Oct 7, 2020

Axios AM

Good Wednesday morning, and enjoy tonight's V.P. debate (9 p.m. ET in Salt Lake City). Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,274 words ... 5 minutes.

🎧 Axios Today, our 5-minute podcast hosted by Niala Boodhoo, is right here.

  • 💻 Join Caitlin Owens today at 12:30 p.m. ET for an Axios virtual event about ways the pandemic has worsened social and racial inequities. Register here
1 big thing: Trump's seniors moment

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Something wild and unexpected unfolded in the second half of President Trump's term, and now is accelerating: Elderly Americans, who helped elect him, have swung sharply against him. 

  • Why it matters: National and state polls show a total Trump collapse among Americans 65 and older.  If this chasm remains, it could help bring the whole Republican power structure down with Trump.

In what has been a 50-50ish nation, it's stunning to see polling gaps this wide:

  • In a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out Sunday, Joe Biden led Trump by 27 points among seniors (62% to 35%).
  • In a CNN/SSRS poll out yesterday, similar story — 21 points (60% to 39%).

This is a group Trump won by seven points in 2016.

  • The same gap shows up in state polling, including the critical battlegrounds of Florida and Pennsylvania.

The movement predates the virus. CNN polling guru Harry Enten notes that a year ago, Biden was up 11 points over Trump with seniors in a CNN poll.

  • 💡 The main pre-pandemic reasons were health care and his strength with women, Axios' Alexi McCammond and Margaret Talev wrote in May.

Republicans believe the big reason for the current chasm is the coronavirus, which has hit seniors far harder than any age group. A former senior White House official who remains close to the team told Axios' Jonathan Swan:

  • "[A] few of us screamed from the rooftops to them about in March. Who [cares] what anyone else thinks? If you can't win seniors, you can't win."
  • "And, if you don't take something that is killing old people seriously, you will lose seniors."

Between the lines: More women vote than men. More women go to college than men. More women than ever are running for election and winning. And more women than ever are turning on Trump and the GOP.

The bottom line: Younger, white men alone do not a victory make. So the 65+ trend represents a clear and present danger to the vitality and viability of the GOP.

  • Trump has undermined himself with old people, women and minorities.
  • National Journal's Josh Kraushaar tweeted yesterday: "That’s going to be the story of this election: Pivotal Trump voting bloc in 2016 becoming part of the Biden base."
2. Cost of Washington's stimulus failures

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Heading into the winter months without a new round of stimulus will leave vulnerable workers without a financial safety net if they get sick. That will likely make the pandemic worse, experts tell Axios health care editor Sam Baker.

  • Trump tweeted yesterday afternoon: "I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business." Stocks fell, and even his allies were baffled by this obviously politically dumb move.
  • But then he tweeted last night: "If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy?"

At the Capitol, which has no formal testing regimen, 123 front-line workers have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic, Roll Call reports.

  • White House senior adviser Stephen Miller confirmed late yesterday that he has joined the list of top Trump officials who have tested positive: "Over the last five days I have been working remotely and self-isolating, testing negative every day through yesterday. Today, I tested positive for COVID-19 and am in quarantine."

The bottom line: Official Washington is making this worse.

  • Over the next few months, the failure to provide some financial lifeline will likely force some working people into an impossible choice between their health and their livelihoods.

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3. Inside debate prep
Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

Above, workers clean the plexiglass panels that'll separate Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris at tonight's V.P. debate at the University of Utah.

  • Pence and Harris will be exactly 12.25 feet apart.

Harris plans to zero in on Pence’s role as the head of the coronavirus task force, sources tell Axios' Alexi McCammond.

  • Harris plans to confront him with personal questions like: What message does it send to American families who’ve lost a loved one to this virus, when President Trump says not to be afraid of it?
  • And she plans to revive Pence's own inaccurate virus assessments, including saying in April that "[i]f you look at the trends today, ... I think by Memorial Day weekend we will have this coronavirus epidemic behind us."
Via Twitter

Sen. Kamala Harris, in a forthcoming Elle cover story by Ashley C. Ford, explains a greeting in various African cultures:

When you [are introduced] for the first time, the greeting is not "pleased to meet you." The greeting is "I see you." I see you as a complete human being. At this moment in time, it is so critically important in our country for all people to be seen in their full selves, in a way that gives them the dignity they deserve.
4. Worth 1,000 words
Via "CBS Evening News"
Via MSNBC's "Morning Joe"
5. Economics behind Trump's stimulus flips

Graphic: Steven Rattner for MSNBC's "Morning Joe"

Markets hated President Trump's rebuff of stimulus discussions, but the president's skepticism makes sense if you follow the logic of his economic advisers, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin writes.

  • Trump has surrounded himself with die-hard acolytes of supply-side economics, like one-time Fed pick Stephen Moore, who argue that fiscal stimulus measures and increased benefits for unemployed Americans don't help, but instead hurt the economy.
  • "We're very worried about Trump doing a deal with Pelosi that would have very negative effects on the economy," Moore told Axios' Alayna Treene in July.

They've been lobbying Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who led negotiations for the White House, to focus exclusively on tax cuts and more deregulation to counter the downturn.

  • Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow is also a dyed-in-the-wool supply sider and has been calling for payroll tax cuts while playing down the value of relief spending for months.

💰 Sign up for Dion Rabouin's daily Axios Markets.

6. Mrs. Obama: Vote "like your lives depend on it"

Photo via the Biden campaign

Former First Lady Michelle Obama made her closing argument yesterday for Joe Biden, arguing that President Trump has mismanaged the pandemic while "stoking fears about Black and brown Americans," reports Axios' Hans Nichols.

  • "We can no longer pretend that we don't know exactly who and what this president stands for. Search your hearts, and your conscience, and then vote for Joe Biden like your lives depend on it."

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7. Movie industry in shambles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Any hope that blockbuster hits would return to the big screen this year have been shattered in the past week, writes Axios' Sara Fischer.

  • Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Cinemas, on Monday said it would be temporarily closing all of its 663 theaters in the U.S. and the U.K.
  • Warner Bros. on Monday said that its highly-anticipated film "Dune" would now be delayed in its theatrical debut until 2021.
  • In doing so, it also pushed the release date for "The Batman" from 2021 to 2022.

The bottom line: All of this signals that the movie industry likely won't even begin to begin to bounce back until 2021, when big blockbusters are back on the release schedule.

8. Living history
Via Twitter
9. 🎸 Remembering Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen, then 49, plays the final chord of "Jump" during a Van Halen concert at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., in 2004. Photo: John Munson/NJ Advance Media via AP

Guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen, whose prodigious skill helped him a rock god, died yesterday at 65 from cancer. (AP)

A quote to remember from a 2012 Esquire interview with David Curcurito:

I am the best at doing me. Nobody else can do me better than me.
You know, Eric Clapton is Eric Clapton. Nobody does Clapton better than him. Nobody does Hendrix better than Hendrix. We're not trying to be anything other than who we are.
10. 🍽️ "Enjoy Your Meal. The Clock Is Ticking"

"To survive the pandemic, some restaurants are taking an unusual approach to hospitality: showing diners the door," writes The Wall Street Journal's Alina Dizik for an A-hed.

  • "Reseating parties more quickly throughout the evening allows restaurants to benefit from higher food sales rather than letting the same guests linger at the table."
  • "Turnover is especially important when COVID regulations call for serving fewer guests in the dining room at one time and keeping diners farther apart."

"Every minute counts," David Schneider, director of operations at Portale in New York, told the Journal.

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