March 06, 2024

🐫 Happy Wednesday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,491 words ... 5½ mins. Thanks to Noah Bressner for orchestrating. Copy edited by Bryan McBournie.

🎤 If you're in D.C. tomorrow: Join us at 8:30 a.m. for our in-person News Shapers event before the State of the Union. Speakers include U.S. Senate candidate Larry Hogan of Maryland, Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). Register here to attend in person.

1 big thing — Exclusive: Confidence surges

Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index
Data: Business Roundtable. Chart: Axios Visuals

America's top executives are strikingly more confident about the economy than they were three months ago, Axios' Courtenay Brown and Neil Irwin write from the Business Roundtable's quarterly gauge of CEO sentiment.

  • Why it matters: CEOs are expecting stronger sales and more capital investment, indicating that the economy might keep booming in the months ahead.

For the first time in two years, the quarterly gauge — seen first by Axios — is above its historical average, signaling the economic uneasiness that has defined recent months may finally be fading.

  • "This quarter's survey results underscore the resiliency of the U.S. economy and suggest accelerating economic activity over the next six months," said Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, who chairs the Business Roundtable.

🧮 By the numbers: The lobbying group's sentiment index jumped 11 points in the first quarter to 85 — topping the long-running average by 2 points.

  • That double-digit surge reflects a larger share of CEOs planning to increase capital spending — investments in equipment, factories and the like — and expectations of stronger company sales relative to the previous quarter.

🥊 Reality check: Plans for hiring remain depressed relative to the number seen two years ago — a sign that the rip-roaring hiring rates have been replaced with more modest employment plans.

2. 🗳️ Super takeaways: Rematch begins

Super Tuesday map
Data: AP. Chart: Axios Visuals

The rematch many Americans don't want has arrived:

  • Super Tuesday virtually cleared the field for Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Their races for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations are now more coronation than competition, Axios' Alex Thompson writes.

Why it matters: As they rolled up victories in state after state late Tuesday, Biden and Trump looked beyond their primary foes and blasted each other's records as president

The results gave each campaign reason for optimism and concern:

1. Haley gets a consolation prize — and goes dark.

  • Trump won every Super Tuesday state except Vermont, piling up hundreds of GOP delegates. He's now set to clinch the nomination as soon as next week. His last GOP rival, Nikki Haley, surprised with her win in Vermont, 50% to 46%.
  • The former UN ambassador didn't appear last night, and hasn't announced any more public events — a sign her campaign might have reached the end of the road.

2. "Uncommitted" protest against Biden continues.

  • In Michigan's Democratic primary last week, thousands of Arab American and young voters cast ballots for "uncommitted" to protest Biden's pro-Israel policies in the war in Gaza — about 13% of the electorate.
  • The protest continued yesterday in Minnesota, another key Midwestern state Biden needs to win in November. More than 45,000 Democratic voters — nearly 19% — voted "uncommitted" rather than for Biden.

3. A surprise winner, and Dean Phillips' sad night.

  • Biden easily won every Democratic contest yesterday — except American Samoa, where little-known entrepreneur Jason Palmer beat the president.
  • As the results came in, Phillips — who invested millions of his own money trying to cast Biden as a likely loser in November — lamented on X: "Congratulations to Joe Biden, Uncommitted, Marianne Williamson, and Nikki Haley for demonstrating more appeal to Democratic Party loyalists than me."
 Donald Trump arrives to speak during a Super Tuesday election night watch party at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach
Trump arrives to speak last night at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

4. Trump's North Carolina problem.

  • Biden lost North Carolina to Trump by about 75,000 votes in 2020. But Tuesday's GOP primary gave Democrats hope that the president might be able to flip the state this year — or at least make Trump spend precious campaign dollars defending it.
  • Last night's GOP nominee for governor, Mark Robinson, has made statements and Facebook posts criticizing gay people and Jews. Democrats are planning to invest in the race, calling the Trump-backed Robinson a "dangerous conspiracy theorist."

Interactive maps ... Get wonky: GOP race calls ... Dem race calls.

3. 🏛️ Adam Schiff's gamble pays off

Data: AP. Chart: Axios Visuals

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) looks likely to become Sen. Schiff.

  • The congressman who gained a national following as a Trump antagonist successfully boxed out his progressive rivals, California Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, in the Golden State's Senate primary, Axios' Alex Thompson writes.
  • Schiff, 63, will face Steve Garvey, 75, a Republican and famed former first baseman for the Dodgers and San Diego Padres, in November's race to fill the seat of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.),

Big fact: For the first time in decades, Californians won't be represented by a woman in the Senate, Axios' Stephen Neukam notes.

