September 20, 2023

๐Ÿช Hello, Wednesday! Smart Brevityโ„ข count: 1,286 words ... 5 mins. Edited by Emma Loop and Bryan McBournie.

๐ŸŽค If you're in D.C. this morning: Please join me at our in-person News Shapers event at 8 a.m., with Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and White House deputy national security adviser for international economics Mike Pyle. Register here.

๐Ÿ•ถ๏ธ 1 big thing โ€” Confident Biden: Chill out, bed-wetters

President Biden in Largo, Md., last week. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The White House has a blunt message for doomscrolling Dems whining about President Biden's age and poll numbers: Clam up and chill out.

  • Mike Donilon, a senior White House adviser, is telling anxious Democrats that two issues โ€” abortion and Donald Trump โ€” will propel Biden to re-election, Axios' Alex Thompson and Hans Nichols report.

Why it matters: In private conversations, Democrats have been struck by top White House aides' eyebrow-raising confidence. Some worry it's hubris.

What's happening: Biden officials dismiss most of the growing concern over impeachment, Hunter's indictment, a border crisis, the president's age, an economy voters don't love, and an auto strike testing his union support.

๐Ÿ”Ž Between the lines: Trump's upcoming court appearances will allow Biden to sharpen the contrast between his defense of democracy and the former president's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

๐Ÿ‘‚ What we're hearing: "We don't take the ups and downs of individual polls to heart," a senior Biden adviser told Axios. "What will matter next year is when our voters are fully engaged."

  • "While Republicans are going after each other, we are already reaching persuadable voters in battleground states," the adviser said. "Our eyes are focused on the long game."

Behind the scenes: Biden officials are trying to convince Democratic lawmakers and donors that top advisers have a bullish theory about how the election will play out โ€” and are sticking to it.

  • "A bad column [by David Ignatius in the WashPost] doesn't cause big strategy meetings here," the Biden adviser said. "The basics of governing is what we're trying to deliver on."

The bottom line: Democrats' rising anxiety is seen internally as another example of pundits and the media underestimating Biden. Aides point out that many insiders left him for dead in the 2020 primaries.

  • They also like to note that pollsters who have Biden underwater also wrongly predicted a red wave of Republican wins in the 2022 midterms.

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2. ๐Ÿ”ฎ Small business owners feeling better

Data: Q3 MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index. Chart: Axios Visuals

An index that measures small business owners' confidence jumped six points in the third quarter, nearly reaching its pre-pandemic high, Emily Peck writes for Axios Markets.

  • Why it matters: Score one for team soft-landing. The index, published this morning by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is another sign the economy is doing OK.

๐Ÿงฎ By the numbers: Researchers surveyed 751 U.S. business owners who run companies with fewer than 500 people.

  • 66% of small business owners say their business is in good health โ€”ย a nearly 10-point increase.
  • 71% expect revenue to increase next year โ€”ย the most since the survey launched in 2017.

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3. ๐Ÿ›๏ธ D.C. gasps at Senate's new dress code

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) speaks to reporters at the Capitol yesterday. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's move to scuttle the chamber's informal dress code is colliding with tradition and politics, Axios managing editor David Lindsey writes.

  • Why it matters: The directive allows Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) to wear gym shorts and hoodies on the Senate floor. He's favored workout attire since returning to the Senate after being treated for clinical depression.

What's happening: Schumer's directive means the Senate sergeant at arms will no longer enforce the chamber's informal dress code for senators. Staffers still must wear business attire while on the Senate floor.

  • "Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit," Schumer said in a statement to Axios.

Schumer's decision, first reported by Axios' Hans Nichols and Barak Ravid, was denounced by Republicans, roasted by conservative media and given a thumbs-down by The Washington Post editorial page.

  • "It is ... all too imaginable that attention-seeking lawmakers will don T-shirts emblazoned with the names and mascots of their hometown sports franchises โ€” or inflammatory partisan messages," The Post warns.

46 of 49 GOP senators fired off a letter to Schumer urging him to reverse the change. The letter says the Senate floor "is where we must make the gravest decision imaginable โ€” whether to send our fellow Americans to battle."

  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who signed the letter, joked that she might wear a bikini on the Senate floor.

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4. ๐Ÿ“ท = 1,000 words

Photo: Dmitry Serebryakov/AP

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage yesterday in a Moscow courtroom, on the 174th day of what the U.S. government calls his wrongful detention on espionage charges.

  • The court refused to hear his pretrial-detention appeal, meaning he's likely to remain jailed until at least Nov. 30.

Go deeper.

5. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Xi protรฉgรฉs fall

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Noel Celis/AFP, Gianluigi Guercia/AFP via Getty Images

The ousting of two top Chinese government officials in under two months shows Beijing leaders are increasingly fixated on security risks, writes Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, author of the new "Beijing Rules."

  • Why it matters: The reported investigations come amid a major government push against foreign espionage.

What's happening: The Chinese Communist Party is investigating former Foreign Minister Qin Gang for an affair while he was ambassador to the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. The affair reportedly led to the birth of a child in the U.S.

  • Rumors began swirling about Qin and his possible affair earlier this summer. In July, after Qin hadn't been seen in public for over a month, the Chinese government announced without explanation that he had been removed from his post.
  • Party leaders reportedly view the alleged affair and U.S.-born child as security risks.

China's defense minister, Li Shangfu, is reported to be under investigation for corrupt procurement.

  • Both Qin and Li were picked by Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of a slate of loyalists he installed in China's leadership over the past year.

Keep reading ... Get Axios China, Bethany's weekly newsletter.

6. ๐Ÿ“ˆ Amazon plans big holiday hiring

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Amazon announced it's hiring 250,000 people in "full-time, part-time, and seasonal fulfillment center and transportation roles in hundreds of cities and towns across the U.S."

  • That's 67% more than the number of people Amazon hired for the past two years, as the company scrambles to expand next-day delivery for shoppers, Reuters reports.

๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ The big picture: Amazon's plans contrast with other U.S. retailers, who say they'll hire fewer people in stores and warehouses this year, on expectations of reduced consumer spending.

Amazon said it has opened 50+ new fulfillment centers, delivery stations, and same-day delivery sites in the U.S. this year.

  • New employees will receive improved on-the-job safety training, the announcement said.

7. ๐Ÿ“š Cover unveil: Liz Cheney's memoir

Cover: Little, Brown

Here's a first look at the cover of "Oath and Honor" โ€” billed as a memoir and "urgent warning" โ€” coming Dec. 5 from former congresswoman Liz Cheney, who was vice chair and a driving force of the House Jan. 6 committee.

More on the book.

8. ๐ŸŒ• Parting shot: Moon's south pole

Composite image of the Shackleton Crater at the lunar South Pole. Photo: NASA/KARI/ASU

NASA released a highly detailed photo of the interior of a large lunar crater that's permanently shadowed in the moon's South Pole.

  • Why it matters: The mosaic, created from NASA cameras orbiting the moon, gives an uncanny look at terrain that could host future lunar missions, Axios' Jacob Knutson writes.

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