December 30, 2022

🛷 Happy Friday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,173 words ... 4½ minutes. Edited by Noah Bressner.

1 big thing: New election frontier

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The 2024 election will be fought on a very different battlefield than the last one, with old reliably swing states no longer in play — and new ones taking center stage.

  • Why it matters: It's revealing how fast swing states are changing — a vivid crystallization of America's volatile politics.

What's happening: Gone are the days of obsessing over Ohio and Florida. They're growingly Republican.

  • Gone are the days of Iowa and New Hampshire picking the nominees of both parties. South Carolina is now the place to watch for Dems.
  • Gone are the days of Texas seeming more competitive thanks to its rising Hispanic population. It's as red as ever.

🔭 Zoom in: Karl Rove notes in a Wall Street Journal column that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) was re-elected by 25 points and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won by 19 points — with the strongest GOP showing in Miami-Dade County in two decades.

  • Both outcomes would have been unthinkable just two elections ago.

💡 The new battleground map that will determine who wins in 2024 includes two newcomers — Arizona and Georgia — and two traditional swing states — Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

👀 The 4 states to watch for 2024, from Axios' Josh Kraushaar:

  1. Wisconsin was the only Biden state where Republicans won a Senate race this year. Rural Wisconsin is now Trump country. But the Milwaukee suburbs are looking more favorable for Democrats.
  2. Georgia was the closest battleground in the 2020 presidential race. Democrats can credit their narrow Senate majority to the unlikely Peach State pair of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
  3. Pennsylvania: Democrats cracked the Keystone State code in last month's midterms by making inroads in working-class areas where they had struggled. But if Republicans nominate stronger candidates in 2024, the GOP will be in contention again.
  4. Arizona: The biggest Sun Belt battleground features lots of ideological activists driving their parties to the left and right — and a critical mass of suburban Phoenix voters who make the difference in consistently close elections. Republicans have a natural advantage — but only if they nominate mainstream candidates.

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2. 🇮🇱 Scoop: Jake Sullivan to Israel

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose yesterday with members of the new Israeli government after their swearing-in, at the president's residence in Jerusalem. Photo: Oren Ben Hakoon/Reuters

The Biden administration plans to send national security adviser Jake Sullivan to Israel next month for talks with newly sworn-in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli and U.S. sources tell Axios' Barak Ravid.

  • A visit by Secretary of State Tony Blinken could follow soon after.
  • Sullivan's trip also could set up a possible visit by Netanyahu to Washington in February, the Israeli sources said.

Why it matters: Netanyahu returned to power yesterday — 18 months after he was ousted — with a new hardline coalition that could take steps toward annexing the West Bank.

👂 What we're hearing: The White House is concerned about the new Israeli government's policies on Palestine — including plans to expand settlements and legalize outposts in the occupied West Bank.

  • The U.S. is also concerned about policies that could harm Israeli democracy. Those include measures that would decrease the independence of Israel's judicial system, and challenge the rights of its Arab minority and the LGBTQ+ community.

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3. 🇨🇳 China jet comes within 10 ft. of U.S. plane

Photo: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command via Reuters

This stunning photo — taken from video by the Pentagon — shows a Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet flying within 10 feet of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft in international airspace over the contested South China Sea on Dec. 21.

  • Why it matters: The close encounter follows what the U.S. has called increasingly dangerous behavior by Chinese military aircraft, Reuters reports.

A statement from the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) called it an "unsafe maneuver."

Photo: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command via Reuters

The Chinese fighter came within 10 feet of the plane's wing and 20 feet of its nose, a U.S. official said. That forced the U.S. reconnaissance jet "to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision," the statement adds.

  • The U.S. has raised the issue with the Chinese government, a separate U.S. official said.

Watch the 20-sec. video (Sound up!)

4. 📷 1,000 words: Owl frenzy

Photo: Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register via AP

A snowy owlnormally found around the Arctic, Canada and northern states — stretched and preened this week atop a chimney on a palm-lined residential street in Cypress, Calif., in Orange County.

Some local bird experts speculate the owl might have been "ship-assisted":

  • It could have ridden a ship — not unusual for an owl — to the Port of Los Angeles (where a similar bird was spotted last week), before making its way inland, The Orange County Register reports.

Or a captive bird might have escaped.

Photo: Mark Rightmire/Orange County Register via Getty Images

At times, nearly 30 people kept their eyes, phones and cameras glued on the far-from-home bird.

5. 🚋 Buffett strafes streetcar

A streetcar motorman in Omaha in 1938 — when Warren Buffett was 8. Photo: John Vachon for Farm Security Administration via Getty Images

A local citizen — "Warren E. Buffett, Omaha" — wrote a letter to the editor of the Omaha World-Herald to protest plans for a $306 million streetcar project.

  • "I seldom take sides on local issues," wrote the "Oracle of Omaha," the world's fourth- or fifth-richest person.
  • "Understandably, it can be off-putting to many to have a wealthy 92-year-old tell them what is good for their future. I'm going to make an exception on the streetcar issue."

"For 60 years, I have been interested in the transit industry," and public-transit subsidies make "sense as a matter of social equity," Buffett wrote:

Streetcars, however, are expensive and have very limited utility. ... As population, commerce and desired destinations shift, a bus system can be re-engineered. Streetcars keep mindlessly rolling on, fueled by large public subsidies. Mistakes are literally cast in cement.

Read the letter ... Go deeper: Photos of Omaha streetcars back to 1887.

6. ⚽ "The King"

Pelé of New York Cosmos in 1977 in New York. Photo: 4Imagens via Getty Images

"Pelé was one of the few who contradicted my theory," Andy Warhol mused after completing his silk-screen portrait of the Brazilian soccer god in the late 1970s, quoted today by The Washington Post.

  • "Instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries."

Pelé (officially Edson Arantes do Nascimento) — the only player to win three World Cups — died at 82 yesterday in São Paulo after battling colon cancer.

Why he mattered: Pelé transcended the sport and became perhaps the best-known person on Earth, AP's Ronald Blum writes.

  • Nelson Mandela once said: "To watch him play was to watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man in full."

Neymar, a fellow Brazilian who's also in the soccer pantheon, wrote in Portuguese on Instagram:

Pelé changed everything. He transformed soccer into art, entertainment. He gave voice to the poor, to Black people and above all he gave Brazil visibility. Soccer and Brazil elevated their standing thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will endure.
Photo: Wagner Meier/Getty Images

Above: Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is lit with golden lights last night in tribute to Pelé.

  • Pelé's funeral will be held next week at Vila Belmiro Stadium, outside Sao Paulo, where he played some of his best matches.

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