Aug 23, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🥞 Happy Sunday!

  • 🍿 Action item: If you don't get Jonathan Swan's Sunday evening newsletter, Sneak Peek, please remedy that ASAP. Trust me: You'll want to read his take on this week's Republican convention. Sign up here.
1 big thing: Axios-SurveyMonkey poll: The Biden-Harris bounce

Jill Biden, Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, celebrate at the convention's parking-lot finale. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Joe Biden gained ground with skeptical Democrats and a key slice of independents during the Democratic National Convention, a SurveyMonkey poll for Axios finds.

  • Why it matters: It’s so important for Biden to actually turn out Democrats. And the intensity of Trump voters is still stronger than Biden voters.

White House editor Margaret Talev writes that Biden gained 9 points in favorability with independents — and shaved 5 points off his negative ratings.

  • That's a major improvement with these potential swing voters. (For poll nerds: Biden went from -20 to -6 net favorability with independents.)
  • But even in this improved posture, only 32% of independents view him favorably.
  • And just 7% of those who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 hold a favorable view of Biden.

Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris each got 5-point bumps with Democrats coming out of the convention, compared with polling a week earlier.

  • Biden's favorability is now at 85% among Democrats; Harris' is at 77%.

And here's a talker: SurveyMonkey (2,946 U.S. adults polled Thursday and Friday, with a ±3 point margin of error for the full sample) found a healthy slice of Ds actually preferred a virtual convention.

  • Among Democrats who watched or followed coverage, 44% said the virtual convention was better than a traditional, in-person convention.
  • 42% said it was about the same; just 12% say it was worse.

A pair of word clouds from the polling provide a snapshot of America's mood. The top three words Democrats used to describe the convention were "hopeful," "inclusive" and "united":

Graphic: SurveyMonkey

Republicans' top three words were "boring," "lies" and "joke":

Graphic: SurveyMonkey

Share the word clouds.

Graphic: CBS News
2. Read of the day: Biden's bullish "epiphany"
In 2008, then-Sen. Joe Biden holds up a 1972 Life magazine with his picture in it, given to him to sign after speaking to the Rotary Club in Nashua, N.H. Photo: Cheryl Senter/AP

Evan Osnos — a delightful writer with an enviable eye, ear and voice — embarked on profiling Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. for The New Yorker, and returned with the 14,000-word "Man in the Middle" (16 pages in the magazine), including interviews with Biden, President Obama, Stephen Colbert, Varshini Prakash and a "professor who specializes in the political dynamics of age."

  • "Reticence has never been Biden’s default mode," Osnos observes. "Even in Washington, the windbag Mecca, he distinguished himself."

Osnos writes that when Biden "conjures the image of congressional harmony, many younger Americans think that he sounds deluded — or, worse, unwilling to join difficult fights":

He was mocked last year for suggesting that members of Congress would undergo an "epiphany" after Trump was gone. To his mind, though, the prospects for bipartisanship hinge on the margin of victory.
"If we win, and we pick up five or six Senate seats, I think there WILL be an epiphany," he told me, "because all you need then is three, or four, or five Republicans who have seen the light a little bit." He went on, "I don’t think you can underestimate the impact of Trump not being there. The vindictiveness, the pettiness, the willingness to, at his own expense, go after people with vendettas, like you saw with Sessions" — Jeff Sessions, the former Attorney General, whom Trump had helped torpedo in the recent Alabama primary.
[A] senior Obama Administration official worries that Biden’s optimism could be costly: "Does he see his role as someone who can bring in the Never Trumpers and build some bipartisan consensus? I know from experience that’s a trap. We walked right into it. Your people lose faith, the Republicans never give you credit, you waste a lot of time — and you end up with the Tea Party."

Keep reading.

3. Abandoning NYC

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Suddenly, the city that never sleeps is starting to feel eerily sleepy, managing editor Jennifer Kingson, a lifelong New Yorker, writes from the Upper East Side.

  • Apartment vacancies are at a record high, more than 1,200 restaurants have closed, and Wall Street bigwigs are doing their jobs from Greenwich or the Hamptons.

Why it matters: New York City is a success story in beating back COVID. But many of its wealthiest and most successful residents have fled, some of them never to return.

While the city typically empties in August, with well-heeled New Yorkers taking vacations or moving to their second homes, this time feels different:

  • Early in the pandemic, people were trying to escape COVID-19. More recently, reasons include permanent work-from-anywhere arrangements, the prospect of safer in-person schools outside the city, and fear of looting and gun violence.

The impact: More than 13,000 apartments are empty in Manhattan, and landlords are offering unheard-of discounts.

  • The MTA is destitute, and ridership is in a tailspin — despite the fact that subway cars are unnaturally gleaming.
  • In an echo of the 1970s, homelessness, violent crime and urban blight are on the rise.
  • Hamilton, Shmamilton: Broadway is shut down through at least January.

Where it stands: A throwdown between Mayor Bill De Blasio and the city's unions over New York's massive municipal budget deficit could make matters much worse.

  • Meanwhile, trash is piling up in city parks, the city's EMS union chief says that "people will die" if first responders are cut, and New York's teachers have threatened a sickout to protest De Blasio's plan to open schools on Sept. 10.

Pessimists include James Altucher, the writer, former hedge funder, and comedy club owner, who argued in a LinkedIn post that "New York is dead forever."

  • "Businesses are remote and they aren't returning to the office," he wrote. "And it's a death spiral: the longer offices remain empty, the longer they will remain empty."

Optimists include Andrew Hacker, the Queens College professor, Upper West Sider, and author of a new Trump book called "Downfall," who tells Axios that the city will bounce back.

  • "Out there in Bangalore and Ukraine and Natal, there are people who want to be New Yorkers" who will gladly take their place, bringing their ambition and brainpower.

Share this story.

4. Satellite pic du jour

Photo by permission of Planet Labs Inc.

This satellite image, taken last week, shows a Chinese submarine using an underground base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea, CNN reports.

  • Why it matters: The underground bases were known. But Drew Thompson, a former Pentagon official now at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, told CNN it's rare "that a commercial satellite would be overhead at just the right time" on a cloudless day.
5. 🐘 Breaking: Republican convention releases speaker list

RNC sign outside the Charlotte Convention Center. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump is expected to speak all four nights of this week's Republican National Convention, the campaign says. Other highlights:


  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)
  • House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.)
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.)
  • Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio)
  • Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
  • RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel
  • Mark and Patricia McCloskey (St. Louis couple who waved guns at protesters)
  • Don Jr.
  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk


  • Melania Trump
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
  • Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.)
  • Nicholas Sandmann (Covington Catholic student who sued media outlets)
  • Eric Trump
  • Tiffany Trump


  • Vice President Pence
  • Second Lady Karen Pence
  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.)
  • Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa)
  • Rep. Dan Crenshaw (Texas)
  • Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.)
  • Former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell
  • White House counselor Kellyanne Conway


  • HUD Secretary Ben Carson
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
  • Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.)
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.)
  • Ivanka Trump
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Franklin Graham
  • Alice Johnson (granted clemency by Trump)
  • UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) President Dana White

Full list.

6. Coronaboom: Micro-weddings
Tray Vann after his wedding in Anaheim, Calif., in May. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Dozens of hotels around the country have created micro-wedding packages to meet demand for smaller ceremonies, driven either by local rules or common sense, the WashPost's Natalie B. Compton writes.

  • Couples that had budgeted for a big wedding are now able to splurge on a luxury stay after the ceremony.
Mike Allen

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