Sep 1, 2023 - Podcasts

New narratives take shape for GOP candidates

Republican presidential candidates are starting to distinguish themselves in the week following the first debate. And this week it was all about Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley. For our politics State of Play, we check the status of the GOP presidential primary contenders.

Guests: Axios' Mike Allen, Alison Snyder and Sam Sabin.

Credits: Axios Today was produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Robin Linn and Ben O'Brien. 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.


Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It's Friday, September 1st. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Today on the show: testing the resilience of our oceans. Plus, ransomware hackers on the prowl over Labor Day weekend. But first, new narratives take shape for GOP candidates. Our weekly politics state of play is today's One Big Thing.

State of play

NIALA: Republican presidential candidates are starting to distinguish themselves in the week following the first debate. This week it was all about Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley. But Axios co-founder Mike Allen has updates on them and much more. Hey, Mike.

MIKE ALLEN: Hey Niala.

NIALA: Trump pollster Tony Fabricio said this week that GOP candidate Nikki Haley is surging in the polls. What do we know about her campaign and popularity right now?

MIKE: Well, uh, I wouldn't go with surging. The Trump campaign, of course, is trying to troll the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, by lifting up everyone else. But, Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, had a fantastic week after the debate in Milwaukee, where I was on scene. And Niala, a very clarifying question to ask in politics, is, would you rather be you or would you rather be the other person, the other candidate? And this week you absolutely would like to be Nikki Haley.

The Republican donors who are calling her campaign, offering to hold events for her. How often do you get that? And on the other side of the coin, Niala, Democrats say they're concerned about how strong a candidate she would be if she found a way to get past Donald Trump, what looks like right now, a very unlikely event of him not being the nominee, that she might be tough for President Biden. And so a lot of concern about that from Democrats.

And she really took on Vivek Ramaswamy. I got a lot of texts in the moment when she took them on and said, you have no foreign policy experience and it shows. That stings when you're the youngest person on the stage and, sure enough, you're the only person on the stage who has not held elective office.

NIALA: Now he is the other person so many people are talking about. Former President Trump said he'd consider Ramaswamy as his running mate. Is it too early for us to be having that conversation?

MIKE: No, it's, barring a massive change, former President Trump is on his way to being the nominee. So who he's looking at for vice president is by definition, relevant.

NIALA: Also in the GOP candidate pool, we have Tim Scott, whose status as a single person is apparently having an impact on his ability to fundraise. What's the context here, Mike?

MIKE: Yeah, Niala, a hundred percent. And this is fantastic reporting by our colleague, Alex Thompson, who found that Republican donors who were looking for someone who's not Donald Trump and is not Ron DeSantis, they were looking at Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, the only Black Republican in the Senate, and they thought that he might be a good candidate to support, but they're concerned about the fact that he's 57 and single.

What's much more typical is for candidates to have their families out there and be talking about their family values. Now, Senator Scott has talked about this, when, uh, Sophia Cai of Axios interviewed him on stage at an Axios event. He pointed out that nearly half of U.S. adults are unmarried. And he says, if this is the determining factor, it sounds like we're living in 1963. He also said that being single, he might have more time, more energy, more latitude to do the job. But then he added an intriguing line that I think we'll hear more about. He said, "My girlfriend wants to see me when I come home."

NIALA: Mike Allen is Axios co-founder, writes the AM and PM newsletters. Thanks, Mike.

MIKE: Niala, have the best Labor Day weekend, and here's to the fall.

NIALA: In a moment: How much can our oceans take before they reach a tipping point?

Testing our oceans' resilience

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today, I'm Niala Boodhoo. Overfishing, pollution, extreme heat. Those are just some of the ways that humans put our oceans under immense pressure. And, Axios' Allison Snyder writes, "the ocean is responding in surprising ways." Hi Alison.


NIALA: First, you explained that nearly half of the world's oceans meet the criteria for a marine heat wave. What's that?

ALISON: So these are periods where you have these sort of anomalously warm ocean temperatures, so they're higher than 90% of the observations that have been made in that area for that particular date.

NIALA: And what happens to marine life under such extreme heat?

