Jul 1, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🎂Welcome to July. At midnight, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement took effect.

  • Fred Hochberg, former chairman of the Export-Import Bank, says the USMCA keeps the logic of its predecessor, NAFTA — comparing them to an iPhone 8 replacing an iPhone 7.

🍷 Join Kim Hart and me at 12:30 p.m. ET for a live virtual event, "The Pandemic Pivot: Small Business Recovery," with conversations that include a winery owner. Register here.

1 big thing: Senility becomes 2020 flashpoint

Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senility is becoming an overt line of attack for the first time in a modern U.S. presidential campaign, White House editor Margaret Talev writes.

  • As President Trump ramps up insinuations that his general election rival is doddering, Joe Biden turned the tables yesterday, saying Trump "doesn’t seem to be cognitively aware of what’s going on" with his own briefings.

Why it matters: As Americans live longer and work later into life and there's more awareness about the science of aging, we're also seeing politicians test the boundaries of electability.

  • Biden is 77. Trump, now 74, already is the oldest person to assume the U.S. presidency.

At the same news conference where he took a swipe at Trump, Biden was asked by a reporter if he has been tested for cognitive decline.

  • "I'm constantly tested," Biden responded, adding that "I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I'm running against."
  • Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted: "What were the results? Why is he getting constantly tested? 👀"

Biden campaign advisers tell Axios' Alexi McCammond and Hans Nichols that the testing Biden was talking about is the past 15 months on the campaign trail, and that they see Trump's attacks, in psychological terms, as "projection."

Candidates’ age and mental state have been questioned in past presidential campaigns — Barry Goldwater in '64, Ronald Reagan in '84 and Bob Dole in '96 — but never like this.

  • Trump remarks, historian Julian Zelizer said, can be "just a mishmash of words."
  • "Biden, there's questions, more subtle I think, about he doesn't finish every sentence, or during the debates he'd pause."

Between the lines: Both Trump and Biden are known for speaking off the cuff, opening themselves to gaffes and rambling.

2. Scoop: Kushner's campaign changes

Tulsa rally on June 20. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Michael Glassner, who organized President Trump's rallies, was "reassigned," and Trump's 2016 Arizona chair Jeff DeWit is joining the campaign as COO, Jonathan Swan reports.

  • Jared Kushner engineered these moves. Glassner, a Trump campaign original dating back to 2015, has been told he will now be handling the campaign's various lawsuits, sources say.

Behind the scenes: A person familiar with the shakeup defended Glassner as the unfortunate guy whose head needed to roll for the Tulsa rally debacle.

  • "Michael didn't really make many mistakes [at Tulsa]," the source said. "He did what he always did, and it just didn't work post-COVID."

What's next: Some of the president's advisers now admit privately that they underestimated how scared their elderly supporters would be to join an indoor, mostly mask-free crowd, without social distancing.

  • The Trump campaign has to quickly figure out how to make rallies work in the age of coronavirus.
  • A larger team is expected to handle Trump rallies going forward, with myriad additional considerations including legal liability, health guidance and local government regulations.

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3. Private data: Recovery may be cooling
Expand chart
Reproduced from Homebase. Chart: Axios Visuals

Some private data the White House closely monitors has been pointing to an economic recovery that’s plateauing — and that could bolster the case for more stimulus this summer, Hans Nichols reports.

  • June's unemployment rate will be released tomorrow. But the official jobs numbers are practically dated the moment they flash on financial terminals. The White House watches other private data to get an earlier sense of what's happening — and that data suggests the recovery may be cooling off.

A data feed from a tech company called Homebase, which manages digital timecards for 100,000 small businesses, is flashing yellow.

  • Fewer employees worked in the last week of June than the rest of the month, suggesting that forthcoming jobless rate could be too low.

Our smartphones — linked to satellites in space — leave a digital trail that give economists and policy makers more visibility than they have ever had before.

  • The White House looks at aggregated and anonymized data from SafeGraph, which maps some 45 million cellphone locations to more than 5,000 businesses.
  • SafeGraph’s mobility tracker shows that foot traffic to businesses slowed down at the end of last week.

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4. Virus skyrockets among communities of color
Adapted from Coders Against Covid, using The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins and U.S. Census data. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

As the outbreak worsens throughout the South and the West, caseloads are growing fastest in counties with large communities of color, Caitlin Owens reports.

