Aug 25, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🗳️ Good Tuesday morning! I'd love for you to join me tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET for an Axios virtual event on the future of the Republican Party, featuring RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

1 big thing: Trump's alternative narrative
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) speaks live to the largely virtual Republican National Convention from the Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Ave. in D.C. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The opening night of the Republican National Convention delighted President Trump's base with an alternative narrative where he masterfully deflected COVID, he's popular with Black Americans, and Joe Biden is a menacing leftist.

  • Why it matters: Although CNN and MSNBC cut away for fact checks, this week's convention gives the Trump campaign hour upon hour to show millions of viewers an America as Trump sees it.

It's relatively rare for a Trump production to include empathy testimonials, but last night's did, Axios' Jonathan Swan points out:

  • For so much of his political career, Trump has depicted himself as an antihero, telling people that the world is a zero-sum battle, where only brutal tactics can defeat brutal enemies.
  • Two Trump friends, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and former football star Herschel Walker, both testified to what they described as his private empathy.
  • Walker described a 37-year friendship and Jordan recounted a family tragedy in which the president took time out of his day to console Jordan's grieving relatives.

The night's star was Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only Black Republican senator, and the first Black senator from the South since Reconstruction:

My grandfather’s 99th birthday would have been tomorrow. Growing up, he had to cross the street if a white person was coming. He suffered the indignity of being forced out of school as a third grader to pick cotton, and never learned to read or write.
Yet, he lived to see his grandson become the first African American to be elected to both the United States House and Senate.
Our family went from Cotton to Congress in one lifetime.
Don Jr. speaks in the cavernous Mellon Auditorium. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Donald Trump Jr., who called Biden "basically the Loch Ness Monster of the swamp," made a populist appeal for his father's re-election:

  • "[W]e are not going to tear down monuments and forget the people who built our great nation. Instead, we will learn from our past so we don't repeat any mistakes."
  • "It all starts by rejecting the radicals who want to drag us into the dark, and embracing the man who represents a bright and beautiful future for all."
Nikki Haley speaks. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Nikki Haley, who was Trump's ambassador to the UN, after serving as South Carolina governor: "In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country."

  • "This is personal for me. I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. They came to America and settled in a small southern town."
  • "My father wore a turban. My mother wore a sari. I was a brown girl in a black and white world."

Axios' David Nather, Margaret Talev, Alayna Treene and Hans Nichols contributed reporting.

2. Axios-Ipsos poll: The Biden-Trump trust gulf
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll (±3.3% margin of error for total sample). Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump wins significantly less trust than Joe Biden on who provides accurate information about the coronavirus — but neither is trusted by even half the country, Margaret Talev writes from the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • Why it matters: Week 22 of our national survey exposes new depths of the virus' politicization amid the conventions, and it shows the challenges of governing that lie ahead for whoever wins in November.

Just 31% of Americans say they trust Trump on the pandemic, compared with 46% who say they trust Biden.

  • Neither can claim a majority, but Biden is in a stronger position. Three in 10 members of the president's own party don't trust him on the issue.
  • Just 7% of Democrats trust Trump and only 12% of Republicans trust Biden.

Independents trust Biden significantly more than they trust Trump — but more than a third of independents say they don't trust either.

3. "A concerted effort to undermine the midterm elections"

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

The U.S. "disrupted a concerted effort to undermine the midterm elections" in 2018 and is using those lessons to protect November's election, writes NSA Director and head of U.S. Cyber Command Paul Nakasone, along with senior Cyber Command adviser Michael Sulmeyer, in Foreign Affairs.

  • Experts at the NSA and Cyber Command "formed the Russia Small Group (RSG), a task force created to ensure that democratic processes were executed unfettered by Russian activity."
  • "It shared indicators of potential compromise, enabling DHS to harden the security of election infrastructure."
  • "It also shared threat indicators with the FBI to bolster that organization’s efforts to counter foreign trolls on social media platforms."
4. America's new flashpoint

Photos: Morry Gash/AP

Anger over the shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, by police spilled into the streets of Kenosha for a second night Monday, with police again firing tear gas at protesters who defied a curfew, threw bottles and shot fireworks at law enforcement, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

  • Hundreds of New Yorkers took to the streets yesterday to protest, marching from Times Square to Washington Square Park, per CBS 2.
  • And activists in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed in May, both rallied there and made the six-hour drive to Kenosha to offer advice and supplies, reports the Star Tribune.

Why it matters: The incident in the southeastern Wisconsin city is the nation's latest flashpoint in a summer of unrest amid calls to meaningfully tackle systemic racism.

