Feb 2, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🐿️ Happy Groundhog Day! Punxsutawney Phil came out this morning and saw four more seasons of Tom Brady.

1 big thing ... The Schultz effect: Liberals own 2020

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The rising Democratic enthusiasm for big government liberalism is forcing a trio of leading 2020 contenders to rethink jumping in, several sources tell Jim VandeHei and me.

  • Michael Bloomberg and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, each of whom were virtual locks to run, are having serious second thoughts after watching Democrats embrace "Medicare for All," big tax increases and the Green New Deal. 
  • Joe Biden, who still wants to run, is being advised to delay any plans to see how this lurch to the left plays out. If Biden runs, look for Bloomberg and McAuliffe to bow out, the sources tell us. 
  • The Democratic attacks on Howard Schultz, after he said he was considering an independent bid, reflect the current party's limited appetite for moderation.
    • In "Schultz Derangement Syndrome," conservative N.Y. Times columnist Bret Stephens wrote: "[T]he neuralgic reaction to his bid says something about the ideological drift of the Democratic Party."

Iowa polling by a prominent 2020 hopeful found that the Democratic electorate has moved sharply left.

  • For instance, the polling found that "socialism" had a net positive rating, while "capitalism" had a net negative rating.

Bloomberg is going ahead with expensive preparations for a campaign: He directed his staff to prepare a launch plan for him, after he received an encouraging response from a business audience in Northern Virginia 10 days ago.

  • Kevin Sheekey, his close adviser, was spotted in Washington yesterday on a recruitment mission for campaign talent.
  • If Bloomberg ran, he would argue that no candidate in the race has done more to save the environment and support gun control.

Be smart: The decision on whether to enter the crowded 2020 field is becoming a math problem. Just one moderate candidate could have an advantage, with a bunch of progressives splitting the liberal vote. But multiple moderates could be splitting too small a slice.

2. McKinsey, the new Facebook

McKinsey & Co., the global consulting firm businesses and governments quietly use for complex and controversial projects, is getting pounded for its practices and secrecy. 

  • Why it matters: Like Facebook, McKinsey is getting hit with sustained negative media coverage and deep scrutiny for its techniques and mystery. Also like Facebook, The New York Times in particular sees it as a juicy investigatory target. 

Coverage from the past year:

  • Today: "In legal papers released in unredacted form on Thursday, the Massachusetts attorney general said McKinsey had helped the maker of OxyContin fan the flames of the opioid epidemic. McKinsey’s consultants, the attorney general revealed, had instructed the drug company, Purdue Pharma, on how to 'turbocharge' sales of OxyContin."
  • Front page, Dec. 31: "Attached to its evaluation was a single PowerPoint slide in which McKinsey described what it said was the potential partner’s strategy for winning mining permits. It included ... 'use of bribes.'"
  • Front page, Dec. 16: "This year’s McKinsey & Company retreat in China was one to remember. Hundreds of the company’s consultants frolicked in the desert, riding camels over sand dunes and mingling in tents linked by red carpets. Meetings took place in a cavernous banquet hall that resembled a sultan’s ornate court."
    • Among the photos: "Tents linked by red carpets at a McKinsey & Company retreat this year in Kashgar, China. ... Participants in the retreat chronicled activities like camel rides on Instagram. ... The Instagram posts from the retreat were in stark contrast to the nearby humanitarian crisis."
  • Front page, Nov. 4: "McKinsey produced a report that may have aided [a Saudi] crackdown on dissidents. ... McKinsey’s work in the kingdom grew from two Saudi projects in 2010 ... to almost 600 projects from 2011 to 2016."
  • July 10: "McKinsey Ends Work With ICE Amid Furor Over Immigration Policy."
  • Front page, June 27: "When the godfather of management consulting landed its biggest contract ever in Africa, it made the worst mistake in its storied nine-decade history."

Be smart: McKinsey, which was used to keeping a low profile in deference to its clients, now is likely to face a prolonged, painful examination of its dealings around the world that long were standard practice, but now will be seen in a new light.