  • The South and Southwest — the new epicenters of the outbreak — have higher Black and Latino or Hispanic populations to begin with.
  • People of color have seen disproportionate rates of infection, hospitalization and death throughout the pandemic.

What's happening: Black and Hispanic or Latino communities have had less access to diagnostic testing, and people of color are also more likely to be essential workers.

  • That means the virus is able to enter and spread throughout a community without adequate detection, often with disastrous results.

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5. Short window for next stimulus

With just an 11-day window in late July to act on a new virus stimulus, Congress may choke on the package that many economists say is needed to keep the economy upright, Alayna Treene and Dion Rabouin report.

  • Alternating recesses mean the House and Senate will have to reach a deal on the Phase 4 package between July 20 and July 31, when temporarily increased unemployment payments to 33 million Americans expire.

The catch: One big battle between Democrats and Republicans is over the reason unemployment has remained so high.

  • GOP lawmakers argue that enhanced jobless benefits were too generous.
  • Dems contend that the economy was so badly damaged that workers don't have jobs to go back to — and without the increased $600 a week payout from unemployment insurance, would face poverty and possibly homelessness.

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6. Receipts: Money transfers bolstered belief in Russian bounties

Kayleigh McEnany briefs yesterday. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

"American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account," the N.Y. Times reports (subscription).

  • The evidence supported the U.S. intelligence "conclusion that Russia covertly offered bounties for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan."
  • Detainees had described the bounty program during interrogations.

💬 White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, questioned on whether President Trump had read the intelligence about Russian bounties in his Presidential Daily Briefing, said:

  • "The President does read, and he also consumes intelligence ... verbally.  This president, I’ll tell you, is the most informed person on planet Earth when it comes to the threats that we face."
7. 🐦 Amazing stat du jour
Via Twitter
8. 📺 Cable news bigger than broadcast in prime time

Screenshot: Fox News

Fox News Channel was the most-watched network in prime time, counting both broadcast and cable, for three out of four weeks in June, AP's David Bauder writes.

  • Why it matters: Before this month, that had never happened. Ever.
  • June is traditionally a slow month for broadcast television, with the schedule crammed with reruns and game shows. And it has been a busy news stretch.

The star power of Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson in the conservative firmament lifted Fox to heights it had never reached.

  • Each host had four shows among Nielsen's top 20 last week, led by Hannity's Thursday night interview with President Trump.

🥊 ABC's "World News Tonight" with David Muir averaged more viewers last week than any prime-time show on television, Nielsen said.

  • "World News Tonight" led the evening newscasts with an average of 8.9 million viewers, NBC's "Nightly News" had 7.5 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.3 million.

See the top 20 shows.

9. ⚾ Minor-league baseball cancels season

Principal Park in Des Moines, home of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Baseball's minor leagues canceled their seasons because of the pandemic.

  • The head of their governing body said more than half of the 160 teams are in danger of failing without government assistance or private equity injections, AP's Ron Blum writes.

The minors, which go back to 1901, had never missed a season.

  • Mike Barnicle, Fenway's poet laureate, tells me: "No Cape League ... no college ball ... no seniors getting a look ... no juniors playing in Cape league and other wood bat leagues ... no AA players looking to jump to AAA or the bigs. Lot of dreams deferred or simply disappeared."
10. 🎞️ "Hamilton" streams Friday
Lin-Manuel Miranda is Alexander Hamilton and Phillipa Soo is Eliza Hamilton in the filmed version. Photo: Disney Plus via AP

On Friday, Disney Plus debuts the six-camera live capture of "Hamilton" — with tickets quite a bit easier to come by than for the Broadway hit.

  • "The Revolution, Now Televised," The Wall Street Journal headlines its review (subscription).
  • The PG-13 film (2 hours, 40 mins.) was shot in summer 2016 over two performances with the original cast, and comes complete with an intermission. (AP)

Variety says the feature is "edited like the world’s longest Super Bowl halftime spectacular":

  • Director Thomas Kail, who also directed the show on Broadway, "intermixes Steadicams and cranes with fixed cameras, ricocheting the audience from one side of the stage to the other."

Reviews have begun popping:

  • A.O. Scott in the N.Y. Times: "[T]here aren’t any good old days. We can’t go back to 1789 or 2016 or any other year to escape from the failures that plague us now. This four-year-old performance of 'Hamilton,' viewed without nostalgia, feels more vital, more challenging then ever."
  • "Its central questions — 'Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?' — are staring us in the face. Its lyrics are an archive of encouragement and rebuke."
Mike Allen

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