, ticket sales for college football are through the roof. But first, the GOP holds its first debate tonight…but, how much will it matter? That's today's One Big Thing.

GOP holds its first debate

NIALA: The first Republican presidential primary debate is tonight in Milwaukee. Eight candidates hit the stage at 9 p.m., but not former President Trump. He said on his Truth Social on Sunday he will, "not be doing the debates," which begs the question, how much does this matter?

Axios' managing editor for politics, David Lindsey, is here to help us answer that. Hi, David.

DAVID LINDSEY: Hi, Niala. How are you?

NIALA: David, let's start with this big question. How important are these debates in terms of leading to the eventual nominee?

DAVID: That's unclear. If somebody emerges and this is the starting point, it's really important. But Trump is a runaway favorite right now, and he doesn't think it's very important. It's a very strategic move for him. He actually has other things going on, to counterprogram this debate. An interview with Tucker Carlson that's going to be posted online. And, of course, the very next day he's surrendering to authorities in Georgia.

So he will be in the news all week. And he has been in the news leading up to this. The anticipation that we'll hear, will he or won't he do the debate? No, he's not doing the debate. Then he announces his arrest, when he's going to turn himself in. He has successfully, in many ways, kind of stepped on the whole news surrounding the debate.

NIALA: Does it matter if not a lot of people watch the debate, David?

DAVID: It can, but the people who are going to watch the debate are, I would say, a few, some interested Democrats, but mainly Republicans. It's going to be on Fox News. It'll reflect their audience. it won't get the ratings Fox News wanted it to have because Trump will be absent. They courted him, basically, and tried to get him to do this debate. But he has some grievances with Fox News.

And so it becomes really important for these other candidates. Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie, Tim Scott, Doug Burgum, and Asa Hutchinson. It is particularly important, I think, for DeSantis, who has to prove something after having stumbles in his campaign for months. And people thought that he was going to be the, you know, really challenging Donald Trump for the nomination. And he's way behind 30, 40-something points in the polls, depending on what you look for.

But also for Pence and Ramaswamy and Christie. Every one of these folks is trying to recruit Trump supporters, who they need for the nomination, but who are so devoted to Trump. So it's this fine line you walk in trying to take down Trump a few notches, but not to the point that you upset his supporters.

NIALA: And so his lack of participation in all of these events. Is perhaps a reflection of his dominance in the race right now, David?

DAVID: It is, he's so well known, he's got a core of supporters who are gonna support him, and nobody else has that, and so his margin of error, Trump's is, is very large, and he's got people who will show up at the polls for him. So to, to beat him, you have to crack this devotion or get other people to show up to counter that devotion. And Chris Sununu had an interesting, op-ed piece, the New Hampshire governor, talking about what it takes to beat Donald Trump. He's one of the Republicans who is not a fan. And he said that for the Republicans to break free of Trump's drama is to narrow the field. Trump benefits from this 10-person field that is there now. If everyone has somewhere between 6% and 10% and then Trump has 50 or 40, then he's pretty safe.

NIALA: David Lindsey is Axios' managing editor for politics. Thanks, David.

DAVID: Thank you.

After the break, a West Coast housing crisis.

New apartment construction on the West Coast is plummeting

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today, I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Renters in many parts of the country may be getting some relief when it comes to rent and options, thanks in part to a massive boost in apartment construction — one we haven't seen since the '70s. Nearly 1.1 million apartments are currently under construction, according to the commercial real estate tracker CoStar.

But things are not looking up on the West Coast, where new apartment construction is plummeting. Axios San Diego's Andrew Keatts has been reporting on why. Hi, Andrew!

ANDREW KEATTS: How are you doing?

NIALA: So first, being from San Diego, how are you given all the crazy weather you guys have had this week?

ANDREW: We're doing OK. It's sunny and blue skies here now, which is, uh, a far cry from Sunday and a little bit weird, but, we're fine now.

NIALA: So nationally, the construction of apartment buildings has really picked up. How does that compare broadly with what you're seeing all along the West Coast?

