Oct 14, 2020

Axios AM

Mike Allen

🐪 Good Wednesday morning. Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,192 words ... 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: Joe Biden is the luckiest, least scrutinized frontrunner

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

Eight months ago, Joe Biden was in danger of losing the Democratic nomination. Now he's a prohibitive favorite for president — who got there with lots of luck and shockingly little scrutiny, Axios' Hans Nichols reports.

  • Why it matters: The media's obsession with President Trump — and Trump's compulsion to dominate the news — allowed Biden to purposely and persistently minimize public appearances and tough questions.

Since Aug. 31, Biden has answered less than half as many questions from the press as Trump — 365 compared with 753 — according to a tally by the Trump campaign, which the Biden campaign didn't dispute.

  • In that time, Biden has done approximately 35 local TV interviews, three national interviews and two town halls.
  • Biden went almost three months without taking questions from beat reporters.
  • Biden aides say one reason there's less scrutiny of Biden in the general election is that he already was examined thoroughly in the primary election and over decades in public life.
  • Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesperson, said: "Who's 'scrutinizing' Trump more, Maria Bartiromo or Sean Hannity?"

Biden has yet to be pinned down on an array of legitimate questions, including:

  • His blunt view of adding new justices to the Supreme Court, Medicare for All, police funding, Pentagon spending, fracking, reparations for African Americans, the Green New Deal and his support for the 1994 crime bill.

Share this story.

  • 🎧 Hear it here: Hans Nichols takes you inside the Biden campaign on the "Axios Today" podcast.
2. Republicans now say: Don't worry about ACA
Photo: Caroline Brehman/Roll Call via Getty Images

After promising for 10 years to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, and with a lawsuit pending at the Supreme Court that could do exactly that, Republicans are making a new argument: C’mon! Nobody’s getting rid of the ACA.

  • That new message blared as the Senate Judiciary Committee held the opening round of questions for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, with health care as the dominant topic, Axios' Sam Baker writes.
  • Barrett has criticized the Supreme Court’s previous decisions upholding the ACA, but was quick to emphasize the difference between those cases and the one she might hear. She refused to discuss how she might rule.

Reality check: Republican attorneys general and the Trump administration are asking the Supreme Court to strike down the entire law, and will make that case in oral arguments on Nov. 10.

🗞️ How it's playing ...

The New York Times
3. China's digital currency leaves others in the dust

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China is already test-driving the future of finance while the rest of the world is stuck trying to get its learner's permit, Dion Rabouin writes in Axios Markets.

  • Why it matters: The pandemic has accelerated the world's move away from paper money. Producing the world's first central bank digital currency could put China in the driver's seat to steer the future of payments and currency.

China's central bank has distributed the currency to "lottery" winners who are reportedly spending it at thousands of retailers, including local supermarkets and pharmacies and even Walmart.

  • 💰 Sign up for Dion Rabouin's daily Axios Markets newsletter.
4. Pics du jour

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

This is President Trump's packed-in, largely maskless rally last night in Johnstown, Pa., which even Fox News and C-SPAN decided against airing live. (C-SPAN 3 went with a Wendell Willkie event from 1940.)

  • Trump said: "Suburban women: Will you please like me? [Cheers.] Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, OK. ... We saved suburbia in the U.S."
Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Delivering his "Vision for Older Americans" in Pembroke Pines, Fla., Joe Biden holds up a notecard showing metrics that are included on his daily schedule.

5. Apple gooses demand for AR

The new iPhones. Photo: Apple via AP

With the iPhone 12 unveiled yesterday, Apple made some big tech bets that should boost demand for 5G networks, as well as help spur developers looking to create more advanced augmented reality applications, Axios chief technology correspondent Ina Fried writes from S.F.

  • Why it matters: Many tech advances start out as chicken-and-egg problems, with developers waiting for a market to emerge while consumers don't yet see the value. Apple has the rare ability to push past that block.

Apple introduced four models of the iPhone 12 that support for a wide range of 5G networks. The two Pro models add not only a zoom lens, but also a LiDAR sensor for depth sensing and advanced augmented reality capabilities.

