1 big thing: Why Bloomberg might not run
Sources close to Mike Bloomberg tell Axios that last week's announcement was partly a trial balloon to gauge interest and preserve the former mayor's options — but his own very extensive polling remains far from convincing.
- Polling being studied by Bloomberg shows big, perhaps insurmountable hurdles, particularly if Joe Biden stays in.
Why it matters: That's why Bloomberg didn't run in the first place, and still might not.
- Bloomberg, reflecting his life in business, is practical and data-driven. His formal announcement has always been contingent on whether polling showed a convincing path to victory.
Morning Consult finds that Bloomberg is the first choice of just 4% of Democratic primary voters — putting him in sixth place, between Sen. Kamala Harris and Andrew Yang.
- Bloomberg fares "about as well as Warren, Sanders and Biden in hypothetical matchup against Trump."
- But "25% of Democratic primary voters express unfavorable views of the billionaire, higher than any of the 15 candidates currently in the race."
The bottom line ... Nate Silver's take on the poll: "Biden still with a clear lead; no particular evidence Biden impacted more than others ... Not exactly the 'seismic disruption' that some predicted."
2. Internet freedom declines in U.S. and around the world
Rising levels of political disinformation and government surveillance are making the internet less free in the U.S., Axios World editor Dave Lawler writes from a new report by Freedom House, a democracy and human rights research group.
- The U.S. has long been a bastion of internet freedom, and still ranks sixth out of 65 countries in the report. But its status has fallen each of the past three years.
- Why it matters: Internet freedom is in decline around the world, as governments increasingly use social media to monitor their citizens and spread disinformation at home and overseas.
The authors cite monitoring of social media platforms by immigration and law enforcement agencies as a particular concern in the U.S., along with political disinformation that has been "at times exacerbated by top government officials and political leaders."
- Most free: Iceland, Estonia, Canada, Germany, Australia.
- Least free: China is "the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom," followed by Iran, Syria, Cuba and Vietnam.
- Of China, the authors write: "Censorship and surveillance were pushed to unprecedented extremes."
Countries in decline: Sudan, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe.
- Freedom rising: Ethiopia was one of the few countries in which internet restrictions were loosened this year, under reform-minded Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Improvements were also seen in Malaysia and Armenia.
The bottom line: "What was once a liberating technology has become a conduit for surveillance and electoral manipulation," the authors write about social media.
3. 📊 If you read only one thing: Suburbs are the new melting pot
This is the clearest rundown I have seen about the way shifting voting patterns are clobbering the Republican Party on what once was home turf ...
"A new kind of suburbanization is sweeping through politics, from Richmond to Atlanta, Houston, Denver and elsewhere, and Democrats are starting to breach Republicans’ firewalls in elections," the N.Y. Times' Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff write:
- We saw this starkly last week in Northern Virginia: "[T]he residents are often from other places, like India and Korea. And when they vote, it is often for Democrats. ... Once the heart of the confederacy, Virginia is now the land of Indian grocery stores, Korean churches and Diwali festivals."
Amazing graphic ... Virginia as a microcosm: The Times points out that after the 2000 election, Virginia had voted Republican for president, both Senate seats, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state Senate and State House.
- After last week's election, Democrats had flipped each of those.
This is the huge takeaway: "Around the advent of the modern immigration system, in 1965, foreign-born people made up only about five percent of the American population. Now they are nearly 14 percent, almost as high as the last peak in the early 20th century."
- 💡 "The concentrations used to be in larger gateway cities, but immigrants have spread out considerably since then."
4. Pics du jour
President Trump and the First Lady got a much friendlier reception yesterday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, than they did at the World Series in D.C.
- At the epic game between undefeated Southern powerhouses — the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers — Trump threw up a fist as the Alabama fans waved red and white pompoms in response. (AP)
- Alabama's ferocious second-half comeback fell short and LSU won an emotional game laced with SEC, playoff and Heisman implications, 46-41.
My brother-in-law Nels Ericson captured this shot of Alabama's Walk of Champions, where fans welcome the team into the stadium — with the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity house as the backdrop.
📚 5. $2 million
That's roughly what former national security adviser John Bolton got for a book deal with Simon & Schuster, negotiated by the Javelin literary agency, per AP.
- Publication date is unclear, but probably safe to assume late summer.
6. ⚖️ "Stop the Madness": Trump uses impeachment to ignite voters
Trump's campaign has launched a "Stop the Madness" campaign to marshal its army of devoted followers to defend President Trump against impeachment, AP's Michelle Price and Zeke Miller report:
- Trump's campaign isn't waiting for voters to bring up impeachment — it's "owning it," raising it on phone calls and door-knocks across the country, said Rick Gorka, a spokesman for Trump's campaign and the RNC.
- The campaign and the RNC have spent more than $10 million on impeachment-related TV ads, with more expected in the coming weeks as Democrats begin their open hearings.
Why it matters: The campaign is training volunteers how to stoke frustration.
- "It didn't seem possible to get President Trump's supporters more fired up than they already were," said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director. "Democrats have done it."
The RNC says more than 75,000 new people have signed up to volunteer through its anti-impeachment website.
- More than 100,000 new donors have given to Trump since House Democrats announced impeachment proceedings in September.
7. Living history
8. 50 years of "Sesame Street" diversity
"Sesame Street," which premiered 50 years ago today, has played a huge role in teaching generations of kids not only how to read and count, but also about the world around them, Axios' Ina Fried reports.
- "It was very important for us to represent a range of races and ethnicities, not only in our human cast but also in our puppet cast," Sesame Workshop senior VP Rosemarie Truglio said in an interview.
- "Keep in mind, 'Sesame Street' is a very diverse and inclusive neighborhood. We have monsters, we have grouches and we have an eight-foot bird."
Celebrity guests over the years — everyone from Ray Charles to Christopher Reeve — added more diversity to the Sesame regulars, all in service of helping young kids make sense of a complicated world.
- After 9/11, for example, rather than discuss the attack directly, the show had its characters confront something smaller in scale and closer to home — a grease fire in Hooper's store.
- These days, Sesame has a separate website — Sesame Street in Communities — that deals with tough subjects, like addiction and homelessness.
What's next: In Season 50, Sesame is going to focus on life lessons, such as persistence and resilience.
- 📺 See a video that includes Cookie Monster, Count von Count, Bert and Abby Cadabby.