Aug 5, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

☕️ Good Sunday morning. Welcome to the new Sunday paper ...

Situational awareness ... "Record heat in California is no fluke, experts warn ... 143-mph 'fire tornado' that cut a path of destruction is an ominous sign of the future," per the L.A. Times' lead story:

  • "California has been getting hotter for some time, but July was in a league of its own. The intense heat fueled fires across the state, from San Diego County to Redding, that have burned more than 1,000 homes and killed eight."
  • "It brought heat waves that overwhelmed electrical systems, leaving swaths of Los Angeles without power for days."
  • Go deeper: Axios Deep Dive, "A 30-year alarm on the reality of climate change."
1 big thing ... "Red wave": Inside Trump's frenetic rally schedule

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Republican officials have started calling the midterms the "Barbell Election."

  • A House Republican aide explains that Trump's approval ratings are like barbells: bulging favorables and unfavorables on each end, and few in the middle who have no opinion or are persuadable.
  • "Those unfav folks are coming out," the official said. "It’s so, so crucial to get those base voters."

That, in a nutshell, is why Trump headlined three boisterous "Make America Great Again" rallies in five days: Florida on Tuesday, Pennsylvania on Thursday and Ohio last night.

  • The raucous rallies aren't meant to convert or persuade: They're about turning Trump voters in 2016 into voters for local and state Republicans in 2018 — a process that President Obama discovered was anything but automatic with Democrats in his midterms.
  • Trump said last night outside Columbus, Ohio: “Why would there be a blue wave? I think it could be a red wave."

Despite Trump's polarizing effect, GOP congressional candidates are tying themselves to him to get his voters:

  • The Wesleyan Media Project, using Kantar Media/CMAG data, this week quantified a phenomenon we told you about last weekend: "Trump was referenced positively in 14.8 percent of federal election ads ... in the past two months, whereas President Obama was mentioned positively in less than 1 percent ... during the same time period in 2010 and 2014."
  • Josh Schwerin, communications director of the progressive Priorities USA, told me: "There are going to be many races across the country where Trump will be the most important factor in the race, despite neither candidate mentioning him in an ad. He wouldn’t have it any other way."

AP notes that Trump is "casting himself as the star of the midterms, eagerly inserting himself into hotly contested primaries, headlining rallies in pivotal swing states and increasing his fundraising efforts for Republicans":

  • Trump "plans to host two fundraisers at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey, next week for House and Senate candidates."
  • "He's expected to be even more aggressive in the fall. White House officials say he's reserving time on his schedule for midterm travel and fundraising likely to surpass that of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama."
  • The WashPost's lead story reports that the president is privately brooding while publicly roaring: "Trump loves the frenzied, raucous energy of these events, and often leaves them buoyed, people close to him said. At times, when advisers have proposed a rally in several weeks, the president has agreed to do it — but suggested they hold it as soon as possible."

But even top Republican officials say Trump has a mixed effect, because of the constant churn of controversial headlines:

  • "Today is a perfect example," said a top GOP operative. "Instead of attacking Danny O'Connor [the Democrat in Tuesday's special election in Ohio] and helping [Republican] Troy Balderson he's attacking King James [LeBron, native of Akron]. Are we talking about the economy or whether we need ICE?"
  • "He could easily be very helpful but has no interest in staying on message."

Be smart ... An outside West Wing adviser told me: "Trump must be disciplined enough not to make it tougher in suburban districts, where his ego and deep denial could lead him to show up or dominate the news, delivering wins to Ds."

  • Go deeper: "Key U.S. election matchups at stake in final big nominating contests."

Share this story.

2. People who tweet so much they're mistaken for bots

"Nina Tomasieski logs on to Twitter before the sun rises. Seated at her dining room table with a nearby TV constantly tuned to Fox News, the 70-year-old grandmother spends up to 14 hours a day tweeting the praises of President Trump and his political allies, particularly those on the ballot this fall, and deriding their opponents," AP's Sara Burnett reports from Chicago:

  • "She's part of a dedicated band of Trump supporters who tweet and retweet Keep America Great messages thousands of times a day."
  • "She and her friends have been swept up in an expanded effort by Twitter and other social media companies to crack down on nefarious tactics used to meddle in the 2016 election."
  • Why it matters: "[W]ithout meaning to, the tweeters have demonstrated the difficulty such crackdowns face — particularly when it comes to telling a political die-hard from a surreptitious computer robot."

