Sep 15, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🚨 Worst air quality in the world, per IQAir: 2. Portland, Ore. ... 4. Seattle ... 7. Los Angeles ... 10. San Francisco. Photos.

Good Tuesday morning. The first presidential debate is two weeks from today.

  • Election Day is seven weeks from today.

💻 Join Caitlin Owens and me at 12:30 p.m. ET today for an Axios Virtual Event on how COVID is spurring innovation in chronic pain management. Register here.

1 big thing: The Trump identity and fashion statement
Spotted at President Trump campaign event in Winston-Salem, N.C., last week. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

If President Trump defies today's swing-state polls and pulls off another upset, what will we have missed that could have been a clue?

  • Here's a big one: Trump flotillas ... Trump flags bigger than American flags ... Trump truck rallies ... Trump shirts ... Trump underwear ... lawns that don't have a Trump-Pence sign or two but 50 or even 100 — a forest.

Why it matters: To his diehard supporters, Trump isn't just a candidate. He's a lifestyle choice and a vehicle for self-expression — a way to continually flip the middle finger at big media, big business, big government ... anything big.

  • It's all part of one of the big Trump triumphs — convincing his voters that an attack on him is actually an attack on them.

A hat, popular in rural convenience stores this summer, says it all: "If You Don't Like Trump Then You Probably Won't Like Me."

  • At rallies, you see people wearing Trump flags like a billowing robe. And a lot of this isn't official campaign merch — people print these up themselves.

At a Trumper classic-car rally in Michigan this weekend, one red, white and blue Trump flag — in place of "Keep America Great" — said, "NO MORE B.S.," with the last word spelled out. Nearby, a man wore a flag-bedecked t-shirt proclaiming: "JESUS IS MY SAVIOR / TRUMP IS MY PRESIDENT."

  • Trump regattas are everywhere, from the solid South to the fancy waters of Mystic, Conn. (Bad metaphorical optics when five Trump boats, swamped by the wake from a massive lake rally, sank near Austin over Labor Day.)
A Trump boat parade passes Mar-a-Lago on Labor Day. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"Axios on HBO" went to Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., to explore this phenomenon for a segment we call, "Trump on the lake."

  • Axios CEO Jim VandeHei: "In your lifetime, do you ever remember a Ronald Reagan flag as big as the American flag in somebody's front yard? Do you ever remember someone spray painting 'Obama' on their boat?"
  • White House editor Margaret Talev: "No, but there's never been
    a president whose brand was branding. ... They like the fact that he says things that you're not allowed to say — that he says things that they feel that they can't say at work or in mixed company."

Randy Kelly, a retired boat dealer who has lived at Lake of the Ozarks since moving down from Kansas City 43 years ago, told "Axios on HBO":

  • "If you see someone that has on a Trump hat, there's a camaraderie: Hey, we got something in common."

The bottom line: Trump touts a "silent majority," and pundits pundit about "shy Trump voters" who may be missed by pollsters.

  • But one of the stories of this election is that the Trump vote is screaming, not silent.
2. Exclusive: Melinda Gates says virus erased 25 years of progress

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

COVID produced "devastating" reversals of global gains in education, poverty eradication, vaccinations, and maternal and child health, according to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's 2020 Goalkeepers Report, shared first with Ina Fried.

  • "25 years of increased vaccinations that have saved children's lives all over the world was set back in 25 weeks," Melinda Gates told "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: The coronavirus is proving to be more than just a health crisis, thrusting millions into poverty.

  • "[E]ight months of COVID reversed gains in almost every category that had been made steadily over the last couple of decades," Melinda Gates said.

See a clip.

Go deeper: Melinda Gates told "Axios on HBO" that she had never seen a health issue anywhere in the world be as politicized as COVID-19 has been in the U.S.

  • Why it matters: The comments mark the sharpest rebuke yet from the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has emerged as the largest funder of the WHO after the U.S. yanked funding earlier this year.
  • See a clip.
3. Trump sees coming cooling
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to President Trump during a briefing yesterday. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

It's not the critics — or even Woodward tapes. It's the White House transcript.

  • Here's an exchange yesterday at a hangar in Sacramento County, as President Trump was briefed by California officials who are battling wildfires that have killed 24 and produced choking, blinding air quality in L.A. and San Francisco:

Wade Crowfoot, California Secretary for Natural Resources: "[I]f we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians."

  • Trump: "It’ll start getting cooler. ... You just watch."
  • Crowfoot: "I wish science agreed with you."
  • Trump, with a smile: "Well, I don’t think science knows, actually."
  • Go deeper: Global temperatures rising since 1880

🥊 Joe Biden yesterday called Trump a "climate arsonist."

