Mar 30, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🏀 Good Saturday morning. The last perfect bracket in any of the major online contests — picked by Gregg Nigl, a 40-year-old neuropsychologist in Columbus — went bust in the second game of the Sweet 16 when Purdue beat Tennessee, 99-94, in overtime.

  • Nigl nailed the first 49 games.
1 big thing: Beto surfs a Texas blue wave

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Beto O'Rourke, who announces for president today with three rallies in Texas, is a sign of changing Lone Star politics: Republicans have started to lose their grip, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports from El Paso.

  • Brendan Steinhouser, a GOP political consultant in Texas, says talk of the state turning blue started back in 2014 when he was Sen. John Cornyn's campaign manager — and now Republicans need to take it more seriously.
  • "Even back then, we knew it was going to get harder and harder as the years went on," Steinhouser said. "Beto can give the president a run for his money."
  • Jay Aiyer, a Texas Southern University political analyst, said: "If a Democrat can win Texas, then the presidential race is effectively over."

Texas hasn't voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter in 1976; earlier predictions that demographic trends would turn the state blue have fizzled. But now there's more evidence of change:

  • In 2012, Barack Obama lost to Mitt Romney by nearly 16 points.
  • In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost by 9 points.
  • In 2018, O'Rourke came within less than 3 points of beating Sen. Ted Cruz.

Texas Democrats point to congressional wins that they weren't expecting in 2018, like Collin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher, who both defeated Republican incumbents.

  • Democrats picked up two U.S. House seats, 12 Texas House seats and two Texas Senate seats in the 2018 elections.
  • Suburban, college-educated voters moved away from Republicans.
  • "The two demographic trends with the largest impact ... are increased diversity and a more educated populace," reports the Houston Chronicle.

O'Rourke would force Trump's campaign to spend heavily in Texas.

  • But James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, says O'Rourke "actually slows down that transition" toward Democrats, compared to him running for Senate in 2020 against Cornyn.
  • Beto's launch schedule.

⚡Breaking ... Joe Biden's spokesman said the former vice president does not recall kissing a Nevada political candidate on the back of her head in 2014, per AP.

  • The allegation was made in a New York Magazine article ["An Awkward Kiss Changed How I Saw Joe Biden"] by Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state representative and 2014 Democratic nominee for Nevada lieutenant governor.
2. Snapshot of extinction: The day the dinosaurs died
T. rex at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (Susan Montoya Bryan/AP)

A few times a week, I tell you something is "worthy of your time" — I hope you'll actually click and read (or at least skim) the full text. But this is one that I'm excited for you to read — fascinating science and history; something for young people to aspire to; a discovery to chat about with the scholars in our life.

The New Yorker's Douglas Preston, in "Annals of the Former World" (so good!), says this appears to be "the most important paleontological discovery of the new century ... A young paleontologist may have discovered a record of the most significant event in the history of life on Earth."

  • The top trending article in the N.Y. Times has the news: Scientists led by a 37-year-old "have unearthed a remarkable trove of fossils that appear to date from the very day," 66 million years ago, that "a giant meteor slammed into Earth off the coast of modern-day Mexico."

Preston, on what happened on impact: "The energy released was more than that of a billion Hiroshima bombs ... Much of the material was several times hotter than the surface of the sun, and it set fire to everything within a thousand miles."

  • "Earth’s two essential food chains, in the sea and on land, collapsed. About seventy-five per cent of all species went extinct. More than 99.9999 per cent of all living organisms on Earth died."
  • "We can trace our origins back to that event," said the paleontologist, Robert DePalma. "To actually be there at this site, to see it, to be connected to that day, is a special thing. This is the last day of the Cretaceous. When you go one layer up — the very next day — that’s the Paleocene, that’s the age of mammals, that’s our age."

Dig in.

3. A country of monopolies

Across industries, the U.S. has become a country of monopolies, Axios Future Editor Steve LeVine writes:

  • Three companies control about 80% of mobile telecoms.
  • Three have 95% of credit cards.
  • Four have 70% of airline flights. (hat tip: The Economist)
  • Four companies control 66% of U.S. hogs slaughtered in 2015, 85% of the steer, and half the chickens. (h/t Open Markets Institute)
  • Four companies control 85% of U.S. corn seed sales, up from 60% in 2000.
Bonus: Pic du jour
Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16 (first row, center, behind the "E" of "House") attends a Friday for Future youth rally in Berlin, Germany, yesterday.

  • "Thousands of students skipped school ... as part of a growing worldwide youth movement demanding faster action against climate change." (AP)
4. 🇸🇦 Deep reportage: Ignatius on Saudi aftermath

What's new: "U.S. defense and intelligence contractors [know] it will be difficult for them to do new business with Saudi Arabia until MBS takes responsibility for the Khashoggi killing," WashPost columnist David Ignatius writes after interviewing more than a dozen knowledgeable American and Saudi sources.

  • The crown prince must demonstrate, "through specific reforms, that such a crime won’t be repeated."
  • "Until that occurs, Saudi Arabia will face limits from the State Department and Congress."

Why it matters ... "Khashoggi may have accomplished in death what he never achieved in his writing: He has backed MBS into a corner."

  • Now Mohammed bin Salman must "either ... take responsibility for his actions and address Saudi human rights violations, or risk losing the U.S. military and intelligence support that has been essential for the kingdom's security."

Keep reading.

5. How Trump celebrates
Brad Parscale (Photo: Fox News)

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, asked by Fox News' Jesse Watters about Trump's mood, during a "Watters World" interview taped to air at 8 tonight:

He has been very easy to work with this week. He's been very smiley. ...
I was in the White House this week; he served me hors d'oeuvres. That was a first. ... [A] little pigs in a blanket, some meatballs. ...
He gave me a Diet Coke; he was very happy. It was my first [time] in nine years serving, of hors d'oeuvres from the president. Which is safe to say, very good mood.

Chaser ... On tomorrow's WashPost Outlook cover, "Trump is a sore winner," by senior editor Marc Fisher, co-author of "Trump Revealed":

  • "In his business life, Trump often refused to settle for good news, insisting on making big, antagonistic gestures to humiliate defeated opponents."
6. 📚 1 book thing

Candace Bushnell's next project is a book for young women of the #MeToo era, AP reports:

  • "HarperCollins Children's Books announced ... that the 'Sex and the City' author is teaming up with best-selling young adult writer Katie Cotugno on 'Rules for Being a Girl.'"
  • "The novel is scheduled for April 2020. It tells the story of a high school senior named Marin and what happens when a teacher makes advances on her."

"In the spirit of Bushnell's Carrie Bradshaw, Marin becomes a columnist, writing 'Rules for Being a Girl' in the high school newspaper."

  • Bushnell said in a statement that she wanted to address a "new generation of girls" about how they're treated.
  • Cotugno has written such books as "99 Days" and "How to Love" and describes herself as the author of "messy, complicated, feminist love stories."
Mike Allen