Nov 6, 2018

Axios AM

Mike Allen

🇺🇸 Happy Election Day! Best luck to all the Axios readers who are in the fight, on both sides.

  • See you all night on, where Visuals Editor Laz Gamio and his team of geniuses have spent months building mobile-friendly, audience-friendly, smart brevity graphics to help us see and understand the trends at a glance.
  • 📺 During today's lulls (someone was saying that the Hill was so empty yesterday that it was like a snow day): HBO has made the first episode of "Axios on HBO" free to all. Watch it here.
1 big thing: Trump makes voting great again
In Modesto, Calif., Josh Harder, a Democratic candidate for California's 10th congressional district, talks to a voter in his race to unseat Rep. Jeff Denham. (Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

The Trump effect: It took Donald J. Trump to do what do-gooders, activists, politicians and TV ads failed to do: get the American public interested in midterm elections and the consequences of voting.

  • The dirty, sad truth of congressional elections is Democrats typically suck at voting in midterms.
  • Mostly old, mostly white voters are usually the only ones bothering to show up. Hence, GOP dominance, especially in House races these past few decades. 

No more: Everywhere you look you see signs of record-setting voting on both sides. It’s the only bipartisan show in town! 

  • Polls show record interest in voting — both across the board, and among minority groups. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 81% of likely voters expressed high levels of interest, the most in any midterm since the poll began tracking voter interest in 2006.
  • Polls show the possibility of record youth voting. More than 2.3 million voters under 30 have already voted this year, according to Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic political data firm TargetSmart. At this point in the 2014 midterm cycle, 849,876 voters under 30 had cast ballots.
  • And early voting is setting records across the board (at least partly because it's more available): 30 states reported exceeding their total number of mail and in-person votes cast ahead of the 2014 midterms, per AP.

The current president, the last president and celebrities engaged as never seen before:

  • Trump's fall road show culminated with 11 rallies in eight states in six days, with a triple-header yesterday.
  • In an unprecedented swing for a former president, President Obama held a dozen rallies in 16 days. Yesterday, Obama surprised volunteers at a Fairfax County, Va., field office for Sen. Tim Kaine.
  • Jeff Bridges, who played The Dude in "The Big Lebowski," campaigned for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

Be smart: To the delight of both sides, in a series of technically local and state races, Trump succeeded in his dream of putting himself on the midterm ballot.

P.S. ... The WashPost's Josh Dawsey has a look at Trump's final push: "Early in the day, the president said that people once didn’t care about the 'boring' midterm elections. 'Now it’s like the hottest thing,' he said."

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2. Political ad spending hits new record

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

More money will be spent on advertising this election cycle than any previous midterm cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), which powers the election data website, OpenSecrets.

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Data: Kantar Media. Chart: Axios Visuals

Estimates for TV and radio alone are around $3.27 billion, according to Advertising Analytics. And estimates for digital ad spend come in at roughly $900 million, according to Kantar Media/CMAG.

  • For comparison, local TV dollars have nearly eclipsed local TV dollars spent in 2016's presidential cycle. And since the 2014 midterm election, local cable TV spend nearly doubled and digital spend nearly tripled.

The biggest spenders on both sides were the top PACs, like Priorities USA and House Majority PAC on the left and the Congressional Leadership Fund and Senate Majority Fund on the right.

Republicans and Democrats have each homed in on two major issues in an effort to get voters to the polls.

  • For Democrats, "There's been a lot of message discipline this time around particularly around heath care and the cost of prescription drugs, hikes in premium, and preexisting conditions," says Steve Passwaiter, VP of political advertising at Kantar Media/CMAG.
  • For Republicans, "Trump has moved immigration into almost a parity with health care," says Zac Moffatt, Founder and CEO of Targeted Victory, a digital marketing firm that works primarily with conservatives. "From an execution perspective, Republicans are embracing the president in their marketing."

Be smart: Despite two years of bad press about election meddling and fake news, Google and Facebook, the world's two biggest automated marketing platforms, continue to rake in millions in political ads, due in large part to their ability efficiently target different groups of voters with different messages.

3. Long, jittery night ahead

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

To take the House, Democrats would need to win only eight of the 30 tossup races if every "lean," "likely," and "solid" seat went to the respective party, Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman writes.

  • Republicans would have to win 23 of the 30 tossups: "Not impossible, but difficult."