3. "No choice but to resign"
via AP

"Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam appears to have almost no choice but to resign after losing support from virtually the entire state Democratic party and other key allies," AP's Alan Suderman writes from Richmond:

  • "The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the state House Democratic Caucus and the state Senate Democratic Caucus all called on Northam to resign late Friday, along with several key progressive groups that have been some of the governor's closest political allies."
  • "Their calls for Northam to step down came in a wave [last night], after the Democrat had apologized for appearing in a photo in which one person is dressed in blackface and another is wearing a full Ku Klux Klan uniform. The photo appeared in his 1984 medical school yearbook."

"The photo shows two people looking at the camera — one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in a full Ku Klux Klan robe."

  • "In his first apology, issued in a written statement, Northam called the costume he wore 'clearly racist and offensive,' but he didn't say which one he had worn."
  • "He later issued a video statement saying he was 'deeply sorry' but still committed to serving the "remainder of my term."

Be smart: "Northam appears to have virtually no path forward to remain in office without any institutional support."

  • What's next: "His departure would mean current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat who is only the second African American to win statewide office in Virginia, would be the next governor."

Go deeper: Democrats and Republicans join in calling for Northam to resign

Bonus: Pics du jour
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Above: Marine One kicks up snow as it lands on the South Lawn yesterday to take President Trump to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Below: With President Trump aboard, Marine One taxis to Air Force One for his first trip to Mar-a-Lago since Thanksgiving.

4. Booker: "Love ain't easy"
Sen. Cory Booker announces in Newark. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) leaped into the 2020 race with an upbeat vibe, calling "for Americans to unite ... while some of his Democratic rivals are taking a more combative stance," AP's Elana Schor writes:

  • "The 49-year-old Booker told reporters outside his home in Newark that 'love ain't easy,' adding: 'The people I admire are the people that lead by calling out the best of who we are and not the worst. So, I'm running for president because I believe in us.'"

📱"Booker was, perhaps, the first true social media influencer in politics," the WashPost's Kayla Epstein points out:

  • "Performing acts of public service online during extreme weather events helped burnish his image as the 'superhero' mayor of Newark, and his willingness to respond to anyone — and really we mean anyone — who tweeted at him earned the chief executive of a town with a population of less than 300,000 a national platform."
5. Disrupting media

The Washington Post announced that it "will premiere a 60-second message during Super Bowl LIII highlighting the critical work of reporters and the role that work plays in Americans’ everyday lives. A first for The Post, the spot was voiced by actor and director Tom Hanks."

  • Fred Ryan, publisher and CEO of The Post, said: "While most Super Bowl ad producers have the better part of a year, we had the lesser part of a week, but with an event this big, we decided to seize the opportunity."

Graydon Carter, legendary Vanity Fair editor, is joining the newsletter brigade, per the N.Y. Times' Alex Williams:

  • Carter is starting Air Mail, an all-digital international news platform with a weekly, paid newsletter, featuring magazine-length original articles with "smart, stylish writing from some of the world’s most prominent journalists."
  • Carter is joined by Alessandra Stanley, a longtime critic and reporter for The Times.
  • Air Mail's site says: "We hope that the newsletter will become a valued part of the reading matter of the cosmopolitan world traveler ... Imagine a weekend edition of the old International Herald Tribune. But in digital form."

"Vice Media is ... laying off about 10 percent of its workforce [250 people], as the once high-flying startup looks to rein in an unwieldy business that grew quickly during the height of the digital boom." (Hollywood Reporter)

6. 1 book thing
Amy Sancetta/AP

"JD Salinger’s son has confirmed for the first time that the late author of 'The Catcher in the Rye' wrote a significant amount of work that has never been seen, and that he and his father’s widow are 'going as fast as we freaking can' to get it ready for publication," The Guardian's Alison Flood writes.

  • "Salinger died in 2010, leaving behind a small but perfectly formed body of published work that has not been added to since 1965’s New Yorker story, 'Hapworth 16, 1924.'"

"Rumours have circulated for years that the creator of one of the 20th century’s most enduring characters, Holden Caulfield, continued to write over the ensuing decades he spent in the New Hampshire village of Cornish, far from public view."

  • His son, Matt Salinger, told The Guardian that his father never stopped writing and that "all of what he wrote will at some point be shared."
Mike Allen