Aug 15, 2020

Axios AM

Mike Allen

🗳️ Happy Saturday! Election Day is 80 days from today.

🚨 1 big thing: Postal slowdown threatens election breakdown
Freelance writer Mark Delaney tells me he took this photo Aug. 8 of a postal worker in Portland, Ore., removing mailboxes. Via Twitter

In 24 hours, signs of a pre-election postal slowdown have moved from shadows to the spotlight, with evidence emerging all over the country that this isn't a just a potential threat, but is happening before our eyes.

  • Why it matters: If you're the Trump administration, and you're in charge of the federal government, remember that a Pew poll published in April found the Postal Service was viewed favorably by 91% of Americans.
  • Between the lines: There's pretty high brand equity for the organization that got soldiers' letters back from the front lines, delivered care packages to your summer camp, and shoved your college acceptance through the front door.

What's happening ... Louis DeJoy, a top Trump donor, was sworn in as postmaster general in June. Since then:

  • Social media exploded with reports from Oregon (photo up top, and here), Montana, Manhattan and Pennsylvania that the Postal Service was unbolting and hauling away mailboxes. "Some of the boxes scheduled to be removed from downtown Billings are nearly overflowing daily,” Julie Quilliam, president of the Montana Letter Carriers Association, wrote on Facebook, per AP. The Postal Service backed off yesterday, telling NBC News: "We are not going to be removing any boxes ... After the election, we’re going to take a look at operations."
  • The WashPost scooped that the Postal Service sent letters July 29 to 46 states and D.C. "warning that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted." The Post said that could mean that even if people "follow all of their state’s election rules, the pace of Postal Service delivery may disqualify their votes."
  • And high-speed sorting machines are being yanked from processing plants:
Via Twitter

Joe Biden is seizing on the postal fiasco, saying yesterday at a virtual fundraiser, per a pool report:

I was joking earlier with a couple on the call. I wonder if you're outside trying to hold down your mailboxes. They’re going around literally with tractor trailers picking up mailboxes. You oughta go online and check out what they're doing in Oregon. I mean, it's bizarre!

🗞️ How it's playing ...

Read the Detroit Free Press story.
2. New way to slow-roll mail ballots: Make them more expensive

Protesters gather in Kalorama Park in D.C. today before demonstrating outside the condo of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Photo: Cheriss May/Reuters

The Postal Service has urged state election officials to pay first class for mail ballots, which Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer says could nearly triple the cost.

  • Senate Democrats claim that "it has been the practice of USPS to treat all election mail as First Class mail regardless of the paid class of service."

USPS public relations manager Dave Partenheimer told me by email: "For years, the Postal Service has emphasized to the election community that delivery times are based on the class of service paid for by the mailer.

  • 🔑 Here's the key sentence: Partenheimer's statement says the lower rate "will result in slower delivery times and will increase the risk that voters will not receive their ballots in time to return them by mail."

Go deeper: Read a letter from Senate Democrats to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

  • N.Y. Times (subscription): "New Clash Over Mail Voting: The Cost of the Postage."
3. Harris seals political rise of America's Indian community
Kamala Harris with her late mother, Shyamala, in 2007. Photo: Kamala Harris campaign via AP

The selection of Sen. Kamala Harris has ignited pride and celebration among Indian Americans, one of the fastest growing, wealthiest and most educated demographic groups in the U.S., Axios' Fadel Allassan reports.

  • Both parties have paid increasing attention to the community, which has gone heavily Democratic: Hillary Clinton won Indian Americans by 70 points in 2016, according to an exit poll by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

There are more than 4 million Indian Americans, and the population is growing quickly.

  • In the battleground states of Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, the number of eligible Asian American and Pacific Islander voters grew more than 117% between 2000 and 2018, to nearly 1.7 million.
  • Indian Americans represent the largest share of Asian Americans in each of those states.
  • Indian Americans are wealthier than Americans in general, according to Census Bureau data compiled by AAPI Data. Their median annual household income was about $139,000 in 2018, more than double the nationwide median.
  • About half the 1.8 million U.S. foreign work visas issued between 2001 and 2015 went to Indians.