Between the lines: Schiff's ads linking Republican Steve Garvey to Trump appeared to boost Garvey among conservative voters in the final stretch. It was part of an apparent plan to face Garvey in the general election rather than one of Schiff's Democratic rivals.

  • Under California's rules, candidates from both parties compete in the primary and the top two finishers face off in the general election — a "jungle primary."

Schiff is now the overwhelming favorite to beat Garvey on Nov. 5 in deep-blue California.

4. ⚡ Scoop: John Thune endorsing MAGA darling

Sen. John Thune speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill last year.
Sen. John Thune speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill last year. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, will endorse Kari Lake in her Arizona Senate bid, Axios' Stephen Neukam scoops.

  • Why it matters: The Lake endorsement is a reversal from Thune's long-term criticism of the MAGA movement, as he seeks to become the next Senate GOP leader.

Thune tells Axios: "Kari Lake is the candidate in Arizona who will work to get the economy back on track and lower the cost of living for families, secure the border and enforce the law, and bring safety to our streets."

  • Trump endorsed Thune's GOP primary challenger in 2022.

Keep reading.

5. 👀 Trump meets with Musk

Elon Musk talks with then-President Trump after a 2020 SpaceX launch in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Elon Musk talks with then-President Trump after a 2020 SpaceX launch in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

Former President Trump — seeking to narrow President Biden's huge cash advantage — met with Elon Musk and a group of GOP donors in Palm Beach on Sunday, the N.Y. Times reports.

  • Why it matters: Trump's team, with $30 million in the bank, is spending huge sums on legal bills while playing catch-up with Biden's $130 million campaign war chest.

🔎 Between the lines: It's not clear if Musk has decided to donate to Trump's campaign.

  • If Musk does donate, "his views about immigration will have been a significant motivator," The Times reports.

Keep reading (Gift link — no paywall).

6. 🤖 OpenAI snaps back at Elon

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

OpenAI hit back at Elon Musk's lawsuit against the company last night, saying that it remains committed to its mission but realized that reaching artificial general intelligence will cost a fortune, requiring it to bring in revenue.

  • Why it matters: OpenAI isn't going to take punches or cede the moral high ground to Musk, Axios' Ina Fried and Ryan Heath write.

In a blog post, OpenAI used emails from Musk to refute his claims that the company has abandoned its mission and effectively become an arm of Microsoft.

  • OpenAI suggested that the Tesla founder's views were closer to the company's than the lawsuit would suggest.

🔬 Zoom in: OpenAI says the company had planned to raise $100 million but it was Musk who suggested they raise more.

  • "We need to go with a much bigger number than $100M to avoid sounding hopeless," Musk wrote, according to OpenAI's blog. "I think we should say that we are starting with a $1B funding commitment."
  • In a separate email, Musk said: "Even raising several hundred million won't be enough. This needs billions per year immediately or forget it."

Read OpenAI's blog post.

7. ⚖️ D.C. reverses progressive reforms

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Getty Images

D.C. is reversing progressive reforms with a sweeping public safety bill that raises penalties for theft and gun crimes, Axios D.C.' Cuneyt Dil writes.

  • Why it matters: The D.C. Council approved the measure last night after the city hit a 25-year high in homicides.

Progressive lawmakers broke with activists who warned of a return to failed tough-on-crime policies. The bill:

  1. Creates a new crime for organized retail theft.
  2. Revives drug-free zones, a 1990s-era anti-loitering law.
  3. Revises the definition of an officer chokehold, a change sought by the police union.
  4. Gives cops permission to view body-cam footage before writing incident reports.

Keep reading ... Get Axios D.C.

8. 🌴 1 for the road: Spring break crackdown

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

A Miami Beach marketing video saying it's "breaking up" with spring break has gone viral on social media, Axios Miami's Martin Vassolo writes.

  • Miami Beach — which floods the city with police every year — is imposing new restrictions to prevent the violence and overcrowding that have led to curfews the last three years.

🍺 Starting tomorrow, the city will shut down public parking lots and most public garages in South Beach.

  • There will also be road closures, beach access restrictions and a $516 non-resident towing fee.

Keep reading ... Get Axios Local: Daily newsletters in 30 cities.

📬 Thanks for starting your morning with us. Please invite your friends to sign up.