Dec 2, 2020

Axios AM

🐪 Good Wednesday morning. Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 976 words ... 3½ minutes.

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1 big thing: Trump's 2024 begins

The White House on Monday. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

President Trump is likely to announce he'll run again in 2024, perhaps before this term even ends, sources tell Jonathan Swan and me.

  • Why it matters: Trump has already set in motion two important strategies to stay relevant and freeze out other Republican rivals. 

Last night, Trump was explicit about his 2024 vow, telling guests at a White House holiday party, as tweeted by CNN's Kaitlan Collins:

  • "It’s been an amazing four years. We are trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I'll see you in four years."

The plan: Trump has made plain he'll fight to keep his ally Ronna McDaniel as head of the RNC, giving him tight control over party HQ.

  • The president has raised $170 million for his "Election Defense Fund" and political operation — of which, the N.Y. Times points out, $125 million+ goes to a PAC that Trump set up in mid-November, Save America, and can be used for future travel and other political activity.

The intrigue: Trump’s 2024 rivals privately tell Swan they assume Trump's power will fade post-White House, giving them hope they can still run.

Reality check: Several allies who talk regularly to Trump told me they believe he'll announce for 2024, but ultimately not make the run because of what one Republican close to Trump called "hurdles he has never before experienced."

  • "I think he will have more trouble than he can begin to imagine," the Republican said. "No one is going to let him have a free pass in the primary."
  • "The only question left open is whether the media will give up their addiction to him or not — that will determine a great deal."

When I asked if that was a reference more to political trouble, financial trouble or legal trouble, the person replied: "Yes."

  • But announcing would complicate moves by 2024 rivals and would feed Trump his drug — coverage.

The bottom line: Money + machinery = power. 

2. Biden team will write new crisis playbook
Data: BLS via FRED; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Joe Biden's economic team faces the daunting task of helping the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, or otherwise been financially ravaged by the coronavirus, Axios' Felix Salmon and Courtenay Brown write.

Why it matters: Most of Biden's economic nominees served in the Obama administration and wish that they could have gone bigger to help America recover from the 2008 financial crisis.

  • Many are deeply experienced in the art of getting fiscal legislation pushed through Congress. But we don't know how cooperative Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell will be — or whether he'll command an outright majority.
Graphic: Biden-Harris Presidential Transition via Twitter

Employment is much worse than during the Great Recession. The total number of jobs in America is still more than 10 million below its peak, even after a significant rebound.

  • The unemployment rate is 6.9% — better than the 7.8% that Biden inherited when he took office as vice president in January 2009, and much better than the 9.9% level that it hit later that year.
  • That's partly because millions of jobless Americans, including many parents forced to stay home to help school their kids, aren't counted as unemployed because they're not actively looking for work.

Keep reading.

3. Iran's nuke dilemma: Ramp up, or wait for Biden?

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The world is waiting to see whether Iran will strike back at Israel or the U.S. over the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran's military nuclear program, Axios from Tel Aviv author Barak Ravid reports.

  • Why it matters: Senior Iranian officials have stressed that Iran will take revenge against the perpetrators, but also respond by continuing Fakhrizadeh’s legacy — the nuclear program.

What we're watching: Whether Iran will accelerate that work now, or wait to see what President-elect Biden puts on the table.

4. Pic du jour: China on the moon
Photo: Jin Liwang/Xinhua via AP

China landed its robotic Chang'e-5 mission on the lunar surface to collect rocks for return to Earth, Axios' Miriam Kramer writes from the report by state-run news service Xinhua.

  • Why it matters: China would become just the third nation — after the U.S. and former Soviet Union — to bring samples back from the moon.
5. Data of the day: Health care spending drops
Reproduced from Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker; Chart: Axios Visuals

The pandemic has caused national health care spending to go down this year — the first time that’s ever happened, Kaiser Family Foundation president and CEO Drew Altman writes for Axios.

  • The big picture: Any recession depresses health services. But the pandemic has directly attacked the health system, causing people to defer or skip elective surgery — or even necessary care — for fear of becoming infected.

Keep reading.

6. Shrinking quarantines
A health care worker video-calls relatives of a COVID patient at the emergency room of University Hospital in Igualada, Spain, yesterday. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC soon will shorten its quarantine guidance for people exposed to COVID.

  • The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend that to 10 days — or seven with a negative test, an official told Jonathan Swan.
7. Packed stadiums by next fall?

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Packed stadiums and a more normal fan experience could return by late 2021, Anthony Fauci told Sports Illustrated.

  • "We're gonna be vaccinating the highest-priority people [from] the end of December through January, February, March," Fauci said.
  • "By the time you get to the general public, the people who'll be going to the basketball games, who don't have any underlying conditions, that's gonna be starting the end of April, May, June."

Why it matters: If Fauci’s prediction holds water, it could save countless programs from going extinct next year, Jeff Tracy writes in Axios Sports.

8. Salesforce sees permanent remote work

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In explaining his Slack deal on a conference call with investors, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff called the $28 billion move a bet that pandemic-driven changes to work aren't a temporary blip, Axios' Ina Fried writes.

  • The permanent shift will be to remote work, with Slack supplanting email as a favored means of business communication.

Sign up for Ina Fried's tech newsletter, Axios Login, out later this morning.

9. 📚 Business book of year

The Financial Times and McKinsey named Sarah Frier the winner of the 2020 Business Book of the Year Award for "No Filter: The Inside Story of How Instagram Transformed Business, Celebrity and Our Culture."

  • FT Editor Roula Khalaf said the book tackled "two vital issues of our age: how Big Tech treats smaller rivals and how social media companies are shaping the lives of a new generation.

Thought bubble from Axios' Dan Primack: "Sarah's book is a tech morality saga, following Instagram's evolution from a photo passion project into a key cog in the world's largest media company. It not only explains why Instagram became essential, but also how Facebook became dominant."

10. 1 smile to go: A glimpse of normal
Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Rockefeller Center's Christmas tree will be lit tonight.

Or maybe not so normal ...

Courtesy N.Y. Post

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