May 16, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🚨 Breaking: "Joe Biden will base his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, setting up in a city where he has deep ties and in a state that is central to his strategy." (Philly Inquirer)

Bulletin: JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Senate passes bill to ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy.

🚧 If you're in D.C. this morning ... I hope you'll join me at 8 a.m., at 1011 4th St. NW, for breakfast tortillas and conversations with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Whip James Clyburn ... plus a duet on infrastructure with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D). RSVP here.

1 big thing: Biden plots early kill

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden is trying to snuff out his Democratic competitors before the race really gets going, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.

  • His proximity to Barack Obama puts 2020 Democrats in an awkward position because they don't want to be viewed as anti-Obama if they come out against his right-hand man.

Why it matters: By all accounts, Biden's strategy is working — even though his campaign isn't even a month old. And others are noticing and feeling threatened.

  • He's been the frontrunner in polls since before he announced his bid for the White House, and his lead has grown since he entered the race.

Biden's playbook:

  • He's running like it’s a general election, creating the aura of inevitability and showing he's hungry to stare down President Trump.
  • He's effectively dancing around topics like the Green New Deal, which could be a killer in the general election, and instead telling voters about the climate proposal he'll unveil as early as the end of this month.
  • He has promised to never attack a fellow Democrat. As the frontrunner, he's the one who benefits from a primary with minimal infighting. 
  • Early momentum begets money, so his campaign is racing to vacuum up front-runner coin. 

Just look at the way Trump can't stop talking about Biden. Or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and activists like the Justice Democrats relish the opportunity to attack Biden — particularly on climate change.

  • The Progressive Change Campaign Committee said Biden is "our worst foot forward in the general election."

What's next: While most 2020 Democrats haven't thrown punches at Biden, some Democrats say that could change next month.

  • "The debates will be the time everyone tries to take a shot at Biden," said one Democratic operative.
2. WashPost: Trump wants to talk to Iran's leaders
The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, deploying to the Persian Gulf last week, transits the Suez Canal. Photo: Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dan Snow, via AP

President Trump thinks some of his top advisers "could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars," the WashPost reports:

  • "Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders."
  • "Trump grew angry ... over the weekend about what he sees as warlike planning that is getting ahead of his own thinking," per conversations about national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Dispute over the intelligence: "The intelligence that caused the White House to escalate its warnings about a threat from Iran came from photographs of missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf," the N.Y. Times reports:

  • But there are "questions about the underlying intelligence, and complaints by lawmakers that they had not been briefed on it."
  • "[O]ther officials — including Europeans, Iraqis, members of both parties in Congress and some senior officials within the Trump administration — said Iran’s moves might mostly be defensive against what Tehran believes are provocative acts by Washington."
3. Alabama governor signs near-total abortion ban
Photo: Hal Yeager/Alabama Governor's Office via AP

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed the most stringent abortion legislation in the nation, making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases.

What's next, per the Birmingham News: "The language in the bill says it will take effect in six months. But the sponsors said their intent was to trigger litigation that could lead to a challenge of abortion rights nationally."

  • "That ... would involve federal courts blocking the law, followed by appeals aimed at reaching the U.S. Supreme Court as a challenge to ... Roe v. Wade."

Televangelist Pat Robertson said on his show, "The 700 Club": "I think Alabama has gone too far."

  • "It’s an extreme law, and they want to challenge Roe v. Wade, but my humble view is that this is not the case we want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose."
4. 2020 vision: Beto back at it
Screenshot via Facebook

Beto O'Rourke, back in his native El Paso, livestreamed a haircut — using his 17 minutes in the chair to hold an "impromptu town hall" with Facebook users and discuss the immigration story of his barber, Manuel, who moved to the U.S. from Ciudad Juárez.

P.S. "How the Media Fell Out of Love with Beto … Parsing the factors (privilege, intersectionality, more press scrutiny, strategic miscalculation, multiple opponents, Vanity Fair) that contributed to O’Rourke’s early-season swoon," by Peter Hamby for Vanity Fair.

5. Democrats hunt for down-ballot message
Expand chart
Reproduced from Advertising Analytics. Chart: Axios Visuals

Focus groups with Democrats in key states, including Wisconsin and Ohio, suggest that messaging around the Green New Deal and Medicare for All hasn't broken through for all Democratic voters, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Democratic presidential candidates' top issues so far have included climate change, wealth inequality and universal health care — all likely to inform the party's message for down-ballot races in the House and Senate.

In the 2018 midterms, health care was overwhelmingly the top issue in Dems' digital and TV advertising, according to data from Advertising Analytics, a firm specializing in media ad spending and real-time political ad detection.

  • For Democrats, nearly half of all ads for House races (48%) and Senate races (47%) were about health care.
  • Republicans, who lost the House, had no unifying message.
6. White House launches tool for social media censorship complaints
President Trump speaks yesterday at the 38th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service, on the Capitol's West Front. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House launched a rudimentary tool that allows any U.S. citizen to complain of being censored on social media platforms, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: Social media bias has become a major talking point for President Trump and conservatives.
  • This attitude is a complete reversal of the president's stance toward social media platforms since he was inaugurated in 2017.

Details: The new form begins by asking users to submit basic information, including first and last names. It then asks users if they are citizens.

  • If a user clicks "yes," the form continues. If a user clicks "no," a screen pops up saying: "Unfortunately, we can't gather your response through this form. Please feel free to contact us at WhiteHouse.gov/contact."
  • The tool asks users to click which platform they've experienced bias on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or other.

Be smart: Skeptics pointed out that the online form was not very sophisticated and could be easily gamed by anyone who wanted to troll the administration.

7. Tech regulation debate moves from "whether" to "how"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The debate over regulating the power of giant tech companies has rapidly moved from "whether" to "how," Axios' David McCabe reports from Chicago.

  • Why it matters: Today's arguments among companies, academics and regulators over acceptable fixes for the concentration of tech power will set the boundaries of tomorrow's legislation and court decisions.

Driving the news: At a conference this week hosted by the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, participants are weighing proposals for introducing more tech competition.

  • Flashback ... The same conference in 2017 asked: "Is There A Concentration Problem In America?"
  • This year, the key question is: How far governments should go, and what tools should they use?

Go deeper.

8. 26-week parental leave

Bloomberg LP is expanding fully paid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks, Michael Bloomberg announced to the firm's 20,000 employees.

  • The policy is gender-neutral.

Why it matters: "The updated policy is double the average leave policy for U.S. communications and finance firms, and ... 63% more than the average policy for tech firms, according to data from the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index."

  • "The average paid leave ... in the U.S. is 16 weeks at technology companies, 13 weeks in the communications industry and 12 weeks at financial firms."
9. First look: "The Socialist Moment"
Courtesy The New Republic

In the June issue of The New Republic, Doug Henwood explores the Democratic Socialists of America in "The Socialist Network":

  • The organization has begun to wield power in "helping elect fairly radical candidates to office," but notes the distance so far from figuring out "what socialism in the United States would really look like, or how to get there."
10. 1 joe thing

Klatch Coffee, with branches in Southern California and San Francisco, is brewing up what it calls the world's most expensive coffee — at $75 a cup, per AP.

  • Elida Natural Geisha 803 refers to the record-breaking $803 per pound the organic beans sold for at auction after winning the Best of Panama coffee competition.
Mike Allen

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