Mar 15, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

😷 Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told Jon Karl on ABC's "This Week" that life could return to normal in "several weeks to [a] few months."

  • "Things will get worse before they get better. What we're trying to do is to make sure they don't get to the worst-case scenario. That's what we need to do."
  • On China: "As they start getting back to normal personal interaction, I hope we don't see the second blip, but it's possible."
  • On Trump shaking hands: "I'm working on getting the boss to do this," Fauci said, jabbing an elbow. "I may not be successful. But we're working on it."

🎬 Tonight on "Axios on HBO" (6 p.m. ET/PT): DNC chair Tom Perez talks about coronavirus and the party's future. See a clip. ... House Majority Whip James Clyburn warns the U.S. "could very well go the way of Germany in the 1930s." See a clip.

  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,471 words ... 5½ minutes.
1 big thing: Pence's presidential moment
Vice President Pence bumps with Washington state Governor Jay Inslee during a press conference March 5 near Tacoma. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence, often caricatured as the White House Yes Man, is doing many of the things critics wish President Trump would do:

  • He's a daily, consistent presence on the airwaves.
  • He provides useful info rather than random digressions.
  • He leans on health and medical experts — both at public events and behind the scenes when he's chairing the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Pence, 60, a likely contender for the Republican nomination in 2024, has become one of the most praised administration officials during the virus crisis:

  • "I actually think he’s done a reasonably good job," popular tech author Scott Galloway, no fan of Trump, said on his Pivot podcast with Kara Swisher.
  • Politico media columnist Jack Shafer wrote after Pence's first virus press conferences: He "acted less like the 'coronavirus czar' and more like a good old-fashioned White House press secretary. He was calm. He was direct. He was polite in face of shouted, competing questions."

Part of Pence's persona goes back to his days as host of a syndicated talk radio show in Indiana — his job before he became a congressman, House Republican Conference chair and Indiana governor.

  • Marc Short, Pence's chief of staff, said the vice president "has an understanding of what people are looking for"— facts that are "straightforward, not alarmist."
  • "There's a lot misinformation and probably some hysteria in the news," Short added. "He's very consistent in saying that all the health experts tell us the risk of severe illness is small."

As first reported by Jonathan Swan, Pence yesterday sent the White House staff an email recommending "social distancing" and to "avoid physical contact."

  • It was the first staff-wide email Pence has sent across the complex during his time as vice president — and the latest sign the White House is shifting its posture against the pandemic.

The bottom line: Pence is still deferential to Trump — but that's what he signed up for.

P.S. The White House announced yesterday that President Trump tested negative:

Source: The White House
2. Freakout week for investors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Financial advisers, who universally preach investing for the long term, are being swamped by clients who think they should either unload their stocks or "buy the dip," Jennifer Kingson and Courtenay Brown write from New York.

  • Why it matters: Fear of the coronavirus effect is prompting people to want to "time the market," which brokers say is a bad idea.

What's happening: Lurches in the stock market — which last week saw some of the biggest drops and surges in a decade — has flummoxed everyone from young 401(k) holders to affluent private banking customers.

  • On the plus side: Investors have begun working with their advisers to rebalance their portfolios — updating the mix of stocks, bonds and cash, and culling stocks or funds that are underperforming.

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3. Mark Cuban predicts social media explosion from bored athletes
Mark Cuban reacts to a call as the Mavericks play the Portland Trail Blazers in Dallas in January. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks owner and "Shark Tank" star Mark Cuban, who quickly announced that he'd pay workers "as if the games happened" during the NBA shutdown, talked by email yesterday with Axios Sports Editor Kendall Baker:

What do you predict will happen with the rest of the NBA season?

  • "As long as we can keep our players and staffs healthy and see a light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, I think it's likely we play some regular season games and then the playoffs."

You were the first NBA owner to announce a payment plan for hourly employees. Are you surprised some of your fellow owners have yet to announce similar plans?

  • "I'm not going to judge what others do. This is a time when we can show some compassion for the circumstances we all are in and help each other out. Just because someone doesn't make an announcement doesn't mean they are not helping in 100 other ways."

What should teams and athletes be doing during this sports outage to stay connected with fans and provide a sense of normalcy?

  • "You are going to see a social media explosion — Twitch streams, TikTok dances — as players deal with their own boredom and further connect with fans. As for the Mavericks, once things to start to normalize, we're discussing having clinics to get kids out and exercising."