"[T]he screening has repeatedly and erroneously flagged Tomasieski and users like her":

  • "Their accounts have been suspended or frozen for 'suspicious' behavior — apparently because of the frequency and relentlessness of their messages."
  • Tomasieski, who lives in Tennessee but is tweeting for GOP candidates across the U.S.: "Almost all of us are considered a bot."
3. Stat du jour

"Since 1999, children have committed at least 145 school shootings. Among the 105 cases in which the weapon’s source was identified, 80 percent were taken from the child’s home or those of relatives or friends. Yet The Washington Post found that just four adults have been convicted for failing to lock up the guns used."

Bonus: Pic du jour
Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

A boy dives off rocks into the sea at sunset in Quiberon, northwestern France.

4. Flying bomb: Explosives-packed drones used in assassination try

Axios' Latin America expert, Michael McCarthy, a research fellow at American University's Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, explains a stunning assassination attempt last night that used drones armed with explosives:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's leadership crisis reached new heights when a drone strike targeted the president during a live broadcast of his speech to soldiers.

  • Why it matters: Maduro left the scene unwounded but, politically, the event will significantly damage his ability to rule.
  • A viral video of the first lady and the military top brass looking scared, and images of soldiers running for cover, is just the latest illustration of how exposed the government is to crisis.

Maduro, former leader Hugo Chávez's designated successor to the presidency in 2013, has survived longer than expected:

  • This event constitutes the third time he has suffered a major public embarrassment on live television: A rogue actor attacked the podium when Maduro gave his first state of the union address in 2013; a working class assembly egged and jeered him last year; and now, he has suffered an apparent near-direct hit on a government event.

What's next:

  • The pressure against Maduro is coming from within his movement as much as from the opposition.
  • Ruling party rival Diosdado Cabello may now see a new opportunity to capitalize on Maduro's weaknesses.
  • The event seems likely to re-catalyze opposition in the streets.
  • The Trump administration may sense a new opportunity to exploit divisions through a new round of sanctions.

P.S. N.Y. Times: "[T]his appeared to have been the first assassination attempt on a head of state using drones."

5. Podcasts promise zen through evolutionary psychology

"[A] new generation of wellness gurus, a network of podcasters centered in the Austin, Tex., area and Southern California[, is preaching a] gospel of health, wealth and contentment," Molly Worthen (@MollyWorthen), an associate history professor at UNC Chapel Hill, writes on the cover of the N.Y. Times' Sunday Review:

  • "[O]ver the past few years the podcasters have become a significant cultural phenomenon, spiritual entrepreneurs who are filling the gap left as traditional religious organizations erode and modernity frays our face-to-face connections with communities and institutions."
  • "[T]here are at least two dozen members of this podcast ecosystem. Their ranks include Joe Rogan, the tattooed, kale-drinking Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator and comedian; Tim Ferriss, champion of 'The 4-Hour Workweek'; Aubrey Marcus, founder and chief executive of Onnit, a nutritional supplement company devoted to 'total human optimization.'"
  • "They appear on one another’s shows and plug one another’s products."

"Evolutionary psychology is the secular answer to the doctrine of original sin: a primordial explanation for the anxieties that haunt us even if we have a decent job and a functional family."

  • "The common thread ... is the quest to transcend the ego, and to overcome the idea that we are personally aggrieved by enemies wholly unlike ourselves."

Why it matters: "The podcasters may offer a lesson to politicians and activists: to build a following, find a way to provide the sense of affiliation, daily rhythm and ultimate purpose that humans crave."

  • "Slogans of victimhood and grievance may rile up the base. But most people yearn, instead, for a sense of belonging and a path to mastery."

Keep reading.

6. 1 worthy read
Courtesy The New York Times

"Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change ... The consequences of inaction," by Nathaniel Rich:

  • "This week's issue of The New York Times Magazine is dedicated to a single article ... which chronicles the early efforts of scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm about the dangers of climate change, and shows how close they came to solving it."
  • "[I]n the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since."
  • "During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves. Nearly everything we understand about global warming was understood in 1979."

Obviously worthy of your time.

Mike Allen

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