Sep 15, 2018

Axios AM

☕️ Good Saturday morning.

  • 💰 Bonus: Later today you'll get an AM Deep Dive from me. If you have friends, colleagues or relatives who aren't on AM, they can join the conversation free here.
1 big thing … 2020 Dems: Rebels v. restorationists

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The most telling split among 2020 Democratic hopefuls won’t be over policy, but whether to match President Trump's scorched-earth tactics, top Democrats tell Jonathan Swan and me.

  • "The key question is: How crazy will Trump make us?" asked a veteran of Democratic presidential campaigns. "How far out there will you go to be like Trump?"

Here are the two camps:

  • The "responsible restorationists" will say: As soon as Trump’s gone, we should go back to the way things were. Their campaign style will reflect Michelle Obama's famous line: "When they go low, we go high."
  • Instead, the "ruthless radicals" will say: Screw the old rules. When they go low, "hit harder," as Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti put it during his 2020 water-testing appearances.

Avenatti, and senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, are in the more aggressive camp:

  • Avenatti says Democratic candidates for 2020 must commit to expanding the Supreme Court bench to 11 seats to pack the court with Democrats.
  • Booker had his “I am Spartacus” moment at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing.
  • And Warren recently told CNN the 25th amendment should be used to remove Trump from office if his senior officials don't think he can do his job.

The restorationists could include candidates like Michael Bloomberg, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

  • Joe Biden is a traditionalist but has flirted with Trumpian language, saying in 2016 that if they were in high school, he would’ve taken Trump “behind the gym and beat the hell out of him” for demeaning women.

Scott Pastrick — president of Prime Policy Group, former DNC treasurer under Bill Clinton, and longtime adviser to Democratic presidential candidates — said : “You’ve got this divide between people who want to govern and be more measured, ... and another side that’s hellbent on breaking china."

  • "It’s the activist base, the screamers, looking to do whatever they can to push back on Trump and demonstrate that they are ideologically pure. And I’m afraid that this is going to drive us right into extinction.”

A strategist for one of the 2020 candidate told me this calibration will be tough: Primary voters hunger for "someone to descend to Trump's tactics." But general-election voters are more likely to prefer "a hopeful message about making government boring again."

  • Be smart: Whichever course a candidate favors, it has to be genuine. As a longtime Democratic operative told me: "Hillary tried to go high but then went low, and no one bought it."
2. Paul's stunning plea
Paul Manafort, center, and his defense lawyer, Richard Westling, left, stand before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. At bottom are prosecutors Greg Andres (left) and Andrew Weissmann. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

Paul Manafort — who took notes (apparently on his phone) during the notorious Trump Tower meeting with Russians — agreed to tell all he knows to special counsel Robert Mueller as part of a deal to plead guilty and avoid a second trial.

  • WashPost: Manafort's cooperation may "answer some of the most critical questions about whether any Americans conspired with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election."

Why he matters, per N.Y. Times: "Of all Mr. Trump’s campaign advisers, Mr. Manafort arguably had the deepest ties to Russian operatives and oligarchs."

  • If you're keeping score: "Manafort joins four other Trump aides who have offered cooperation in exchange for lesser charges ... Michael D. Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer; Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser; Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign chairman; and George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser." (NYT)
3. Florence kills at least 7
Sgt. Nick Muhar of the North Carolina National Guard evacuates a child as rising floodwaters threaten his home in New Bern, N.C. (Chris Seward/AP)

Tropical Storm Florence's relentless rain is causing devastating flooding in the Carolinas and promises even more today. A least seven are dead — including a baby, per CNN:

  • "A group of firefighters in Wilmington, North Carolina, knelt and prayed outside the home where a mother and her infant died when a tree fell."
  • "The storm's center is crawling inland over South Carolina, but its main rain bands largely are over already-saturated North Carolina — setting up what may be days of flooding for some communities."

The National Hurricane Center reported gusts over 105 mph on the Outer Banks.

Volunteers from all over North Carolina help rescue residents and pets in New Bern, N.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Bonus: Pic du jour
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Alexa Ayala Salgado and her brother Edgar, originally from Mexico, became U.S. citizens yesterday during a Constitution Week naturalization ceremony for about 50 young people at the L.A. Public Library.

  • Some obtained citizenship once their immigrant parents became citizens, while others were adopted by citizens.
4. Black governor nominees become stars

Stacey Abrams of Georgia (Alex Wong/Getty)... Center: Ben Jealous of Maryland (Keith Lane for The Washington Post via Getty) ... Andrew Gillum of Florida (Joe Raedle/Getty)

"If elected, Stacey Abrams of Georgia, Ben Jealous of Maryland and Andrew Gillum of Florida would give America its largest number of black governors ever," AP's Jesse Holland writes:

  • Abrams, 44, "who could become the nation's first black female governor, is getting the most national attention."
  • "Jealous, 45, faces the steepest challenge, down in polls against incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan."
  • Abrams and Gillum, 39, are running for open seats.

"The political trio seem comfortable together and readily quote one another in interviews. They also tease one another."

  • "Abrams is a longtime state official and former state House leader; Gillum has been a fixture of local Tallahassee politics since his college days; and Jealous is a former head of the NAACP and ... a venture capitalist and activist."

Be smart: "None of them were heavy favorites in their primaries. ... Their historic primary wins — and the national attention it brought — will bring out Democratic voters who might not have voted in a midterm election otherwise."

5. Meeker leads exodus
A classic Meeker slide (Kleiner Perkins)

"Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the premier Silicon Valley investors at one of its premier venture capital firms, is leaving ... in an abrupt, high-profile splitting of the firm," per Recode's Teddy Schleifer.

  • "Meeker is leading an exodus of late-stage investors from Kleiner Perkins in its most dramatic shake-up since legendary investor John Doerr stepped back from his role more than two years ago."
  • Meeker and three of her partners will form a new firm.

Why she matters: "Meeker, 'the first Wall Street analyst to become a household name' during the dot-com boom, has been most famous in this era for her agenda-setting [annual] 'Internet Trends' slide decks."

  • "This year’s deck included 294 slides and has been viewed more than a million times; last year’s, with 355 slides, is well past three million views."
6. 1 🚀 thing

"Elon Musk’s SpaceX, demonstrating [his] penchant for showmanship, announced that it had signed up the first private passenger seeking to fly around the moon," per The Wall Street Journal's Andy Pasztor (subscription):

  • "The identity of the passenger [is] expected to be disclosed Monday."
  • Some industry officials say the rocket may be at least a year or two from an initial test flight.
  • "Others speculated that, based on SpaceX’s history, the [rocket, dubbed the] BFR may not launch humans until the middle of the next decade."