ALISON: Lots of things. Sometimes there's big tolls that are taken on animals and other marine life, so there's forced migrations of whales and other animals and fish to cooler waters. There's things that happen to the water itself. When the temperature goes up, there's an associated sort of drop in the oxygen in the water and that can wreak havoc for all sorts of animals because it makes their metabolism go up, but it decreases the amount of food that's available to them. So you see massive die-offs of fish and other organisms.

NIALA: And, we've seen stories of coral and how coral is affected by heat. Is this across the board?

ALISON: It can be. I think the big question that scientists talk about is, if the warm waters retreat, the coral can recover. But if you're having more and more frequent heat waves, how quickly can they recover or can they, at a certain point, not anymore. So I think that's one of the key questions.

NIALA: Is a key question also, how resilient is life underwater?

ALISON: Yeah, and a lot of the researchers that we talked with for this story were actually pretty optimistic that parts of the ocean are resilient. But again, there are others that are in peril and I think the differences are what they're really interested in, right? Because understanding the sort of limits of different things can help them manage the oceans and fisheries in maybe more sustainable ways.

NIALA: Do we know how much time we have to fix this?

ALISON: So that was sort of the question going into this story was how much more can the oceans take? And scientists think that that might be an unanswerable question. You might not know what the tipping points might be. So in that sense, we're sort of pushing the world, the ocean toward these tipping points that we don't even know about yet. The ocean supports billions of people. It provides food, it provides livelihoods. So it's, it's really, really crucial. I think the thing one of these researchers said is that, you know, the ocean will go on without humans, but it's the human relationship with the ocean that's very fragile.

NIALA: Alison Snyder is an Axios managing editor. Thanks, Alison.

ALISON: Thanks, Niala.

Labor Day hacks

NIALA: If you're headed out of town this Labor Day weekend, I imagine you'll double-check all your doors and windows to make sure they're secure before you leave. Well, Axios' Sam Sabin says corporations need to do the same thing…to prepare for virtual attacks.

SAM SABIN: That's right. With everyone heading out for the three-day Labor Day weekend, hackers are banking on companies not having the tools in place to prepare them for the cyberattacks heading their way while they're gone.

Hackers, and especially ransomware gangs, are known to strike during the weekends and evening hours here in the United States, in part because doing so gives them extra time to steal sensitive company data and deploy destructive files, encrypting ransomware onto a company's network without being detected. This happens even during a normal weekend.

According to a recent report from cybersecurity company Sophos, 43% of ransomware attacks in the first half of 2023 saw the ransomware being deployed on a Friday or Saturday. Attacks over a Labor Day weekend, especially, have happened before. The most recent example is from last year when a ransomware gang targeted the Los Angeles Unified School District, right as classes were beginning. That attack led to hackers dumping students' most sensitive data, and including psychiatric evaluations, onto the dark web.

Now, it's not all doom and gloom for companies this weekend. Often these hackers are laying in wait in a company's networks for a few weeks before they hit the metaphorical attack button. During this time, they're typically roaming around, stealing some data and mostly just getting a feel for what a company system looks like. And this extra time could help companies spot intruders before the weekend attacks even happen.

Of course, prevention isn't always possible. So some of the most cyber-aware corporations turn to third-party services that will monitor their networks 24/7 on their behalf, or set up automated tools that monitor the networks and flag any suspicious behavior. But the bottom line for companies this weekend remains the same. Take every security alert that comes your way seriously. It could be a sign that a hacker is about to strike.

NIALA: That's Axios cybersecurity reporter and Codebook author Sam Sabin.

NIALA: Finally today: It may be the unofficial last weekend of the summer coming up, but we're not quite ready to say goodbye to our summer reads just yet, so we'll bring you one more set of recommendations from our own staff — including me — next week…and if YOU have any more books you'd like to suggest to your fellow listeners as we kick off September, send us a voice memo or a text to 202-918-4893. And we'll share them all next week.

And that does it for us. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Robin Linn, along with senior sound engineer Alex Sugiura. Ben O'Brien also mixes the show. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Aja Whitaker Moore is Axios' executive editor, and Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios' editor in chief. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your holiday weekend. We're also off for Labor Day, but we'll see you back here on Tuesday.

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