January 11, 2024

Happy Thursday! Smart Brevityβ„’ count: 1,592 words ... 6 mins. Thanks to Sam Baker for orchestrating. Edited by Emma Loop. Copy edited by Bryan McBournie.

πŸ† Axios HQ β€” the internal communications software powered by Smart Brevityβ„’ and AI β€” earned the No. 3 spot on Glassdoor's Best Places to Work 2024 for small and midsize businesses in the U.S.

  • Why it matters: The award is based on employees' anonymous and voluntary Glassdoor reviews, which evaluate their employer, their job, and their work environment over the past year.

HQ CEO Roy Schwartz calls it a "testament to the 130+ people who picked Axios HQ, who work hard every day, and who live the culture they clearly love."

πŸ“Š 1 big thing: America's unhappiest people

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republicans, rural Americans, renters, women and single people feel like they're in a big fat funk financially, according to the debut installment of the new Axios Vibes survey, conducted with The Harris Poll.

  • Why it matters: It's not what voters see β€” the economy's improving, with rising wages and low unemployment. It's how they feel that could tank President Biden in November.

The big number: 76% of respondents agreed with this statement: "Economists may say things are getting better, but we're not feeling it where I live."

  • 88% of respondents agree with this statement: "Gas, groceries and housing costs β€” not stocks β€” are the real economic indicators I care about."

37% of Americans rate their financial situation as poor. That climbs to 42% for Republicans, 43% for women, 46% for people living in rural areas, 47% for singles and 57% for renters.

  • The online poll included 2,120 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of Β±2.8 points.
Data: FRED, Census Bureau. Charts: Erin Davis/Axios

Axios Vibe Check: Red, rural and renting 😑

  • Life, particularly groceries and rent, is indeed a lot more expensive than it was a few years ago.
  • But overall, a near-record share of Americans are working β€” and they're confident enough in their prospects that consumer spending keeps on rising.

πŸ›’ β›½ Groceries are the top way (72%) Americans say they feel inflation in their daily lives, followed by gas prices (56%).

  • Six in 10 say they're "triggered" by trips to the grocery store.

Keep reading.

2. πŸ”Ž Behind the scenes: Why Hunter showed up

Hunter Biden sits with his attorney, Abbe Lowell, as he makes a surprise appearance at a House Oversight Committee meeting yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Hunter Biden's surprise appearance at a House hearing yesterday was a closely held secret, set up by his team to show he's willing to publicly testify before Congress β€” and tweak Republicans who say he's not cooperative.

  • Republicans struggled to answer why they didn't allow Hunter to testify, Axios' Alex Thompson reports.

Hunter's team didn't loop in White House aides about his plans.

  • Aides "were surprised to see him appearing in the hearing room," one person familiar with the situation said.
  • Hunter's team believed that it was in the interests of both the White House and Hunter not to involve President Biden's aides in the team's strategy conversations.

πŸ“Ί Fox News' Dana Perino said of Hunter's appearance: "If you're going to do a stunt, it was a pretty good one."

3. πŸ›οΈ New Speaker already facing mutiny

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) leaves a news conference at the Capitol yesterday with Rep. Mike Flood (R-Neb.). Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Some House Republicans are already expressing buyer's remorse over Speaker Mike Johnson:

  • A dozen right-wing Republicans blocked a package of GOP bills and ground the floor to a halt yesterday in protest of Johnson's spending deal with Senate Democrats, Axios' Andrew Solender reports.

It's a repeat of what hardliners did under former Speaker Kevin McCarthy over his bipartisan debt ceiling deal β€” which ultimately foreshadowed his removal months later through a motion to vacate.

  • Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) has been flirting with the idea of trying to remove Johnson, saying in a radio interview on Tuesday: "If they totally botch [the appropriations bills] ...Β I don't know why we would keep him as speaker."

A Republican leadership ally described the revolt as a "shot across the bow."

4. πŸ₯Ά Mapped: Winter has come

Data:Β NOAA GFS. Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

After a slow start, winter weather is pummeling much of the U.S.

  • Weather patterns high above the Arctic β€” specifically the contortions of the polar vortex, and a strong area of high pressure meandering near Greenland β€” are fueling winter storms all over the country, Axios' Andrew Freedman and Jacob Knutson write.

Keep reading.

5. 🐘 Haley, DeSantis belatedly hit Trump

Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley clash during a CNN debate last night at Drake University in Des Moines. Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters

Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former President Trump's two highest-polling challengers, used the final pre-Iowa debate to attack him β€” instead of just each other, as in most previous debates.

  • After a first hour where Haley and DeSantis repeatedly accused the other of lying and hurled constant attacks at each other, the two spent much of the second hour going after Trump during last night's CNN debate in Des Moines, Axios' Erin Doherty and Alex Thompson report.

