Jan 24, 2021

Axios AM

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1 big thing ... GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

  • Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Much of the party's base — including conservative talk radio, TV and social media — are spoiling to fight for Trump in exile.

  • On top of that, Trump himself is threatening to literally split the party in two with the creation of a new MAGA Party or Patriot Party, the WashPost reports.

When I asked Trump adviser Jason Miller about those plans, he issued a warning to Republican senators who are weighing whether to convict Trump in next month's impeachment trial:

  • "The president has made clear his goal is to win back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022," Miller said. "There’s nothing that's actively being planned regarding an effort outside of that, but it’s completely up to Republican senators if this is something that becomes more serious."

Step into almost every Republican state or district, and most voters are livid that Republican leaders didn't fight more to overturn the election, resist impeachment, back Trump, punish House Conference Chair Liz Cheney and protest big business for blacklisting its members. Look what's happening:

  • The Arizona Republican Party voted yesterday to censure three faces of the Republican establishment — Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake — and reelected state party chair Kelli Ward, a fierce Trumper.
  • The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are being hit with swift punishment, including brewing primary challenges, censure votes and public scoldings, the N.Y. Times reports (subscription).
  • Some House Republicans, egged on by right-wing media, are pushing an uphill fight to oust Cheney from her third-ranking leadership post. In Wyoming, she faces a long-shot primary challenge.

The bottom line: This will be the new reality for Republicans until 2024, or Trump fully exits the scene.

  • The counterforce to Trump — mainly some establishment media figures and smattering of elected members — is too weak, timid and divided to prevail right now. 

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2. The new made-for-TV moments

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff/The New York Times, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

During shutdown, crowds can't always be relied on to provide energy and footage, so event organizers are working even harder to orchestrate viral moments, Sara Fischer and Neal Rothschild report.

President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic his team used at this summer's convention:

  • Amanda Gorman, 22, went viral with her widely praised poetry reading.
  • Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who faced down rioters outside the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, escorted Vice President Harris.
  • A stunning fireworks display accompanied Katy Perry as she closed an evening of well-rehearsed, well-produced musical acts and speeches, including the gathering of three former presidents.

For the past year, television has been one of the safest ways millions of Americans could experience live entertainment and share cultural references. A few key moments, some planned and some not, stood out:

  • The fly on Vice President Pence's head during the VP debate.
  • April's "One World: Together at Home" performance featuring dozens of celebrities.
  • "Tiger King" became the most-discussed streaming series in the early days of quarantine.
  • NBC's Steve Kornacki became a national infatuation during election week: Steve was one of PEOPLE's "Sexiest Men of the Year."
  • "The Last Dance" became appointment viewing for much of the country on Sunday nights in the spring.

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3. Limits of Biden plan to cancel student debt
Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax. Chart: Axios Visuals

Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families — and the crisis is rapidly getting worse, Axios @Work author Erica Pandey writes:

  • Student debt — which stands at $1.55 trillion — is the biggest category of debt Americans owe, aside from mortgages.
  • Black college graduates owe an average of $25,000 more than their white counterparts.
  • According to a new survey by Harris Poll, 64% of Americans support canceling some student debt, and 55% support canceling all of it.

President Biden has proposed immediately cancelling $10,000 of federal student loan debt for every borrower, which would cost around $370 billion.

  • That would eliminate debt for the 15 million borrowers who owe $10,000 or less — a broad-based approach that would help all 42 million borrowers.

But here's what that alone wouldn't do:

  • It wouldn't make much of a difference for the nearly 30 million borrowers who owe more than $10,000. Many of them went to graduate school and owe hundreds of thousands.
  • It wouldn’t target the most vulnerable borrowers. Canceling the same amount of debt for all doesn’t account for the fact that many Americans with student debt are also among the most well-educated and high-earning.

Insurmountable student debt is a recent phenomenon, explains Adam Looney, an economist at the University of Utah.

  • It's been growing at six times the rate of the U.S. economy, and it's only getting worse.
  • There are no limits on how much students can borrow and few restrictions on how they spend the money.
  • On top of that, the cost of college and graduate school is skyrocketing. As a result, young people are borrowing sums of money they can’t possibly repay — and many are using that money to pursue degrees at online or for-profit colleges with higher than average dropout rates.

What we're watching: Among the American public, canceling debt isn't a fringe idea any more.

  • In the Harris Poll survey, 78% support putting restrictions on the price of a university education. And 59% support no tuition at public universities.

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4. Pics du jour
Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

National Guard citizen-soldiers tour the U.S. Capitol yesterday.

Up to 7,000 members of the National Guard will remain in Washington through mid-March, said Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the Guard's top general.

  • A U.S. official told ABC News' Luis Martinez that federal law enforcement agencies are hearing "chatter" among extremist groups discussing potential disturbances in the nation's capital. Video.
Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images
5. More dual broadcasts for live sports

Virtual slime cannons go off during Nickelodeon's broadcast of the NFL wild-card playoff game between Bears and Saints on Jan. 10. Photo: CBS/Viacom via AP

The social-media success of a live Nickelodeon version of an NFL wild card game this month is likely to usher in more parallel broadcasts of sporting events, where there's a main feed and alternates, AP's Joe Reedy writes.

  • Nickelodeon was Twitter's No. 1 trending topic during the game.
  • Nickelodeon averaged 2.06 million viewers during the game — the network's most-watched program in nearly four years.
  • The Nickelodeon broadcast appealed to parents and kids.

Other experiments: ESPN expanded its MegaCast treatment, deployed for the College Football Playoff, to an NFL postseason game.

  • The traditional broadcast was simulcast on ESPN and ABC, with a Spanish-language feed on ESPN Deportes. ESPN2 did "Film Room,:" and the Disney-owned Freeform cable network aired a watch party, with a halftime performance by DJ Khaled.
  • NBC used its Peacock streaming service for an NFL postgame show.

What we're watching: ESPN has NBA, MLB and NFL rights, so Disney could add kids-oriented telecasts.

6. 1 smile to go
Photo: JL/Sipa USA via Reuters

Bald eagle sighted at sunset Friday in Broward County, Fla.

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