  • That could be a large enough market to start attracting app developers to take advantage of the technology — by offering more complex image layers or more precise map locations for AR apps, which place digital information over real-world images.

Go deeper: Details of the announcements.

6. Clarence Thomas wants to reel in Section 230

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote yesterday in favor of narrowing the longstanding — but now hotly contested — law that keeps online platforms from being held liable for what users post, Axios' Ashley Gold reports.

  • Why it matters: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a growing target of bipartisan ire.
  • Thomas, arguably the court's most conservative justice, is laying down a marker, as the likely confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett looks set to tip the court further right.

Keep reading.

7. Axios goes local: Coverage of metro areas to begin next year

Illustration: Axios

Continuing to grow profitably amid the pandemic, Axios will take Smart Brevity local next year and launch experiments in Denver, Des Moines, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Tampa-St. Petersburg.

  • Axios CEO Jim VandeHei told The Wall Street Journal that the focus will be on topics of consequence like local business, tech and education.
  • "This is a big bet — a bet that you can hook local readers on a daily basis with a morning newsletter and build up from there," VandeHei said. "It’s a risk worth taking because if we are right, it’s superscalable."

Why it matters: VandeHei said in a Digiday Podcast interview that local journalism "is maybe the hardest puzzle to solve."

  • "Let's try to be essential overnight," he said.
  • Jim added on a Recode Media interview with Peter Kafka that Axios Local will try to bolster existing local outlets: "We're going to point people to other sources of information, encourage them to subscribe."

The Journal's article is headlined, "Axios Is Growing and Profitable Despite Bleak News Landscape."

  • "The hope with Axios," Jim told Digiday, "is that we can get people to pay attention to what matters. Climate change matters. China as a competitor or a threat matters. A.I., the robot revolution, this idea that technology is moving faster than the human mind — it matters."

🎧 Listen to Jim's Recode Media interview.

Sign up here for any of the four inaugural Axios Local areas.

8. 📺 Cable news ratings up 72% over 2019

Via Fox News

CNN, Fox News and MSNBC collectively averaged just under 10 million viewers in prime time last week (V.P. debate week), or 72% more than the same week in 2019, AP's David Bauder writes from Nielsen data.

  • Fox News' average of 4.42 million last week was up 63% ... MSNBC's 2.75 million was up 38% ... CNN's 2.59 million was an eye-popping 172% increase.

V.P. debate: Fox News, 11.94 million ... CNN, 7.75 million ... MSNBC, 6.94 million.

  • NBC's Biden town hall drew 6.7 million.
9. 🗳️ Stadiums welcome voters, not fans
Map: Axios Visuals

The NBA just completed a historic season that required the league to shutter its arenas. Now, it will help execute a historic election by reopening them to voters, Kendall "Axios Sports" Baker writes.

Voting was an important issue for players inside the bubble, with PSAs airing during playoff games and teams wearing warm-up shirts with "VOTE" written across the chest.

  • Following a three-day strike in August in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, play resumed only after the league committed to converting arenas into voting locations for the 2020 election.
Voting booths inside Atlanta's State Farm Arena. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Why it matters: The momentum created by the NBA has extended to other leagues, culminating in the largest political effort the sports world has ever seen.

  • Over 40 sports venues in 20 states will function as polling centers for the upcoming election.

Go deeper: Stadium voting center details (ESPN)

10. Reinventing Black Friday: Spreading out crowds
Christmas shopping, circa 1932. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Walmart says it'll spread out its traditional one-day Black Friday deals over three weekends in November in an effort to reduce crowds in its stores during a pandemic, AP retail writer Anne D'Innocenzio reports.

  • The nation's largest retailer said more of its doorbuster deals will be reserved for online, as a way to steer shoppers away from its stores.

Many stores are starting their holiday deals this month.

  • Amazon, which usually holds its annual Prime Day event in mid-July, delayed it to this week.
Mike Allen

📱 Thanks for starting your day with us. Invite your friends to sign up for Axios AM/PM.