Sep 23, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

😎 Good Monday morning from the Bay Area. Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,134 words ... 4 minutes.

  • Situational awareness: "A bloc of WeWork directors is planning to push Adam Neumann to step down as chief executive after a tumultuous week in which his eccentric behavior and drug use came to light, and the startup delayed its much-anticipated stock-market listing." (Wall Street Journal)
1 big thing: Focus group women like Warren policies more than Warren

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In an all-women focus group in Appleton, Wis., some participants suggested President Trump would win on personality over Sen. Elizabeth Warren, even though they preferred her left-wing populism, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.

  • The voters' comments about Warren's ability to serve as president reflected doubts some people have about women in leadership, although they're often framed as concerns about what other people will think.
  • That was the main takeaway from an Engagious/FPG focus group last week, which included seven women who flipped from Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, and two who switched from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.

The big picture: Most of the group preferred a left-leaning set of policies to a right-leaning set when no names were attached. But when listening to Warren talk about them in clips from the last debate, they were skeptical.

  • And their blunt language made it clear that Warren faces the kind of obstacles confronted by many strong leaders who are women.

What they're saying: "Everything she said was great. But to me it's like: Right, that's not going to happen," said Sandy D., a 62-year-old Clinton voter.

  • Alicia K., 44, likes Warren "because she seems strong-willed." But if the president started talking about helping pay for student debt and taxing corporations, she'd be on the Trump train.

The group was presented with two sets of policies, without names attached.

  • Seven of the nine participants favored the left-leaning policies.

Share this story.

2. Impeachment boils

President Trump acknowledged yesterday that a July phone call with the president of Ukraine, now fueling more aggressive impeachment talk by senior House Democrats, included talk about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter:

"The conversation I had was largely congratulatory. It was largely corruption — all of the corruption taking place. It was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating [adding] to the corruption already in the Ukraine. ...
"Any time I’m on the phone with a foreign leader, many, many people are on the line. ... There was no quid pro quo."

Behind the scenes: When House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff yesterday signaled new openness to impeachment (saying Trump "may force us to go down this road"), Speaker Pelosi knew it was coming, Axios' Alayna Treene reports

  • Pelosi and Schiff spoke over the weekend about Ukraine and coordinated their responses, according to a source familiar with their conversation.
  • Shortly after Schiff's remarks to CNN's Jake Tapper, Pelosi sent a letter to House members of both parties, calling the block on the whistleblower complaint "a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President."
  • But she didn't go as far as Schiff in hinting at impeachment.

P.S. "Senior Ukrainian officials said they were blindsided over the summer when they heard the United States would withhold security assistance to the country," the N.Y. Times' Andrew Kramer reports from Kyiv, the capital.

  • Why it matters: "The blocking of military aid to Ukraine is now at the center of questions about whether President Trump manipulated foreign policy to pressure the Ukrainian government to take action that would hurt" Biden.
3. Saving is up: Why that's a problem

Saving by Americans "was up 17% in 2018 from the previous year ... beating consumer spending’s 5.2% and business investment’s 7.8%," the Wall Street Journal's Paul Kiernan reports (subscription).

  • Why it matters: That's money that isn't being spent, which fuels the economy, and debt isn't being lowered.
  • "The timing is no coincidence," Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics told the Journal. "The tax cuts seem to have been saved" — not spent.
4. Two worlds

Both 5 p.m. ET yesterday:

5. Pic du jour
Photo: Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP

"RIP" was written in stones, and activist hikers wore black, during a memorial service yesterday in front of the "dying" Pizol glacier in the Swiss Alps. (BBC)

6. Howdy, Modi!
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Cheered by nearly 50,000 Indian Americans at a Houston rally dubbed "Howdy, Modi," two of the world’s most polarizing leaders — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump — "circled the floor of NRG Stadium holding hands." (Houston Chronicle)

  • After an effusive introduction by Modi (who included the phrase "make America great again"), Trump said in his remarks:
"We are going to take care of our Indian American citizens before we take care of illegal immigrants that want to pour into our country."
7. American worries turn from gas to green
Expand chart
Data: Gallup. ("Concerned" includes "a great deal" and "a fair amount" responses.) Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The UN climate change summit kicks off today, a week after oil prices jumped more than they ever have in history, Axios' Amy Harder writes from New York in her weekly energy column, Harder Line.

  • Why it matters: These two developments offer a window into how Americans view energy and the environment today. Relatively low oil prices are making room to worry more about the environment.

The data: Just 57% of Americans — a record low — say they are worried about energy affordability, according to Gallup data going back to 2001.

  • By contrast, nearly three-quarters are concerned about the environment. That's near the record of 77%, reached three times since 2001.

Read the column.

8. New streamers battle over old shows
Expand chart
Table: Axios Visuals

Streaming services are putting up billions of dollars to win the rights to TV classics like "Friends" and "Seinfeld," both of which debuted over two decades ago on broadcast, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: Analysts say older shows, dubbed "catalog content" by industry professionals, help reduce subscriber "churn," or losses.

Case-in-point: Hulu, which currently owns the streaming rights for "Seinfeld," reportedly paid $130 million to stream the show domestically over six years starting in 2015.

  • Netflix reportedly paid more than $500 million for the global streaming rights for Seinfeld over five years starting in 2021.

What to watch: Streamers will eventually need to invest in their own versions of what will one day be considered catalog content.

  • Netflix and Hulu have been able to do this with a few popular original series like "Orange is the New Black" and "The Handmaid's Tale."
9. 🎥 🇬🇧 "Downton" crown
From left, Elizabeth McGovern, Harry Hadden-Paton, Laura Carmichael, Hugh Bonneville and Michael Fox in "Downton Abbey." Photo: Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features via AP

The big-screen encore of "Downton Abbey" thumped both Brad Pitt's "Ad Astra" and Sylvester Stallone's "Rambo: Last Blood" in theaters over the weekend in one of the more unlikely box office upsets, AP reports.

  • Why it matters: The debut, the best first weekend in Focus Features' 17-year history, ranks as the best opening for any specialty studio in a decade.
10. 1 Emmy thing
Billy Porter accepts the outstanding lead actor Emmy for the drama series "Pose." Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

"Emmy voters went off script, often in shocking ways," L.A. Times entertainment columnist Glen Whipp writes. "The Emmys have never been so damn good."

  • "Game of Thrones" resurrected the Iron Throne, ruling as top drama on a night of surprises in which "Pose" star Billy Porter made history and the comedy series "Fleabag" led a British invasion.
  • Porter, who stars in the FX drama set in the LGBTQ ball scene of the late 20th century, became the first openly gay man to win for best drama series. (AP)

See winners list, with pics.

Mike Allen

📱 Thanks for reading Axios AM. Please invite your friends to sign up here.