President Trump has courted this vote:

  • He launched a five-figure advertising campaign targeting Indian voters to coincide with his February trip to India, spotlighting his friendship with the country's Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi.
  • Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2016 became the first Indian American to run for president, and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is a possible presidential contender in 2024.

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4. What Trump doesn't get about suburbs

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

President Trump cast an outdated vision of "the 'suburban housewife'" as he swiped this week at Joe Biden's newly minted running mate Kamala Harris, White House and politics editor Margaret Talev writes.

  • Why it matters: Trump is building on his months-long play to drive a wedge through battleground-state suburbs by reframing white voters' expectations.

As he struggles to find an attack that will stick against the Biden campaign, Trump for a while now has been stoking fears of lawless cities and an end to what he's called the "Suburban Lifestyle Dream."

  • It's a playbook from the '70s and '80s — but the suburbs have changed a lot since then.

Demographer William Frey, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, says: "Suburbs are now a microcosm of America, in terms of rich and poor, Black and white and Hispanic."

  • Today, if you tell someone you live in the suburbs, "You’re not really telling them anything.”

The day after Biden announced his running mate as Harris, Trump tweeted that “the 'suburban housewife' will be voting for me" because "they want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood."

  • Frey said Trump "is talking to people in their 50s, 60s and 70s. ... Everything’s changing around them and 'Trump’s going to save them from this.'"

Between the lines: There’s an unmistakable racial undertone.

  • The suburbs were two-thirds white as of the 2010 census, down from 81% the decade before, and since then the suburbs have continued to diversify.
  • By 2010, Frey said, the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. counted more Black residents in the suburbs than the cities. For Latinos, that shift happened even earlier.

What’s next: Watch for Trump to test different messages aimed at dividing suburban voters by race, ethnicity and gender.

  • In addition to the "suburban housewife" tweet, Trump welcomed Harris to the arena with gender- and race-baiting, repeatedly calling her "nasty" and "angry."

If the dynamic continues, it may put Harris in a human-shield position, absorbing stereotyped insults from Trump and giving Biden the opportunity to defend her — and contrast himself with Trump in the process.

5. Trump gets a win in FBI probe
Courtesy N.Y. Post

A former FBI lawyer plans to plead guilty to making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from U.S. Attorney John Durham's investigation into the probe of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign, AP reports.

  • Kevin Clinesmith is accused of altering a government email about a former Trump campaign adviser who was a target of secret FBI surveillance, according to documents filed in Washington's federal court.
  • His lawyer, Justin Shur, told AP that Clinesmith intends to plead guilty to the single false statement count and that he regrets his actions.

Why it matters: The case against Clinesmith was cheered by President Trump and his supporters, who see wrongdoing in the FBI's 2016 investigation into whether the Trump campaign was coordinating with the Kremlin.

6. Rahm sees wave of "Biden Republicans"
In 1968, California Gov. Ronald Reagan talks to John Chancellor on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago mayor and White House chief of staff, writes in The Wall Street Journal (subscription) that "this campaign looks like a repeat of 1980":

That’s when Republicans wooed the "Reagan Democrats" out of FDR’s New Deal coalition and into the GOP fold. This year, Democrats have an opportunity to chisel off a demographic that will come to be known as "Biden Republicans." The question is whether Democrats will let these voters migrate back to the GOP after November, or whether our party will become their permanent safe harbor. ...
Democrats have the chance to achieve a generational transformation. Beyond broadening the coalition to include moderate voters who oppose President Trump, we could deepen our base by turning disaffected Republicans into Democrats. Voters in places that were once beyond our reach — suburban parts of Maricopa County, Ariz.; Mecklenburg County, N.C.; and Bucks County, Pa., for example — are open to conversion.

Keep reading (subscription).

Bonus ... 1 smile to go: D.C. panda may be on way
Photo: Smithsonian's National Zoo

The National Zoo said "that its female giant panda, Mei Xiang, appears to be pregnant, and the birth of a cub — amid the nation’s medical, social and political upheaval — could come as early as this weekend," the WashPost reports.

  • The Smithsonian press release is guarded: "There is a substantial possibility that Mei Xiang could resorb or miscarry a fetus. Scientists do not fully understand why some mammals resorb fetuses."

🎥 24-hour panda cam.

Mei Xiang, the National Zoo's giant panda, digs into a frozen treat in February. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Mike Allen

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