Oct 1, 2019

Axios AM

🎃 Happy Tuesday, and welcome to October.

  • Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,247 words ... 5 minutes.
1 big thing: Republicans fear "Texodus"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The retirement of six House Republicans from Texas at the end of this term foreshadows bigger Republican problems in the nation's second most populous state, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.

  • Why it matters: Texas' increasing diversity puts the conservative stronghold on track toward turning blue, reflecting the deep demographic hole for Republicans in every growing part of the country.

The 2018 midterms spooked Texas Republicans after they lost two congressional seats, saw closer-than-expected margins in a number of other races, and watched Beto O'Rourke surf a blue wave built in part on the state's shifting demographics.

  • "Texodus" has entered their lexicon — a term Democrats coined to describe the subsequent retirements of the state's GOP House members.
  • "We need a new Republican Party because the one we have is getting our asses kicked in House races," said a Texas Republican strategist, who works with various campaigns.

Republican strategist Mike Murphy tells me President Trump has accelerated the trend: "Texas is the big buckle on the GOP’s electoral college belt, and it's starting to show real cracks."

  • Democratic guru David Axelrod says about the presidential race: "To play in Texas, a huge state with expensive markets, is a costly proposition. Texas is trending purple, but maybe not purple-ish enough to make that investment in '20."

In addition to shifting demographics, the headwinds for Republicans include attitudes of suburban voters — a problem for Republicans everywhere.

  • And Republicans talk openly about perceptions the party is run by old white guys.
  • "The base is shrinking. Period. End of story," said Rep. Will Hurd, the only black House Republican, who at 42 will leave office rather than seek another term.

P.S. Trump will rally in Dallas on Oct. 17 to celebrate "the good news of the Trump economy," his campaign announced last night.

2. The president's men

President Trump speaks to members of the media after a ceremony in the Oval Office yesterday. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Democrats' fast-moving impeachment inquiry and its accompanying media revelations are sweeping across President Trump's inner circle:

Attorney General William Barr enlisted foreign intelligence officials, including making overtures to Britain and traveling to Italy, in a Justice Department inquiry into the U.S. intelligence community's investigation of the 2016 election, the WashPost reports:

  • Why it matters: "Barr’s personal involvement is likely to stoke further criticism ... that he is helping ... use executive branch powers to augment investigations aimed primarily at the president’s adversaries."

Also on today's front pages:

  • "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ... listened in on the July 25 phone call between [Trump] and Ukraine’s president, a senior State Department official" told The Wall Street Journal.
  • "Trump Pressed Australian Leader to Help Barr Investigate Mueller Inquiry’s Origins ... The discussion was another instance of the president using American diplomacy for potential personal gain." (N.Y. Times)
  • "House Democrats ... subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, ... Trump's personal lawyer, for a raft of documents related to his dealings with Ukrainian officials." (USA Today)
3. America's most polarizing brands: Media companies
Expand chart
Data: Morning Consult. Table: Axios Visuals

News media companies make up 12 of the 15 most polarizing brands in America today, according to a new Morning Consult poll provided to Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer.

  • CNN and Fox News continue to be the most divisive news companies.
  • Why it matters: The gap between how Republicans and Democrats view national media brands like CNN and Fox News continues to widen, according to the polling, which points to an increase in America's polarization.

Between the lines: The gap is being driven by substantial decreases in Republican approval of media brands other than Fox News.

  • The difference between how the two parties viewed CNN grew from a 66-point gap last year to an 80-point gap this year, due to a 12-point drop in net favorability among Republicans, from -13% to -25%.
  • Republicans held more negative views than Democrats of every media outlet on the list except for Fox News. 
  • The difference between how the two parties view Fox News grew from a 54-point gap last year to a 74-point gap this year.

The bottom line: Even outlets that are generally considered nonpartisan, like ABC News and CNBC, rank among the most polarizing brands in America.

4. Pics du jour: A tale of two cities
Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Above, a view of Beijing's parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China at Tiananmen Square.

Below, Hong Kongers take to the streets for pro-democracy protests — some of which turned into violent clashes with police, per Reuters.

  • Hong Kong police said a protester was shot in the chest by an officer during the clashes. (AP)
Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images
5. Trump tweets challenge rules
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Facebook and Twitter are scrambling to govern the toxic online debate over impeachment, Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes from San Francisco.

Twitter's rules bar targeted harassment and threats of violence against individuals or groups.

  • Since the announcement of the impeachment inquiry, Trump's tweets have grown even more combative, including his warning this weekend of a possible "Civil War" if he's removed from office.

Critics are cranking up their longstanding call for Twitter to suspend his @realDonaldTrump account.

  • But Twitter has long moved with extra caution when it comes to public figures.

For Twitter, Trump represents an "edge case" — the term engineers use for scenarios that expose the contradictions or weaknesses in their systems.

  • His office makes him undeniably a "topic of legitimate public interest." But his tweets keep moving further across Twitter's red lines.

Facebook has a "newsworthiness" exemption for content that violates its rules.

  • Nick Clegg, Facebook's V.P. of global affairs, announced last week: "From now on we will treat speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard." Political ads will be more strictly vetted.
6. AP poll: Most disapprove of Trump on race relations

About half of all Americans in a new AP poll think President Trump's actions have been bad for African Americans, Muslims and women, and slightly more than half say they've been bad for Hispanics.

7. Warren surges past Biden in college poll
Expand chart
Data: College Reaction (±4.0 margin of error). Chart: Axios Visuals

Elizabeth Warren has overtaken Joe Biden as the top 2020 choice among college students, according to a new College Reaction/Axios poll.

The poll was conducted from Sept. 23-24 from a representative sample of 586 college students, with a margin of error of +/- 4%.

8. Impeachment rising

📊 Support for impeachment/removal soars 20 points in 5 days in the Quinnipiac Poll, to 47%-47%, driven by rising backing from independents.

9. New Juul CEO pulls plug on S.F. fight
Photo: Samantha Maldonado/AP

Juul Labs Inc. announced it will stop supporting a ballot measure to overturn an anti-vaping law in San Francisco, effectively killing the campaign, AP reports.

  • The nation's largest maker of e-cigarettes said it will end its support for Proposition C after donating nearly $19 million. It was virtually the only financial backer of the measure.
  • Prop. C proponents announced they were ending their campaign, although the measure will still appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.

"Juul said the move comes as part of a company-wide review by new CEO K.C. Crosthwaite, whose appointment was announced last week." (S.F. Chronicle)

10. 1 fun thing

Photo via YouTube

"Stranger Things" creators the Duffer Brothers "have officially signed a multi-year overall deal with Netflix to create films and television series," reports Variety.

  • "It should come as no surprise, then, that the show has been renewed for a fourth season at the streaming service."

Why it matters: Their agreement "is the latest in a string of high-profile overall deals that Netflix has struck with creators in recent years."

  • "They join a roster that includes 'Wonder Woman' director Patty Jenkins, 'Game of Thrones' show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, 'Pose' director Janet Mock, as well as prolific creators Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes."

Watch the teaser.

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