ANDREW: Yeah, so in the six largest cities on the west coast, apartment construction is way down. We're looking at about 20,000 apartments this year, fewer, in the first half of the year than in the first halves of the last, say, 10 years. So if you just average out what the production typically looks like in the biggest cities on the West Coast over the last decade, we're running 20,000 units behind that pace, or about half.

So, we really are seeing that it's the West Coast cities where things are very expensive, land is very expensive, that are not keeping pace with the rest of the country in terms of new apartment building.


ANDREW: Well, you know, people have a bunch of different ideas. I think the biggest one is just the cost of construction. The interest rate environment has made it very difficult for developers to get construction loans.

Also, labor costs are up, material costs are up, so basically all of the things that go into how expensive it is to build are increasing, and as a result, people are deciding to build a little bit less, at least here on the West Coast.

NIALA: What does this mean in terms of affordability and affordable housing?

ANDREW: Yeah, I mean, if you look at it from the perspective of what housing units are coming on the market today, those are units that broke ground two or three years ago. And so the units that aren't starting today, the construction that isn't happening is going to be housing units that aren't available for people to move into in a few years from now. I talked to somebody at the Turner Center in Berkeley who said if you think the housing crisis is bad now, just wait a few more years. This is sort of the beginning of a crisis that looks like it's going to get worse, not better, in these cities.

NIALA: That's Axios' Andrew Keatts in San Diego. Thanks, Andrew.

ANDREW: Thank you.

NIALA: Our Axios Business colleagues are reporting this morning about how mortgage interest rates are inching closer to the 8 percent mark. The average 30-year, fixed-mortgage rate hit 7.49 percent this week. That's the highest it's been in two decades.

Which has us wondering, whether you rent or own…do you think homeownership matters? If you can record a voice memo sharing your thoughts about whether homeownership even matters anymore. You can text or email me. The info's all in our show notes, and we'll be airing these responses soon for more housing stories we're working on.

Ticket sales for college football are through the roof

NIALA: College sports are in for a dramatic realignment, one that will kill off some of the country's biggest rivalries. Which is why some are saying this is the last season for college football as we know it. The Big Ten is now made up of 14 schools, but next year USC and UCLA will make their move there.

They're part of a mass exodus from the Pac-12. Texas and Oklahoma are moving to the SEC, among other changes. Perhaps in anticipation of all of this, college football fans are snatching up tickets in a big way. Sales are through the roof, reports Axios Entertainment reporter Analis Bailey. Hi, Analis!


NIALA: When we say through the roof, what kind of sales are you seeing?

ANALIS: We are seeing huge sales across the entire landscape of college football. So StubHub has reported that all of their college football ticket sales are up nationally over 50%.

NIALA: Are there specific teams that are seeing the most pick-up?

ANALIS: Yes, so what I find really interesting is the Colorado Buffaloes are seeing an increase of 1,668% and that's mainly due to the hiring of coach Deion Sanders during the offseason. They hired him and so fans are just super excited for the season.

NIALA: How much of all of this is reflective of a boom we've seen in live events all year? And I'm thinking particularly of the Taylor Swift or Beyonce concerts this summer.

ANALIS: Yeah, I think it's all very much connected. People are looking for entertainment again. We are back outside, we're looking for concerts, we're looking for sporting events, and college football is really no different.

NIALA: And out of these, who makes the most money off of this, Analis? Is it the Stubhubs of the world?

ANALIS: StubHub is making a lot of money, but I think we can safely say that these schools are profiting a huge amount, from how much their football teams are bringing in. Which overall also affects the economy of the local communities that these teams are in.

NIALA: Analis Bailey writes about entertainment for Axios. Thanks, Analis.

ANALIS: Thank you.

NIALA: That's it for us today! You can always reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or you can text me at (202) 918-4893. All this information is in our show notes.

I'm Niala Boodhoo. Thanks for listening. Stay safe, and we'll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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