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November 06, 2023

πŸ‘‹ Hello, Monday! Smart Brevityβ„’ count: 1,666 words ... 6Β½ mins. Erica Pandey is your maestro today. Edited by Dave Lawler. Copy editor: Bryan McBournie.

1 big thing β€” Behind the Curtain: Biden's race problem

Illustration of a hand pulling back a blue curtain with a recurring Axios logo across it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden has a growing race problem, Axios' Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen write.

  • It emerged quietly in the 2020 election, when Biden won β€” but lost ground among Hispanics and Black voters. Now this is an alarming, re-election-threatening, full-blown crisis for the White House.

πŸ’‘ Why it matters: It's clear from consistent trends across multiple polls that Biden is bleeding support among Hispanic voters and Black voters β€” especially younger ones, and especially in swing states.

The big picture: Biden is losing support after his rival, Donald Trump, was indicted four times on a total of 91 counts β€” and as the former president continues to court white voters with racially inflammatory rhetoric.

  • In one fascinating way, Biden is morphing into Trump when it comes to his base: It's old and white voters who seem most solid in their support. "Biden has retained the entirety of his support among older white voters," the N.Y. Times' Nate Cohn writes.

πŸ“Š By the numbers: Sunday's New York Times poll of six swing states (all of which Biden won last time) was brutal. While we're skeptical of any one poll, this one is directionally in line with others. Let these once unthinkable findings sink in:

  • Biden's support among nonwhite voters dropped 33 points compared to 2020 results.
  • The more diverse a state, the worse Biden does, The Times found.
  • Trump's support among Black voters popped to 22 points, which The Times called "unseen in presidential politics for a Republican in modern times."
  • Biden's lead among Hispanics is in single digits in the six swing states polled (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). Democrats typically win among Hispanics by 30+ points.

What's happening: Hispanic ranchers, Mexican American oil workers and non-college-educated Latino voters are shifting measurably from Democrats, with potentially devastating electoral repercussions, reports Axios' Russell Contreras, who has studied the Latino vote back to JFK's victory in 1960.

  • Reasons include rural issues like opposition to protections for endangered species, plus efforts to move away from fossil fuels with no immediate alternative for well-paying jobs.
  • Among Black voters, stress from inflation and interest rates β€” and especially the cost of cars and housing β€” is hurting Biden.

πŸ₯Š Reality check: Yes, it's one year out from the election. Yes, polls are fallible.

  • But Biden's political team sees similar trends in their own data, and hears anecdotally of similar concerns from elected officials.

The bottom line: Biden is betting his base voters will return once they see the likely side-by-side choice of Biden vs. Trump in the general election. At this point, there's no other bet to make.

2. πŸͺ– Artillery aftershocks hurt troops like football hits

A U.S. Marine fires an M777-A2 Howitzer in Syria in 2017. Photo: Matthew Callahan/Marine Corps via The New York Times

U.S. soldiers and Marines fighting terrorism were damaged by their own weapons β€” and the military has denied it, covered it up and blamed the troops for their own trauma, the N.Y. Times' Dave Philipps writes in a 5,000-word investigation.

  • Why it matters: Research now shows that, like hits in football, blast exposure from firing heavy weapons can cause irreparable brain injury.

The backstory: For the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in 2016 and 2017, the U.S. strategy was to put fewer soldiers on the ground β€” and have them fire artillery relentlessly instead of upping the number of troops.

  • The result: Far more rounds were fired per crew member than by any American artillery battery since at least Vietnam, The Times found.

What happened: "Once-reliable Marines turned unpredictable and strange. Some are now homeless. A striking number eventually died by suicide, or tried to," Philipps writes.

  • "[I]n case after case, the military treated the crews' combat injuries as routine psychiatric disorders, if they treated them at all."
  • "Others who started acting strangely after the deployments were ... punished for misconduct and forced out of the military in punitive ways that cut them off from the veterans' health care benefits."

Case in point: Lance Cpl. Javier Ortiz of Kissimmee, Fla., started seeing a ghost of a dead girl a few days after his return from Syria in 2017.

  • "He tried to purify himself by lighting a fire on the beach near Camp Pendleton and burning his old combat gloves and journal from the deployment. But after the ashes cooled, the ghost was still there," The Times reports.
  • After Ortiz sought relief with marijuana, "he was forced out for willful misconduct and given an other-than-honorable discharge that cut him off from access to therapy, medication, disability payments and other support intended for wounded veterans."

Worthy of your time: Gift link to the full story (No paywall).

  • Go deeper: A 2019 report by the Marines found the Syria tempo "could result in the artillery community suffering injuries faster than combat replacements can be trained to replace them."

3. πŸ‘€ Scoop: Newsom, Pritzker signal White House ambition

Newsom (left) and Pritzker. Photos: Wang Zhao/AFP, Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently cut checks for a candidate in this month's mayoral election in Charleston, S.C., Axios' Alex Thompson reports.

