Jun 23, 2019

Axios AM

Mike Allen

🎥 See you this evening for "Axios on HBO" (6 p.m. ET/PT): Jim VandeHei mixes it up with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Kim Hart has a fascinating tech scoop, Sara Fischer interviews Andrew Yang and explains his rise ... + a bold, massive surprise.

😎 Good Saturday morning! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,300 words ... ~ 5 minutes.

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1 big thing: 2016 flaws lurk in 2020 polls

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Pollsters spent a lot of time figuring out why Donald Trump's win was such a surprise in 2016 — but there isn't going to be a radical change in most election polling for 2020, Axios managing editor David Nather writes.

  • Why it matters: There will be some improvements in state polls, which were the 2016 key. But polling experts warn that states are still a weak spot.

The backstory: Most national polls weren't wrong in 2016. They had Clinton ahead by a few points, and she won the popular vote by about 2 points.

  • Trump won the Electoral College by squeezing out victories in the upper Midwest — which you'd need reliable state polls to foresee.

The three main reasons the Trump win was a surprise, according to a postmortem by a committee of pollsters:

  1. Some state polls didn't get the right mix of educational levels: They had too many college grads, who were more likely to support Clinton.
  2. There was a late break for Trump among voters in Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania.
  3. Some people didn't identify themselves as Trump voters until after the election (which could have included some who decided late).

What's changed and what hasn't:

  • Some state polls are doing more to weight their samples for education.
  • It's still hard to predict who will actually vote, and it may be getting harder. "In pre-Trumpian times, one side would surge and the other side wouldn't. Now both sides surge," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.
  • Many state polls are still inferior to national polls.
  • Voters can still decide at the last minute.

The good news, pollsters point out, is that the 2018 midterm election polling was largely right — especially on control of Congress.

  • And not all pollsters are convinced there were major problems in 2016, if you knew what to look for.

Their main advice for 2020:

  • Pay attention to who did the poll.
  • Look at the sample size and margin of error.
  • Polls should be transparent about what they're measuring. If you can't see breakdowns by age, gender, race, education, party and ideology, "that should be a red flag," said Republican pollster David Winston.
  • Who's paying?
  • Don't just follow the horserace — look for the reasons a candidate is gaining or losing.
2. 🐮 Rain makes corn — until it doesn't
Jeff Jorgenson, who lost about a quarter of his land to Missouri River flooding this year, examines corn shoots in Shenandoah, Iowa. (Photo: Nati Harnik/AP)

The wettest 12 months in recorded U.S. history have exacted a price — millions of acres of waterlogged fields remain unplanted during the worst farm crisis since the 80s, Nebraska man Justin Green writes.

Why it matters: Agriculture is used to boom-bust cycles. What's less common is the bust coinciding with historic trade wars.

  • "We spent 40 years developing this trade relationship with China and in one fell swoop, it was all taken away," fourth generation soybean farmer Bret Davis told Axios' Courtenay Brown in May.
  • 2018's U.S. soybean sales to China were at a 16-year low.

By the numbers: Just 77% of potential soybean acres have been planted in the 18 highest producing states, vs. an average 93% over the past 5 years.

  • For corn, it's 92%, compared to an average of 100%. This is the worst number in 40 years, the WashPost reports.

The big picture: Farmers are generally insured against crop loss — and many are insured against being unable to plant.

  • But "the suppliers who sell seed and herbicides to farmers don’t have insurance," South Dakota State's Jonathan Kleinja told the Post.
  • Another whammy: Beleaguered industries like dairy are facing already-bad profit margins, and are reliant on corn to feed their cows.

The bottom line: More farm aid is almost certainly on the way. Trump — who is responsible for farmer trade war pains — keeps upping his administration's offers to help, including for farmers who weren't able to plant.

3. Trump: "Make Iran great again"

President Trump tells Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press" he's willing to talk with Iran with "no preconditions":

  • "I'm not looking for war ... You want to talk? Good."

Trump on Iran at Marine One departure for Camp David yesterday:

  • "We could have a deal with them very quickly, if they want to do it."
  • "But if Iran wants to become a wealthy nation again, become a prosperous nation — we'll call it 'Let’s make Iran great again.' Does that make sense?  'Make Iran great again.' It’s OK with me."

Maureen Dowd praises Trump (really) for holding off his hawks ("Blowhard on the Brink"):

It’s breathtaking that Washington’s conservative foreign policy mandarins would drag us back into Mideast quicksand when we haven’t even had a reckoning about the lies, greed, self-interest and naïveté that led U.S. officials to make so many tragic mistakes in the region.
Bonus: Richmond tries to make up for lost time
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney at yesterday's ceremony (Photo: Alexa Welch Edlund/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)"

"Thousands gathered [yesterday] to celebrate the formal renaming of Arthur Ashe Boulevard, an occasion leaders hailed as a long overdue step toward honoring Richmond’s native son and embracing African American history," writes Mark Robinson of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

  • Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights hero, gave the keynote: "Think about Arthur Ashe, what he did, the contribution he made, coming out of this city, out of this state, out of this country."

The whole cover of today's N.Y. Times sports section is devoted to an essay by Kurt Streeter, a reporter who had led Berkeley to an indoor national tennis title:

This is the Civil War capital of the Confederacy. I count slaves among my ancestors. This also is the birthplace and childhood home of my idol, Arthur Ashe, the first African-American on the United States Davis Cup team and, so far, the only black man to win the singles championship at Wimbledon, at the Australian Open and at the United States Open.
My son, Ashe, 8, is named after him.

Read the essay. ... See the pages.

4. “Opportunity of the century”?

"The White House ... outlined a $50 billion Middle East economic plan that would create a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies, and fund a $5 billion transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza," Reuters reports.

  • "The 'peace to prosperity' plan, set to be presented by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an international conference in Bahrain [this] week, includes 179 infrastructure and business projects."
  • "I laugh when they attack this as the 'Deal of the Century,'" Kushner told Reuters about Palestinian leaders who have dismissed his plan."This is going to be the Opportunity of the Century.'"

What's next ... Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13 writes for Axios: White House officials stressed that the economic plan is only the beginning and the political part of the plan will be released in the future.

5. 🇺🇸 3 days till first Dem debate
Photo: Meg Kinnard/AP

Above, 21 Democrats seeking the presidency pose together after House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn's "World Famous Fish Fry," on Friday in Columbia, S.C.

How to stand out in this crowd? Per The State of Columbia:

  • "Though U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris got attention at the state Democratic Party’s convention on Saturday saying that, as a prosecutor, 'I know how to take on predators,' the California Democrat made a splash by dancing down the hall of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center with a local high school drum line from Lower Richland High School."
6. 1 fun thing: Yoga diplomacy
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 68 (Photo: Rajesh Kumar/AP)

India uses yoga diplomacy to assert rising global influence, AP's Emily Schmall reports from New Delhi:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully lobbied the United Nations to designate June 21 International Yoga Day in his first year in power in 2014.
  • Since then, just as China practiced panda diplomacy, Modi has used one of India's most popular exports to celebrate his nation's rising place in the world.

On Friday, the fifth annual International Yoga Day, Modi practiced "asanas" alongside 40,000 people in India's eastern state of Jharkhand, as members of his Cabinet and foreign envoys rolled out their yoga mats in cities around the world.

Mike Allen

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