Mar 5, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Happy Thursday! Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,192 words ... 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: The emerging coronavirus economy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Companies that make products geared toward staying at home — think peanut butter, exercise bikes and telecommunication software — are unexpected beneficiaries of an evolving coronavirus economy, Axios markets reporter Courtenay Brown writes.

  • Why it matters: Forecasts for the global economy are increasingly dour as the coronavirus runs its course. But investors are placing bets on what consumers will need as the fast-spreading outbreak worsens.

Only seven out of 500 publicly-traded companies in the U.S. gained value last week, according to the Wall Street Journal — including Clorox, the disinfectant manufacturer, and Gilead Sciences and Regeneron, which are working on coronavirus treatments.

  • Other noteworthy stock gainers throughout the stock market's jittery run include tech companies that connect people when movement is limited, like Zoom, Teledoc and Dropbox.
  • Peloton, whose home exercise bikes save people trips to germ-laden gyms, briefly saw its shares spike amid the broader market's sell-off.
  • Purell hand sanitizer and wipes are flying off store shelves so quickly that consumers complain they can't get ahold of them. Gojo Industries, the maker of Purell, tells Axios that it has increased production.

Conversely, travel companies — like major cruise lines, airlines and hotel chains — have been punished.

2. How Biden became the overnight frontrunner

Screenshot via MSNBC

The most impressive aspect of Joe Biden's performance on Super Tuesday was its breadth, writes Dave Wasserman, House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, and NBC News contributor:

  • Biden won "urban voters, upscale & middle-class suburban voters AND rural/Appalachian voters. Just about the only places he didn't win were heavily Latino or progressive activist hotbeds like college towns."

Wasserman reminds us that "a ton of the votes/delegates Sanders won ... are attributable to votes cast *before* SC and before Buttigieg/Klobuchar dropped out."

  • "And he still fell well short of Biden. That’s why this race could functionally be over soon."

More Smart Brevity from Wasserman's tweets, illuminating the power of momentum:

  • "The list of states where Biden would be poised to replicate tonight's success is pretty long: FL, GA, MD, MS, MO, LA, NJ, CT. In short, he's currently on track for the nomination."
  • "What the narrative that Joe Biden 'couldn't scale up in time for Super Tuesday' missed: no one can truly scale up for this bonanza & most primary voters aren't persuaded by paid media/field."

Wasserman's bottom line: "There is a real chance, as in 2004, that Democratic primary voters won’t want to prolong these primaries and will rally around their presumptive nominee."

  • "The trajectory of the Democratic primaries is clear: it would take a miracle for Sanders to prevent Biden from becoming the nominee."
3. Health care stocks surge after Biden wins
Expand chart
Data: Money.net. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Health care stocks soared yesterday, led by double-digit percentage gains from major insurers, writes Axios health care business reporter Bob Herman.

  • The big picture: Nothing has changed with the health care industry, which is still printing money. But Joe Biden's Super Tuesday victories reassured Wall Street of his chances of beating Bernie Sanders and Medicare for All — and that a Biden presidency or a Trump re-election will keep the lucrative status quo in place.

Between the lines: The political prognostications of Wall Street and its trading algorithms have been all over the board in the past year.

  • The sentiment was especially sour last April after UnitedHealth called out Sanders' Medicare for All policy during an earnings call.

The bottom line: Medicare for All faces a lot of political hurdles in Congress, but so do Biden's reforms. Any changes will face a huge battle from an industry that is both deep-pocketed and politically connected.

4. Pic of the week

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dr. Jill Biden blocks a protester from getting to Joe Biden during his Super Tuesday victory rally in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood of L.A.

5. Why we should have seen the virus coming

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Scientists have long warned about a potential pandemic like this, Bryan Walsh writes in his twice-weekly newsletter, Axios Future.

  • In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security put on a high-level pandemic simulation focusing on a fictional global outbreak caused by a novel coronavirus that spilled over from animals to humans.
  • Called Event 201, the exercise brought together policymakers and disease experts to debate how they would respond to the simulated pandemic, in an effort to map out how they could combat a real one.

Walsh was among the reporters who observed the proceedings. What happened during the fictional pandemic eerily presaged the challenges and conundrums the world is facing with COVID-19:

  • Governments agonized about whether to ban public gatherings and block travel from infected areas.
  • Misinformation — accidental and deliberate — spread over social media, and participants in the exercise struggled to control messaging.
  • The economic effects of attempts to control the pandemic were as devastating as the disease itself, a dilemma compounded by the fact that participants had to make vital decisions with imperfect information about the virus — just as officials must do today.

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6. Roberts v. Schumer

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks at an abortion-rights rally yesterday. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued an unusual rebuke of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had blasted Trump-appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh as the court weighs its first major abortion case since Kavanaugh joined, Axios' Orion Rummler writes.

  • The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday over a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, as it considers a case that could revive abortion restrictions.
  • Schumer said at a rally: "I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions."

Roberts responded in a statement:

  • "Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous."
  • "All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter."

Justin Goodman, Schumer's communications director, responded:

Sen. Schumer's comments were a reference to the political price Senate Republicans will pay for putting these justices on the court, and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision.
For Justice Roberts to follow the right wing's deliberate misinterpretation of what Sen. Schumer said, while remaining silent when President Trump attacked Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg last week, shows Justice Roberts does not just call balls and strikes.

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7. Trump's market cheerleader
Courtesy Bloomberg Businessweek

Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow, a former CNBC host, tells Bloomberg Businessweek that he talks up the markets because "[t]he seesaw was so crowded at the bottom. I was just trying to say things are more balanced than that."

  • On Trump's praise of Kudlow: "[M]y influence on markets is vastly overrated in this building and anyplace else."

Keep reading.

8. 🐦 Disappearing tweets: "fleets"

In Brazil, Twitter is testing tweets that disappear after 24 hours, AP reports:

  • The company says the ephemeral tweets — "fleets" — are designed to allay the concerns of new users who might be turned off by the public and permanent nature of normal tweets.

Fleets can't be retweeted and don't have "likes."

  • People can respond to them, but the replies show up as direct messages to the original tweeter, not as a public response.

The feature is reminiscent of Snapchat snaps.

  • Twitter said it may bring fleets to other countries depending on how the Brazil test goes.
9. 100 Women of the Year
Courtesy TIME

TIME today will launch a project saluting female leaders, innovators, activists, entertainers, athletes and artists who defined a century, from The Suffragists who fought for the vote in 1920, to Greta Thunberg last year.

10. 🚙 1 sign of the apocalypse

Bigger and bigger SUVs and pickups are outgrowing home garages and public parking spaces, USA Today's Nathan Bonney writes.

  • "[P]arking lot operators are starting to charge oversize fees to accommodate behemoth SUVs and trucks."
Mike Allen

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