Jan 18, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Happy Saturday.

  • Women's marches are being held around the world, with organizers expecting over 180 marches and about 100,000 attendees in the U.S.

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1 big thing: How Election Night could turn into a drawn-out battle
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Data: Fox News poll of 1,003 registered voters, Oct. 6–8. Margin of error ±3 percentage points. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

If the 2020 presidential election is close enough to trigger a fight over the results, the public's confidence is so low in key people and institutions that no one is likely to be a trusted referee, managing editor David Nather writes.

  • Why it matters: Given how tight the last few elections have been, the likelihood of a contested election is quite real — which means the danger of a fight over the results is real, too.

The big picture: This trust crisis — flagged for us as part of a larger presentation by lobbyist Bruce Mehlman — is based on polling that shows how little confidence the public has in powerful players and institutions, including the ones that would be most likely to be drawn into a contested election.

  • There's a trust chasm over President Trump, with Republicans showing far more confidence in him than Democrats and independents, according to an October Fox News poll.
  • But there's also low trust in the Supreme Court — especially among Democrats and independents — and trust in Congress is at rock bottom with everybody.
  • And yes, the news media's trust level is abysmal too, especially with Republicans and independents.

Other surveys have also found more evidence of deep distrust in leaders and institutions.

  • The Pew Research Center found a huge partisan divide in trust in politically appointed agency heads (self-described Republicans expressed more confidence in those leaders than Democrats).

What to watch: In this kind of general atmosphere of distrust, it's easy to see how an election could end up in a drawn-out battle.

  • That could happen if Trump contests a narrow defeat or if Trump wins and Democrats raise questions about voter suppression or other issues.
  • If either scenario happens, Americans' confidence in any of the possible referees would need to be solid for the country to reach a successful resolution — and right now, confidence is a lot less than solid.
  • One sign of concern about a close election: The Supreme Court says it will rule before the election on whether presidential electors have to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their state, or whether they have the freedom to switch to someone else.
2. Airports on alert for new virus
Medical staff transfer patients in Wuhan, Hubei, amid the outbreak of a pneumonia-like virus. Photo: Getty Images

A virus first reported around New Year's in China has put three U.S. airports on alert.

  • Arrivals to San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles airports from Wuhan, China will get special screening, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly reports.

Why it matters: Coronavirus' ability to evolve means the outbreak could quickly turn from "worrisome to extremely worrisome," and "proactive measures" should be taken, a CDC official said Friday.

  • There are more than 40 known cases, killing two people and with reported cases in Japan and Thailand.

Between the lines: Researchers are trying to determine where the virus originated, if it can be transmitted from person-to-person, and how long the incubation period may be, Eileen reports.

  • Most Wuhan patients are linked to a large seafood and animal market, "suggesting animal-to-person spread." But others did not have this exposure, which suggests "some limited person-to-person spread may be occurring."
  • Coronaviruses are particularly tricky because they are found in animals and humans, and the cases where animal-to-human infections lead to human-to-human infections can be severe, as seen in SARS and MERS coronavirus infections.

The big picture: Millions of people in China are traveling for the start of Lunar New Year on Jan. 25, the WashPost notes.

3. Graphic du jour: China funds the world's megaprojects
Graphic: Visual Capitalist. Used by permission.

Visual Capitalist created this stunning depiction of Chinese-backed projects from 2000–2017, based on a database created by AidData, a research lab at the William & Mary Global Research Institute.

  • Why it matters: Through soft diplomacy and hard leverage, China is projecting financial, tech and military might throughout the world, with a particular emphasis on ports and other projects in Africa and Southeast Asia.
4. ⚖️ Trump's Fox-friendly Senate trial team
Screengrab: CNN

Several White House officials told Jonathan Swan they were hoping President Trump wouldn’t pick Alan Dershowitz, named by the White House yesterday as one one of the Senate trial counsels, to play a formal role.

  • Why it matters: They saw the choice as an unnecessary distraction, given that the team was already strong and Alan Dershowitz has ties to Jeffrey Epstein.
  • But Trump thinks Dershowitz is magnificent on TV, a White House official said.
  • Swan's bottom line: It matters not at all who represents Trump. Republican senators long ago decided in the president’s favor.

Stat du jour: Four of the team members — Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Pam Bondi and Robert Ray — have made at least 365 weekday Fox News appearances since January 2019, according to progressive research center Media Matters for America.

5. 🗳️ Warning on Iowa hacking
A training booklet at the Pete Buttigieg office in Ottumwa, Iowa. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Iowa and Nevada — two of the first three states to vote in the Democratic presidential race — will use new mobile apps to gather results from thousands of caucus sites, AP reports.

  • Why it matters: The technology is intended to make counting easier, but raises concerns of hacking and glitches.

How it works: Activists in the two states will use programs downloaded to their personal phones to report the results of caucus gatherings to state headquarters.

  • That data will be used to announce the unofficial winners.
  • Paper records will then be used to certify the results.

Democrats are moving ahead with the technology amid warnings that foreign hackers could target the 2020 presidential race to try to sow chaos and undermine American democracy.

  • Party officials say they are cognizant of the threat and taking numerous security precautions. Any errors, they say, will be easily correctable because of backups.

In both states party officials declined to identify the vendor that developed their apps, saying they did not want to create a potential target for hackers.

6. 1 🏈 thing
Photo: Steve Helber/AP

Above, President Trump points out LSU quarterback Joe Burrow during an East Room ceremony for the college champion Tigers.

  • Trump, on Heisman-winning QB Burrow: "[H]e’s going to be so rich. (Laughter.) Looks sort of like a young Tom Brady. Does that make sense to you? We call him 'young Tom Brady.'"

Geaux deeper.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Mike Allen

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