Iowa caucuses are Monday night. Keep reading.

Chris Christie drops out during a town hall last evening in Windham, N.H. Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Chris Christie was caught on a hot mic trashing fellow GOP candidates shortly before he suspended his campaign during a town hall in New Hampshire.

  • Needless to say, he didn't endorse any of them.

Christie said on a livestream before the event that Haley β€” who has solidified her second-place polling in New Hampshire, behind Trump β€” is going to get "smoked," Axios' Sareen Habeshian reports.

  • "She's not up for this," he continued.

"[Haley] spent $68 million so far just on TV," Christie said β€” adding that DeSantis spent $59 million, while Christie spent $12 million.

  • Christie said a "petrified" DeSantis called him.

The audio went dead after that.

Former President Trump speaks to an audience member in Des Moines last night, as moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum look toward the crowd. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

As Haley and DeSantis slugged it out in Des Moines, Trump appeared across town on a Fox News town hall in a counterprogramming move where few discouraging words were heard, AP reports.

  • Trump walked onstage to cheers and chants of "USA," stayed at the end to sign autographs and heard one audience member blurt out "love you" after he took her question.

When asked about his previous statements that a second term as president would be about retribution for his enemies, Trump said:

  • "I'm not gonna have time for retribution β€” we're gonna make this country so successful again. ... Our ultimate retribution is success." Video.

6. πŸ₯½ Apple's "era of spatial computing"

Apple says EyeSight for Apple Vision Pro helps the user stay connected to people around them, "giving visual cues to others about what the user is focused on." Photo: Apple

Apple announced this week that Apple Vision Pro will be available for preorder on Friday, Jan. 19, at 8 a.m. ET and will go on sale Friday, Feb. 2, online and at all U.S. Apple Store locations.

Apple is telling developers to refer to the $3,500 headset as a "spatial computing" device rather than a virtual reality or augmented reality product, Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes.

  • That suggests Apple is eager to have us think of Vision Pro not as a gaming product or a competitor to Meta's Quest VR line, but as the start of a revolutionary reordering of the digital landscape Γ  la the iPhone.

Between the lines: Apple has a track record of entering and redefining nascent market segments, from the original iPod and iPhone to tablets and watches.

  • Apple aims to provide an entirely novel user experience with the Vision Pro, involving multiple floating screens and windows, gestural commands, mixed-reality pass-through video and other innovations.
  • "Spatial computing" β€” not a new term, but one previously confined to academic treatises and VR enthusiasts β€” is a reasonably accurate label.

The bottom line: Apple is betting on its unique gravitational pull to muscle a new market into being β€” and set Vision Pro apart from the battered VR sector.

🎞️ Go deeper: Apple released a trailer promoting the Vision Pro with echoes of the first commercial that promoted the iPhone.

7. πŸ•ΆοΈ Scoop: U.S. Chamber pushes for "real story"

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark, in today's annual "State of American Business" address, will extol the virtues of American capitalism β€” which she says are drowned out by news that amplifies "everything wrong, and bad, and dire about this country," Axios managing editor Javier David writes.

  • "We've stopped talking about what it means to be pro-business as a country. That's a problem β€” and it's a shame," Clark says, in remarks shared exclusively with Axios. "There are plenty of critics who want to tell you everything that is wrong with capitalism."

🌀️ Why it matters: The speech comes at a precarious political moment for business β€” under fire and viewed with skepticism from Democrats' left flank and the GOP's populist Trump majority.

In a rallying cry for the business community and its supporters, Clark says that if they aren't "out there telling the real story β€” the American story β€” of opportunity and progress in this country, then no one should be surprised when people believe it's as bad as the headlines and the political ads say it is."

8. 🏈 1 for the road: End of an era

Nick Saban leaves the field after beating Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta in 2021. Photo: John Bazemore/AP

In a surprise, legendary Alabama football coach Nick Saban, 72, is retiring after 17 seasons and 7 national titles.

  • His legacy: His dominance over college football will forever linger in lore. He turned the Crimson Tide back into a national powerhouse, restoring a program once ruled by Paul "Bear" Bryant. Saban's celebrity status reached royalty levels in the state of Alabama. (AP)

🌊 Saban said in a statement: "It is not just about how many games we won and lost, but it's about the legacy and how we went about it. We always tried to do it the right way."

Saban told his players during a 5 p.m. ET meeting before word got out, ESPN reports.

  • He was interviewing potential assistant coaches via Zoom an hour before the meeting.
Photo: Vasha Hunt/AP

🌊 At Saban's statue, along the Walk of Champions at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, fans left offerings of cream pies, roses and Coca-Cola.

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