Why it matters: The donations to Charleston candidate Clay Middleton point to White House ambitions for both governors. South Carolina recently moved to the front of the Democratic presidential primary calendar.

  • The moves by Newsom and Pritzker are part of a larger pattern of ambitious Democrats upping their national profiles ahead of 2028 β€” or even 2024, in the unlikely case President Biden decides not to run for re-election in the face of poor poll numbers.

Read on.

4. πŸ‘Ÿ Pic du jour

Photo: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Runners cross the Verrazzano Bridge, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn, in the first couple miles of the TCS New York City Marathon.

  • 50,000 people from all over the world ran yesterday's race.

Read about the winners.

5. Exclusive: SBF's former assistant on his "tells"

Photo illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios. Photo courtesy Natalie Tien

Natalie Tien was Sam Bankman-Fried's assistant and FTX's head of P.R. and marketing for roughly 2Β½ years.

  • Most former employees stayed away from the Manhattan courthouse where Bankman-Fried was swiftly found guilty on all counts β€” seven federal charges for defrauding customers and investors of $10 billion.
  • But Tien flew nearly 8,000 miles to spend nearly every day there β€” trying to make sense of the past year, and who her boss really was.

She spoke with Lucinda Shen of Axios Pro: Fintech Deals:

Axios: You were by Sam's side for 2Β½ years, and in court most days since the trial began. Does he have any "tells" when he's lying?

  • "I could easily tell when he was saying something that was definitely rehearsed. ... If he's not fidgeting a little in his chair, or he provides an uninterrupted testimony without stuttering β€” that's definitely rehearsed."

Axios: Were there moments you watched him and you thought he was definitely lying?

  • Cross-examination included "questions like: 'Do you fly charter?' And he said: 'I don't remember.' And I obviously know the answer. And I'm thinking: 'Come on, Sam!'"

Read on ... Try Axios Pro: Fintech Deals.

6. πŸ—žοΈ Brits take over U.S. media

Left to right: Emma Tucker, Will Lewis, Mark Thompson: Photos: Joy Malone/Getty Images, Elliott O'Donovan for The Washington Post, Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

America is turning to Brits to save U.S. journalism, Axios' Sara Fischer writes:

  1. Over the weekend, The Washington Post announced Will Lewis would become publisher and chief executive of the historic newspaper company in 2024 β€” and face the task of making the company profitable again.
  2. In August, Warner Bros. Discovery announced that former New York Times and BBC executive Mark Thompson will lead CNN as the network's new worldwide chairman and CEO. Reviews of Thompson inside CNN have been positive so far.
  3. Early reviews of Emma Tucker, who became the first female editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal less than a year ago, have also been good.

πŸ”­ What to watch: Whether the British leadership will bring a sense of metabolism and grit to three of America's most powerful legacy newsrooms.

  • Tucker has reportedly wondered about some of her new American colleagues: "What do they all do all day?"

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7. πŸ§€ Preorder Jim VandeHei's new book

Cover: Harmony

Coming attraction: new book + good cause:

Why it matters: It's a fun, illuminating read on life and leadership. It's brutally honest, juicy and written in the no-B.S. style of Jim's Thursday night Finish Line column.Β 

Cool twist: Net proceeds from the book will go to scholarships for kids in need.Β 

πŸ’­ Mike's thought bubble: I've watched Jim live this book as he raised three accomplished kids, led two media companies, and pushed himself to excel in every one of life's buckets. (The buckets are one of my favorite chapters.)

  • Whether you're a new employee who wants to make a mark, a new boss who wants to lift your team β€” or an established leader of a business, a house of worship or people β€” Jim gives ya the good stuff in chapters ranging from "Shit-House Luck" to "The Power of Insecurity."
  • Very on-brand for Jim, there's a whole section on "Tough Stuff."

Preorder here.

8. πŸ₯‡ 1 for the road: From near-death to marathons

Marine veteran Tyler Vargas-Andrews. Photo: Semper Fi & America's Fund

Marine Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews always led his squad with a personal slogan: "You can never train too hard for a job that can kill you."

  • Why it matters: That mantra saved Vargas-Andrews' life, writes Anna Spiegel of Axios D.C.

When he was evacuating the Kabul airport during the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, a suicide bomb exploded, shredding his body with ball bearings.

  • The blast killed more than 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members β€” two of them Vargas-Andrews' close friends.

What happened next: After 49 surgeries and four months inpatient at Walter Reed, Vargas-Andrews has a new mantra: "Never a victim."

πŸ… Vargas-Andrews warmed up for the Marine Corps Marathon β€” 26.2 miles hand-cycling β€” with a four-miler in New York last year. Then he finished the Army Ten Miler.

  • Just over two years from near death, he finished 38th overall in the Marine Corps Marathon's hand-cycle division at 2 hours, 49 minutes, 30 seconds.

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