Jul 31, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Happy Wednesday! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,174 words ... < 5 minutes.

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1 big thing: Progressives own Dem debate
Photo: Carlos Osorio/AP

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders looked like Democrats' de facto leaders and policymakers last night, in the opening half of the party's back-to-back Debate 2, which continues tonight on CNN at 8 ET with 10 more candidates.

  • The two progressives dominated the clock: Warren had the most speaking time and Sanders was second, with Pete Buttigieg third.

Warren and Sanders spoke to Democrats who are tired of small ball, Axios managing editor David Nather points out.

  • Warren: "I don't understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States, just to talk about what we really can't do and shouldn't fight for."
  • Sanders: "I get a little bit tired of Democrats afraid of big ideas." 

Why it matters ... Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who warned the party this week about moving too far left, told me after the debate:

  • "No one was the happy warrior — a collective shortcoming. We are so angry at Trump, we are letting it get the better of us."

Axios' Alexi McCammond reports from the debate site in Detroit that CNN's debate structure — with candidates pressed into abbreviated answers, often in response to a rival — frustrated the more centrist campaigns:

  • All of your policy proposals that you share with people watching are suddenly in the context of someone else's policy plan.
  • That eats away at your talking points for those issues, and for your ownership over your own policies.
  • And it's a big win for the progressive wing of the party.

Buttigieg, 37, drew applause when asked if voters should take age into consideration when picking a president:

I don't care how old you are. I care about your vision. ... Because the only reason we got this president is that normal didn't work. ...
[I]f you are watching this at home and you are a Republican member of Congress, consider the fact that, when the sun sets on your career and they are writing your story — of all the good and bad things you did in your life — the thing you will be remembered for is whether, in this moment, with this president, you found the courage to stand up to him, or you continued to put party over country.

Nather's other takeaways: Tough night for the moderates ... Beto O'Rourke vanished ... No one mentioned Joe Biden by name.

2. Bernie's quick turn
Photo via Sanders campaign

A quick-turn solicitation from Bernie Sanders' campaign arrived at 10:05 p.m. ET — 38 minutes before the debate ended:

  • "Make a contribution — of any amount — and we’ll send you our new 'I Wrote the Damn Bill' sticker."

The campaign was capitalizing on this instant-classic moment:

  • Sanders: "Medicare for All is comprehensive — it covers all health care needs. For senior citizens, it will finally include dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses."
  • Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio): "But you don't know that — you don't know that, Bernie. ... "
  • Sanders: "I do know it, I wrote the damn bill."

📺 Behind the scenes ... What to watch tonight, when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are center stage (sorry, I botched the lineup yesterday):

  • To try to make up for Biden's shortcomings last time, some of his prep sessions (though not exclusively) have been with smaller groups of advisers, with aides asking him what he thinks instead of over-prepping and jamming his head.
3. How the debate played online

What we talked about ...

Graphic: Twitter
Graphic: Twitter

... and who we were curious about:

Graphic: Google
Graphic: Google
4. Exclusive: Strong haul by pro-Trump outside groups
President Trump leaves the White House for Williamsburg yesterday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The pro-Trump super PAC America First Action and its affiliated 501(c)(4) nonprofit, America First Policies, jointly raised $17.83 million in the first half of 2019, and will report $21 million in cash on hand to the FEC, Axios' Ursula Perano and Jonathan Swan report.

  • Why it matters: The strong haul shows that President Trump will have a hefty outside infrastructure throughout the 2020 campaign — something he didn’t have last time, and scrambled to put together very late in the game.

Where it stands: The conservative organization, which Trump has blessed and which is led by former Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, has jointly brought in 16,649 total donations from 11,655 different contributors.

  • An America First Action official told Axios the group also had $40 million in outstanding pledges, and collected $3.75 million of that since the reporting period ended June 30.

Between the lines: Trump will have a weapon he didn't have in 2016 — serious TV advertising to assault his Democratic opponent.

5. Another advantage for rich kids ...

"Need Extra Time on Tests? It Helps to Have Cash ... Demand for disability accommodations for schoolwork and testing has swelled. But access to them is unequal and the process is vulnerable to abuse," the N.Y. Times' Dana Goldstein and Jugal K. Patel report:

  • "[P]sychological assessments can cost thousands of dollars, and are often not covered by insurance."
  • Why it matters: "For some families, the ultimate goal [is] extra time — for classroom quizzes, essays, state achievement tests, A.P. exams and ultimately the SAT and ACT."
  • Kathy Pelzer, high-school counselor in an affluent part of Southern California, on pricey disability diagnoses/evaluations: "You’ll get what you’re looking for if you pay the $10,000 ... It’s a complicated mess."

Keep reading.

6. ... And the allure for rich parents

"To Cheat and Lie in L.A.: How the College-Admissions Scandal Ensnared the Richest Families in Southern California" ... Vanity Fair's Evgenia Peretz tells the story of five families drawn into what would become known as Operation Varsity Blues:

  • They were the "perfect targets": "Any parent obsessed with curating an image of affluence, good taste, and beneficence was exactly the sort to fixate unreasonably on a degree from Georgetown or USC."
  • "In a world dictated by status symbols, having 'a kid at Yale' was the Holy Grail, the ultimate proof of a life worth envying — even if their kid was only interested in plugging products on Instagram."

Worthy of your time.

7. State AGs lead the Resistance

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

State attorneys general have become some of the most powerful forces fighting the Trump White House — pushing back against its agenda on hot topics like immigration, energy, health care and more, write Axios' Stef Kight and Sara Fischer.

  • Why it matters: With little legislative action happening in Congress, the executive branch has taken into its own hands implementing the White House agenda. Those efforts have been increasingly challenged by attorneys general — usually Democrats — and some have been blocked by the courts.
8. Stark stat of the day

Migrant children sleep this month on a mattress on the floor of the AMAR migrant shelter in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Photo: Marco Ugarte/AP

911 children, including babies and toddlers, were separated from their parents at the border from June 2018 to June 2019, per ACLU figures reported by AP.

  • About 20% were under age 5.
  • A 1-year-old was separated after an official criticized her father for letting her sleep with a wet diaper.
9. 🎧 What I'm listening to
Courtesy Slate

Charles Duhigg — N.Y. Times alumnus, and author of "The Power of Habit" and "Smarter Faster Better" — launched a Slate podcast, “How To! with Charles Duhigg."

  • The tagline: "What if Dear Abby was an investigative reporter?"

Duhigg tells me the show "represents something new: the introduction of genuinely investigative service journalism in podcasting. We’ll release a new episode, with a new problem and solution, every week."

  • "[O]ur goal is to take listeners’ problems and elevate them with the same dignity and care we treat the presidency, or foreign affairs, or other 'hard news,' while also having a lot of fun."

Five episodes.

10. 1 credit thing: Apple Card

Apple CEO Tim Cook said yesterday on an earnings call that the Apple Card will launch next month, CNBC's Tod Haselton reports:

  • "Goldman Sachs is providing Apple with the software tools for Apple Card, while Apple will provide the service inside of the Apple Wallet app."
  • "The card can be used by tapping an iPhone at a payment terminal, or by using a physical card made out of titanium that Apple will also ship."
Mike Allen

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