For bored sports fans in need of recommendations: What are your favorite sports movies?

  • "'The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh,' 'Love & Basketball, 'Space Jam' and every '30 for 30.'"

🏀 Sign up for Kendall "Not Shutting Down" Baker's daily newsletter, "Axios Sports."

4. Women with career gaps suddenly get red carpet

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In a tight job market, many companies are rolling out the red carpet to bring back women who took extended time off from work to raise a family, Joann Muller writes.

  • Why it matters: Career reentry programs — sometimes called "returnships" — give employers an opportunity to repopulate the ranks with high-caliber mid- to senior-level women.

The big picture: About 2.2 million non-working mothers between 25 and 54 years old with bachelor's degrees or higher say they want to work, according to career reentry consultant Carol Fishman Cohen, cofounder of iRelaunch.

  • At the same time, there's a large talent gap to fill, especially in technical fields like engineering and computer science.

What's happening: More than 100 of the world's largest companies offer some type of return-to-work initiative.

  • Returnship participants get training and mentoring support, and are paid the going rate for someone employed full-time in their position.

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5. Pics du jour: Virus America
Photo: Federica Narancio/AP

The baptismal font of the St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in D.C.

Photo: John Locher/AP

Costco in Vegas.

Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

NBC's Hans Nichols has his temperature taken by a member of the White House physician's office.

  • The White House's Judd Deere said: "Out of an abundance of caution, temperature checks are now being performed on any individuals who are in close contact with the President and Vice President."
6. Campaigns turn to texting

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Texting is experiencing a massive uptick in political campaigns throughout the country now that in-person campaign activities and forms of voter outreach are being suspended to protect public health, Stef Kight writes.

What's happening: Peer-to-peer (P2P) texting has become the hottest way for political campaigners on both sides to increase voter engagement, mostly because it's not subject to the same regulations as automated texting.

  • "They can't have old people in a room making calls together, but people can text from home," said Thomas Peters, founder and CEO of RumbleUp, a political P2P texting platform that enables volunteers to text voters.

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7. Life in the times of virus
Photo: Austin Boschen via AP

✈️ This photo shows people waiting to go through the customs at DFW, where extra coronavirus screening meant hours-long waits.

🇪🇸 🇫🇷 The latest: Spain locked down its 46 million citizens and France ordered the closing of just about everything the rest of the world loves about it — the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the cafes and restaurants, AP reports.

  • Italy is the worst-hit European country with more than 21,000 infections and 1,400 deaths.

How life is changing:

  • ⛺ "N.Y. Hospitals Pitch Tents, Nix Surgeries to Prepare for Influx." (Bloomberg)
  • 🎲 "Casinos, airline lounges ... ditch a longtime staple of travel: The buffet." (The Points Guy)
  • 🚲 "New Yorkers wary of subways take up cycling." (N.Y. Post)

🗽 Escape from New York ... N.Y. Times "Big City" columnist Ginia Bellafante writes about fancy folks fleeing to their second homes:

  • "Outside a prewar co-op on lower Fifth Avenue on Friday morning, well-dressed people were loading cats and canvas bags into their hatchbacks. 'The building is empty,' one woman entering with her dog explained. 'Everyone’s gone to the Hamptons.'"

The column links to this virus-inspired ad for The Wilburton, a 30-acre estate in the Green Mountains of Vermont, with private rental villas:

Source: The Willburton
8. "One Shining Moment 2020"
Only 4 days ago: The Gonzaga Bulldogs' Corey Kispert holds the West Coast Conference championship trophy after beating Saint Mary's in Vegas. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

We all need a smile and do I have something awesome for you, spotted by Kendall Baker:

  • Max Goren, an 18-year-old sports management major at N.C. State, kept up the March Madness "One Shining Moment" tradition by splicing together highlights of the college basketball season before it abruptly ended.

Max told me by email that he used only YouTube and iMovie editing software: "[G]iven that I'm on an extended spring break ... with no sports to watch, ... I have a lot of spare time!"

  • "This morning I sat down, looked for clips of great moments and players from this season ... I’m no professional, but I’m incredibly happy with how it turned out."

Treat yourself: Watch it now.

  • Be safe, be careful. See ya on "Axios on HBO," then tomorrow morning.
  • 📬 And please tell a friend about Axios AM/PM.
Mike Allen