Happy Wednesday! Axios AM brings you what matters, in Smart Brevity. (Today: 1,136 words ... < 5 minutes!)
🏒 Situational awareness: Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues to meet in Stanley Cup final.
1 big thing: Democrats' 100-year flood
2020 voter turnout could be the highest in a century, based on Democrats' enthusiasm in the midterms and the big, early 2020 field, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.
- Michael McDonald, an elections expert at the University of Florida, said turnout in 2020 could be as high as 67% — the highest since at least 1916.
- Turnout in the 2016 presidential election was 60%.
Why it matters: That would mean a tougher re-election path for President Trump.
- Older white people already vote at high rates, and they’re close to their maximum turnout.
- By contrast, you could see bigger turnout increases among young people, people of color, and low-income people.
Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia said: "The safest prediction in politics is for a giant turnout in 2020. ... Let’s hope the polling places can accommodate the crowds."
- "Anti-Trump Democrats and the pro-Trump base will both set human adrenaline records — the intensity across the country is going to be spectacular."
Between the lines: McDonald is basing his prediction of a "hundred-year storm" on the 2018 midterms, which had the highest off-year election turnout in more than a century (50%). He says that momentum will only get stronger.
- Even when he wasn't on the ballot, Trump drove turnout among those most unhappy with him — younger voters and people of color.
- And Trump voters aren't a growing demographic group. The share of whites who don't have a four-year degree — a key part of Trump's constituency — dropped by 3% from 2014 to 2018.
The Trump campaign isn't buying it. "Predicting turnout this far in advance of an election is a fool’s errand," said national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
- "These same demographers incorrectly predicted that President Trump’s campaign was dead on arrival."
2. Growing impeachment rumbles in Dem caucus
A growing number of rank-and-file House Democrats are confronting Speaker Nancy Pelosi and pushing her and other leaders to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, AP reports.
- Many were incensed by former White House counsel Don McGahn’s empty chair in the Judiciary Committee hearing room yesterday.
- Pelosi summoned some of them — still a small fraction of her caucus — to a meeting of investigators to assess strategy.
Why it matters, via N.Y. Times: Democrats fear Trump is succeeding not only in evading accountability himself, "but also in permanently rewriting the rules of engagement between the legislative and executive branches."
- "He could set a precedent that frees future presidents from one of the Constitution’s most potent checks on their power."
Go deeper ... Where key Democrats stand on impeachment: Axios rounds up their tweets, quotes and statements.
3. Tech's new cold war
⚡Breaking I: "Xi Jinping says China is embarking on a 'new Long March,' signaling no end to trade war soon." (CNBC)
⚡Breaking II: The Trump administration is considering limiting the ability of Hikvision, a Chinese video surveillance giant, to buy American technology, per N.Y. Times.
- Why it matters: "It ... would mark the first time the Trump administration punished a Chinese company for its role in the surveillance and mass detention of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority."
The big picture: A continued trade impasse will likely mean lots of pain on both sides of the Pacific, Axios' chief tech correspondent Ina Fried writes.
- The U.S. relies to a vast degree on China to manufacture many key products.
- China depends on U.S. software and chips for devices and data centers.
4. New optimism on trade war
Republican sources tell Axios' Jonathan Swan that after a season of pessimism, they see brighter signs for ratification of a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade pact.
- Last week, the Trump administration removed a hurdle by announcing it would take tariffs off Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum.
- Why it matters: Markets need this reassurance.
President Trump meets this morning with Speaker Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and sent a letter ahead saying:
- "Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal."
- See the letter.
First look: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs infrastructure with a data analysis showing states are raising the gas tax and not being punished by voters.
- See the report, "Republican Re-election Rates after Gas Tax Support."
5. "How San Francisco broke America's heart"
"In a time of scarce consensus, everyone agrees that something has rotted in San Francisco," writes Karen Heller in a Washington Post talker.
- "Tech isn't what everyone talks about in San Francisco. It's money. Real estate, income inequality, $20 salads, the homeless, adult children unable to move out, non-tech workers unable to move in."
- It "has less of what makes a city dynamic. It has the lowest percentage of children, 13.4 percent, of any major American city, and is home to about as many dogs as humans under the age of 18."
"'This is unregulated capitalism, unbridled capitalism, capitalism run amok. There are no guardrails,' says Salesforce founder and chairman Marc Benioff, a fourth-generation San Franciscan."
6. Early release for "American Taliban"
Tomorrow, in a surprise turn, John Walker Lindh — the "American Taliban" — is scheduled to leave federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., three years early.
- Lindh is being released on probation after 17 years of a 20-year sentence for supporting militants in Afghanistan. (WashPost)
7. Slow progress for women CEOs
Developed countries, especially the U.S. and Japan, showed little to no pickup in hiring women for top positions last year. Emerging economies did much better, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin reports.
- Data from PwC shows women made up less than 5% of incoming company CEOs globally last year, off from a record high of 6% in 2017.
- The utilities industry had the largest share of women CEOs (9.5%), followed by communications services (7.5%) and financial services (7.4%).
💰 A bright spot: This year's FORTUNE 500, released last week, had 33 women CEOs — the most ever, up from 24 in 2017.
8. Trump vs. California
"As California prepares for what some officials fear will be another devastating fire season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service are withholding reimbursements that state fire agencies say are owed for battling wildfires on federal lands last year," the L.A. Times reports.
- "The Forest Service has demanded that the state provide proof of its 'actual expenses.'"
- Why it matters: "The relationship between President Trump and California has long been fraught, but ... the acrimony is burning hotter than ever."
9. New push to raise tobacco age
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today will take to social media to push his bipartisan bill — which he released Monday and called one of his "highest priorities" — to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.
- The measure also applies to e-cigarettes and vape products.
- It was co-sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), whose state has also been a major tobacco producer. (AP)
10. 1 phone thing
Mexico City commuters have come up with a way to avoid common armed robberies on city buses: "Many are buying fake cellphones, to hand over to thieves instead of their real smartphones," writes AP's Mark Stevenson.
- "Costing 300 to 500 pesos apiece — the equivalent of $15 to $25 — the 'dummies' ... have a startup screen and bodies that are dead ringers for the originals, and inside there is a piece of metal to give the phone heft."
- "There were an average of 70 reported violent muggings every day in Mexico City in the first four months of 2019. ... Between 2017 and 2018, such assaults rose by about 22 percent."