In other Trump v. science news:

  • "Trump and his campaign are defending his right to rally indoors, despite the private unease of aides who called it a game of political Russian roulette." N.Y. Times' Annie Karni
  • On a now-private Facebook video, Michael Caputo, HHS assistant secretary of public affairs, accused the CDC of harboring a "resistance unit" and said career scientists were engaging in "sedition." NYT's Sharon LaFraniere
  • Unvetted vaccine? "[S]cientists and regulators across the public health bureaucracy [are] increasingly worried that the White House could exert greater pressure to approve a vaccine before Election Day." N.Y. Times
4. What life on Venus would mean

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Scientists think they may have found hints of life in Venus' clouds — a discovery that, if confirmed, would cause them to re-examine everything they thought they knew about how life evolves, Axios Space author Miriam Kramer writes.

  • Why it matters: If life does exist within a small niche of habitability in Venus' temperate layer of clouds, it might mean that life could be even more ubiquitous in the universe than previously expected. The discovery is already fueling calls from scientists who want a mission sent to the nearby world.

Catch up quick: Yesterday, scientists announced the discovery of phosphine — a possible sign of life — in the clouds of Venus' upper atmosphere.

🛸 Sign up for Miriam Kramer's weekly newsletter, Axios Space.

5. Axios-Ipsos poll: Distrust in America
Data: Ipsos/Axios survey (±3.2% margin of error for total sample). Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans have a great deal of trust in the FDA or pharmaceutical companies to look out for their interests, White House editor Margaret Talev writes from the new Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • Why it matters: This two-headed credibility crisis — over the medicine that's supposed to keep us safe and the regulators tasked with ensuring it does — shows how difficult it may be to get Americans to converge around a vaccine.
  • "It’s going to be hard for the authorities to communicate what people should be doing and how to be doing it," said pollster Chris Jackson, senior vice president for Ipsos Public Affairs.

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6. Gridlock could make the pandemic worse

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Congress is unlikely to pass another coronavirus relief package before the election — bad news not only for people who are struggling financially, but also for our efforts to contain the virus itself, Caitlin Owens writes.

  • Why it matters: All signs point to a difficult winter. Congressional inaction could make things much worse by forcing millions of people to choose between following public health recommendations or feeding their families.

The big picture: The U.S. containment strategy, as flawed as it is, depends on people who may have the virus getting tested and staying home until it's safe to come into contact with others again.

  • But staying home is harder for people living paycheck to paycheck, and for those who don't have homes.

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  • Sign up for Caitlin Owens' daily newsletter, Vitals.

⚡️ Breaking: House moderates in the 50-member Problems Solvers Caucus plan to unveil a $1.5 trillion compromise today “in a long-shot attempt to break a months-long deadlock on providing relief to the pandemic-battered U.S. economy.” — Bloomberg

7. Gen Z thwarts disinformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Gen Z may be more immune to the lure of misinformation than their elders, because younger people's innate digital sense gives them more context, nuance and skepticism, Axios' Stef Kight writes.

  • Why it matters: An innate understanding of social media influence, virality and algorithms among Gen Z — defined by Pew as the cohort born between 1997 and 2012 — could help disarm misinformation and disinformation.

83% of Gen Z college students said they get the majority of their news from social media or online news sites, according to a survey of 868 students by College Reaction provided exclusively to Axios.

  • Despite it being their go-to source for news, young people are skeptical of social media. Just 7% said they found it to be the most trustworthy news platform.
  • More than half said online newspapers or media sites were the most trustworthy, and 16% chose physical newspapers.
8. Dems use Woodward tape in ad

On pub day for Bob Woodward's "Rage," 'the DNC War Room celebrates with a TV ad, "Red Handed," using Woodward's recordings of President Trump.

  • The ad will air in battleground states and on cable in D.C. — meaning it's likely to reach 1600 Pennsylvania.
9. Match CEO sees permanent dating changes

Dion Rabouin interviews Match CEO Shar Dubey. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Shar Dubey — CEO of Match Group, which includes Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge and other dating apps — told Axios Markets Editor Dion Rabouin for "Axios on HBO" that "the definition of a first date may change" post-COVID:

  • Many more couples' first moments will be virtual.

Why it matters: That could be great for companies like Match that connect people online, but could further weaken the appeal of live events, entertainment venues, and bars and restaurants.

  • It's another way the economy could further shift to advantage tech companies at the expense of brick-and-mortar and small businesses.

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10. 1 smile to go
Courtesy N.Y. Post
Mike Allen

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