Good Wednesday morning. Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,480 words ... 5½ minutes.
President Trump, on the eve of his impeachment acquittal, delivered a victory-lap State of the Union address in the very chamber where he had been impeached 48 days before — and just across the Capitol from where he'll be acquitted today.
Why it matters: Trump is getting stronger, not weaker, despite his impeachment. And he's increasingly self-confident about his message of free market accomplishments, versus what he paints as the dark dangers of modern liberalism.
Speaker Pelosi denied him the usual honors in her introduction, and he withheld his handshake.
Between the lines: This address was no olive branch or even nod to bipartisanship, Axios' Margaret Talev points out.
Trump included shout-outs to every slice of the GOP base and — as if it were a TV special from his reality-show days — laced the speech with awards and surprises.
Some Democrats yelled "No!" when Trump announced he was awarding Rush Limbaugh, who told listeners Monday that he has lung cancer, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Axios' Alayna Treene reported from the chamber.
The bottom line: Trump was cocky, defiant and unapologetic, and cranked up the TV moments in trying to appeal to African Americans and Latinos, despite a record that left many leaders in those communities agog at the contrast.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
With the U.S. paralyzed by political gridlock and Western institutions stagnating, China is positioning itself as the primary architect of new power structures in the 21st century, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes in the debut issue of Axios China, her weekly newsletter.
President Xi Jinping's sweeping vision — the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — puts China at the commanding center of global economic and geopolitical relationships.
🇨🇳 Sign up for the relaunched Axios China, debuting later today.
Pete Buttigieg sees a moment to overtake Joe Biden with an electability message after the scrambled Iowa results left some top Biden supporters distraught.
By the numbers: Iowa Democrats released results from 71% of precincts, showing Buttigieg with the highest percentage of delegates thus far at 26.8%.
The big picture: Sanders did well in Iowa and is best-positioned to win New Hampshire, Axios' Jonathan Swan points out.
Between the lines: The Democratic field has spent stunningly little time campaigning in New Hampshire.
What to watch: The ABC News debate in Manchester on Friday night could change the dynamics heading into next Tuesday's vote.
President Trump ignores Speaker Pelosi's outstretched hand ...
... and Rush Limbaugh gets the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
President Trump claimed during the State of the Union that he will "always protect patients with pre-existing conditions" — a statement that's misleading at best, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.
Reality check: Republicans' repeal and replace efforts in 2017 wouldn't have preserved the same level of protections the Affordable Care Act provides, nor would any of the plans they've put forward since.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) walks through the Senate subway this week with a book that had been sent to each Senate office. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
The Senate's renders its verdict in President Trump's impeachment trial with a vote on each article, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.
The Boston Globe, a local paper in New Hampshire, today posted a surprising editorial headlined ... "Kill the tradition: NH and Iowa should not vote first — Some customs must die. Like the first-in-the-nation primary and caucuses."
A hundred years ago, New Hampshire blazed a trail as the first among 20 states to hold a 1920 presidential primary election. It is a tradition that has endured for the century since, and will repeat [next Tuesday] — a fact owed not just to custom, but to the state’s leaders and voters clinging to their power to shape elections, and thus, the nation. ...
[W]e are holding our endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate until after the New Hampshire primary. ... More important than wielding our influence on a single small state’s primary, we believe, is to call for the end of an antiquated system that gives outsized influence on choosing presidents to two states that, demographically, more resemble 19th century America than the America of today.
Tesla is in the midst of what might be the most lucrative one-week run in stock market history, gaining another $19.3 billion in market value yesterday before falling around $80 per share in the last five minutes of trading.
Deutsche Bank's relationship with Donald Trump "extended well beyond making simple loans" — worth more than $2 billion — to wealth management and introductions to Russians interested in Western investments, according to an excerpt of David Enrich's forthcoming "Dark Towers" in The New York Times Magazine.
Baby Yoda is the breakout star of Disney+'s "The Mandalorian." Credit: Disney
Disney revealed that its new streaming service, Disney+, has 26.5 million paid subscribers, a huge number for a service that launched in November, writes Axios' Sara Fischer.