  • Video footage showed police shooting Jacob Blake multiple times — apparently in the back, as he leaned into his SUV while his children sat in the vehicle — and circulated widely on social media. The 29-year-old remains hospitalized in serious condition.

Kenosha last night ...

Protesters walk past police with their arms up, late last night in Kenosha, Wis., as a building burns in the background. Photo: David Goldman/AP
5. Trump campaign spends big on criminal justice ads
Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

To appeal to voters concerned about race relations, the Trump campaign has poured big money into Facebook ads about criminal justice reform, Axios' Sara Fischer and Alayna Treene write.

  • Why it matters: It's a huge departure from his months-long campaign strategy of targeting hardline supporters with ads discussing topics like the "fake news" media and immigration.

Before George Floyd's death, the Trump campaign spent less than $50,000 on Facebook ads addressing criminal justice.

  • Since two days after Floyd's death on May 25, the campaign has spent nearly $6 million, according to data from Bully Pulpit Interactive.

See the ads.

Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive. Chart: Axios Visuals
6. Dow shakeup

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Dow Jones Industrial Average announced a major shakeup yesterday after the market closed, booting Pfizer, Raytheon and ExxonMobil, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin reports.

  • Salesforce, Amgen and Honeywell will replace those companies at the end of the month to "help diversify the index."

Why it matters: The changes seem more reflective of a desire for better-performing stocks than an accurate representation of a changing U.S. economy, as the Dow will actually have a lower percentage of tech after the additions.

7. Uber releases poll on CEO's plan

Photo: Gene J. Puskar/AP

Uber, in a fierce fight in California to continue treating drivers as independent contractors, today will release a poll finding support for a new benefits approach outlined in a New York Times op-ed by CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

  • From a Benenson Strategy Group memo: "Drivers and Voters overwhelmingly support Uber’s new Independent Contractor (IC) plan ... that allows Drivers to continue to work as Independent Contractors, maintaining the flexibility and freedom of working independently, but gives them access to benefits that today are only available to employees under existing labor laws."
  • See the memo.

Lyft released a similar poll, via Morning Consult, "doubling down on a familiar message from gig economy companies: Most independent contractors don’t want to be employees."

8. First look: Stelter's "Hoax" sells out, with rush reprint

Screenshot via CNN

"Hoax," the book about Fox News out today by CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter, has gotten so much online and TV buzz that the publisher is rushing to print 100,000 more hardcovers, for a total of 150,000.

  • The book from One Signal/Atria, part of Simon & Schuster, has occupied the #1 slot on Amazon the past three days.

Between the lines: A source points out that two other Simon & Schuster books — by Mary Trump and John Bolton — also hit #1 on Amazon and also required rush reprints earlier this summer.

  • So Simon & Schuster has had a string of hot Trump books — with Bob Woodward's "Rage" coming Sept. 15.
  • And out Tuesday from Simon & Schuster: "Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady," by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.

Stelter's animating idea, as articulated in the epilogue, is that the "Trump age was really the 'hoax' age":

Fox viewers came away with the impression that nothing was truly knowable. Everything was relative. There were distortions and deceptions in every direction. Up could be down and left could be right and real news could be fake.
9. Sneak peek: "Blood and Oil" out next week

Cover: Hachette

"Blood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salman's Ruthless Quest for Global Power," by Wall Street Journal reporters Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck, is coming a week from today from Hachette Books.

Some exclusive tidbits:

  • "Saudi Arabia devised a step-by-step plan to paint Qatar as a terrorist-supporting state in March 2017, months before it and allies in the region launched a full-out boycott of the country."
  • "The plan included a nine-by-nine matrix of journalists, ranked as friendly, neutral or hostile, and their influence as low, medium, or high."

"Mohammed bin Salman's megayacht, Serene, travels in a group of 11 yachts, including support vessels and smaller yachts for additional guests," the authors write.

  • "He outfitted the interiors of his yacht with state-of-the-art multimedia equipment that can switch it from a place for meeting officials to a full-on party scene with a few buttons. A former helicopter hangar on board houses a private nightclub, complete with poles for dancers. The ship's crew aren't allowed to go there under any circumstances."

See a synopsis.

10. 1 D.C. thing: Scott Van Pelt comes home

Photo: ESPN

The midnight edition of "SportsCenter," which Scott Van Pelt has hosted since 2015, made its D.C. debut last night, Axios Sports editor Kendall Baker reports.

  • Why it matters: Van Pelt, a Montgomery County, Md., native who began his career at WTTG in D.C., has worked out of ESPN's main campus in Bristol, Conn., since joining the company in 2001. Now, he's back home.

🎙️ Sign up for Axios Sports to read Kendall's full interview with Van Pelt.

Mike Allen

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