Mar 14, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🎬 Tomorrow on "Axios on HBO" (6 p.m. ET/PT): DNC chair Tom Perez talks about diversity, the coronavirus and the future of the Democratic Party. See a clip.

  • And House Majority Whip James Clyburn names names about his top picks for Joe Biden's running mate. See a clip.

Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,186 words ... 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: National emergency wakes up Washington
Teresa Patton, a night custodial supervisor, sprays bleach disinfectant at Progress South Elementary in O'Fallon, Mo. Photo: Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

After business, sports and the arts took dire steps responding to the pandemic, Washington finally caught on yesterday and rushed to make up for lost time.

  • Seven weeks (52 days) after the CDC announced the first U.S. coronavirus case, President Trump finally declared a national emergency.
  • He said the action "gives tremendous powers for things that we need," including access to up to $50 billion for states and localities "in our shared fight against this disease."
  • Asked about the government's failing on making sufficient tests available, Trump replied: "I don’t take responsibility at all, because we were given ... a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time."

At 12:50 a.m. today, the House approved an aid package on a bipartisan vote, 363-40, to provide direct relief to Americans suffering physically, financially and emotionally from the virus, per AP.

  • The package will provide free testing, sick pay for workers, enhanced unemployment benefits and bolstered food programs. Details at a glance.
  • Why it matters: The crush of activity capped a tumultuous week in Washington as the fast-moving virus left ordinary Americans suddenly navigating self-quarantines, school closures and a changed way of life.

Trump tweeted approval this morning: "Good teamwork between Republicans & Democrats as the House passes the big CoronaVirus Relief Bill. People really pulled together. Nice to see!"

  • The bill now goes to the Senate, which will be in session next week.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement: "I believe the vast majority of Senators in both parties will agree we should act swiftly to secure relief for American workers, families, and small businesses."

🦠 Quick catch-up, via AP:

  • White House now conducting temperature checks on anyone in close contact with Trump, Pence.
  • White House physician Sean Conley said in a letter released last night that given that Trump "remains without symptoms, testing for COVID-19 is not currently indicated." Full text.
  • Spain to follow Italy into lockdown as virus cases soar.
  • Apple closing all stores outside China for two weeks, and will only sell online. Apple release.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his country still intends to open Summer Olympic in Tokyo on July 24.
2. Swing voters who view virus through economic lens

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A focus group of swing voters in Edina, Minn., said they're viewing the pandemic primarily as a financial threat — and won't blame President Trump if it triggers a recession, Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Why it matters: The responses show the complexity of how some key voters view the crisis. Their view undermines the conventional wisdom that the president would be punished if a recession begins before the election.

This was the biggest takeaway from an Engagious/FPG focus group Monday.

  • The group included 10 voters who flipped from Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 and one who switched from Mitt Romney in 2012 to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
  • A focus group isn't a statistically significant sample like a poll. But these responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about the 2020 election in crucial counties.

Between the lines: These voters fear health care costs associated with coronavirus, both for treatment and for potential vaccines.

  • Most said insurance companies should waive out-of-pocket costs associated with receiving medical treatment for coronavirus.

The big picture: We've heard underlying financial concerns when swing voters talk about issues they care about heading into the 2020 presidential election.

3. "The world has never faced a moment quite like this"
Courtesy Barron's

Smart Brevity on what The Wall Street Journal calls "the wildest week on Wall Street since the 2008 financial crisis":

  • "Cracks formed in the plumbing that moves money through the financial system. By Friday, central banks around the world were trying to salve the market by flooding it with cheap money, to little effect.
  • 🥊 "Thursday saw the biggest single-day percentage decline in the S&P 500 since 1987; Friday the biggest single-day gain since 2008."

Keep reading (subscription).

4. Artifact of the week
Photo: The White House

The stock market perked up before the 4 p.m. close on Friday, which coincided with President Trump's Rose Garden presser, from 3:30 to 4:42 p.m.

  • The White House sent the above souvenir to allies — including Eric Bolling, host of Sinclair Broadcasting's "America This Week," who shared it with AM.
5. Virus danger behind bars

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. prison and detention systems are dangerously susceptible to the coronavirus, Stef Kight writes.

  • Why it matters: Immigration and corrections systems around the nation are taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 — but they face several systemic challenges.

Driving the news: Visits by family members, friends and attorneys to people held in federal prisons are being halted for 30 days, AP first reported.

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has suspended social visits to immigrants in its custody.

The big picture: Detention and correctional spaces are the "perfect environment for the spread of COVID-19," Leonard Rubenstein, a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins who has studied infectious diseases in prisons, told Axios:

  • "[W]hen we talk about social distancing, it's almost impossible in prisons unless you have complete lockdown — basically, put everybody in solitary confinement."
  • Share this story.
6. New on 2020 trail: Virtual town halls
Lally Doerrer (left) watches Joe Biden's virtual town hall yesterday, in her Chicago living room with neighbors Douglas and Marlene Groll. Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Joe Biden's virtual town hall in Illinois yesterday marks a new normal for campaigning, AP reports:

  • With the Prairie State primary coming up Tuesday, Biden held a town hall from 800+ miles away in Delaware.
  • "I'm sorry this has been such a disjointed effort here because of the connections," Biden said after answering a question about protecting endangered species.

Bernie Sanders has been holding daily press briefings from his home state, and said this is hurting him.

  • "We do more rallies than anybody else, and [they're] often very well attended. I love to do them," Sanders told reporters at a hotel in Burlington. "This coronavirus has obviously impacted our ability to communicate with people in the traditional way that we do. That's hurting."
7. Stat of the week
In England, Tewkesbury Abbey is surrounded by floodwaters in February. Experts say climate change is making serious flooding more frequent in England. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

"2019 was the second warmest year on record," after 2016.

  • "2010-2019 was the warmest decade on record."
  • "Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850," per a UN report.
8. ⚖️ Conservative agenda sweeps federal courts

During his first three years in office, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s assistance, President Trump was able to name nearly as many appellate judges as President Obama appointed over two terms, the N.Y Times reports in a data-driven spread for Sunday's paper:

  • "More than one-third of the Trump appointees have filled seats previously occupied by judges appointed by Democrats."

Two-thirds of Trump appointees are white men, The Times calculates.

9. Pentagon shares strike slides
Photo: Defense Department via AP

These Pentagon graphics show aerial images of sites targeted in U.S. airstrikes in Iraq Thursday.

  • U.S. officials said the airstrikes intended targets were mainly weapons facilities belonging to Kataib Hezbollah, the militia group believed to be responsible for an attack Wednesday on Camp Taji, a base north of Baghdad that houses U.S. and other coalition troops. (AP)
Photo: Defense Department via AP
10. Pre-2020 thinking

As a tiny reminder of how much our perspective changed this week, check out this jarring headline in the WashPost's Sunday Business section, on a workplace advice column that was written in advance:

  • "My secretary is moody and making me anxious. Can't I just tell her to grow up?"
  • In the online version, "secretary" is "office admin."

Unfortunately, the column didn't advise her supervisor to ask: "You've only been here four months. I've been here [xxx]. What may I do to make your life better?"

Mike Allen

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