Here's where things stand as we vote, via Axios' Alexi McCammond:

  • Last-minute forecasts unanimously predict Democrats winning the House and Republicans keeping the Senate.
  • Strategists from both parties have predicted the Democrats will win around 35 House seats (need 23 to flip). That'd be better for Trump than the 37 seats lost on average for a president with an approval rating below 50% during his first midterm election.
  • The generic ballot numbers haven't changed much over the last three months. On Sept. 4, Democrats led by 8.9 percentage points; on Oct. 4 they led by 7.7; and on Nov. 4 they led by 8.1.

Polls are tightening in key Senate races like Arizona, Nevada, and Florida.

  • Defying any blue wave, Senate Republican leaders expect to pick up at least a seat or two.

How the night will unfold, via AP's Ken Thomas:

  • Polls start closing at 6 p.m. ET in Kentucky. But things will really get rolling at 7 p.m., when polls close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and Virginia.
  • Another wave of numbers will begin coming in after 7:30 p.m. from North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia.
  • A big chunk of data will come after 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. when states such as Texas, New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania begin reporting.
  • The 11 p.m. batch of states includes California, home to several competitive congressional races.
  • Alaska, where polls close at 1 a.m. Wednesday ET, will end the night.
Courtesy N.Y. Post
4. Pics du jour

Fox News' Sean Hannity and President Trump went in for a hug last night at the president's final rally of the midterms — in Cape Girardeau, Mo., hometown of Rush Limbaugh (upper right), who introduced Trump.

  • Trump, trying to help Republican Josh Hawley defeat two-term Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), called a series of women onstage: Fox News' Judge Jeanine Pirro (Trump introduced her as "Justice"); his daughter, Ivanka Trump (lower left); and, together, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Counselor Kellyanne Conway and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel.
Clockwise from upper left: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images (2); Carolyn Kaster/AP; Michael Conroy/AP

Below, Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke took the wheel of his minivan yesterday following a rally at the House of Blues in Houston.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
5. Trump, not the GOP, owns the economy
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Data: Survey Monkey online poll conducted Oct. 30–Nov. 1, 2018 among 2,323 U.S. adults. Total margin of error is ±3.0 percentage points. Modeled error estimates: African-American women ±10.0, age 18 to 34 ±6.0, White suburban women ±7.5, Never Hillary Independent voters ±11.5.0, Rural voters ±6.0, Republicans ±4.5, Democrats ±4.5, Independents ±8.0; Poll methodology; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

A majority of Americans approve of President Trump's handling of the economy — the issue that's mattered most to them all year — but it won't be enough to give Republicans a clear advantage in today's midterm elections, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

Why it matters, according to Axios managing editor David Nather: It shows that the economy is one of Trump's strongest issues with the public. So if Republicans don't do well tonight, it will raise new questions about whether they would have done better if Trump had stayed on message and talked about the economy more.

6. Amazon HQ3

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"After conducting a yearlong search for a second home, Amazon has switched gears and is now finalizing plans to have a total of 50,000 employees in two locations," report the N.Y. Times' Karen Weise and J. David Goodman:

  • Amazon "is nearing a deal to move to the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, according to two of the people briefed on the discussions. Amazon is also close to a deal to move to the Crystal City area of Arlington, Va., a Washington suburb, one of the people said."
  • "Picking multiple sites would allow it to tap into two pools of talented labor and perhaps avoid being blamed for all of the housing and traffic woes of dominating a single area. It could also give the company greater leverage in negotiating tax incentives, experts said."
7. "Gait recognition" technology

"Chinese authorities have begun deploying a new surveillance tool: 'gait recognition' software that uses people’s body shapes and how they walk to identify them, even when their faces are hidden from cameras," AP's Dake Kang reports from Beijing:

  • Why it matters: "Already used by police on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai, 'gait recognition' is part of a push across China to develop artificial-intelligence and data-driven surveillance that is raising concern about how far the technology will go."
  • "Chinese police are using facial recognition to identify people in crowds and nab jaywalkers, and are developing an integrated national system of surveillance camera data."
8. Saudi elites remain jailed by crown prince

There are an "unknown number of super-wealthy Saudis who remain detained a full year after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman startled his country by turning Riyadh’s posh Ritz-Carlton hotel into a five-star jail for some of the nation’s most prominent citizens in what he called an anti-corruption sweep," report the WashPost's Kevin Sullivan and Kareem Fahim.

  • "Early this year, the Saudi attorney general said 56 men remained locked up, some the subject of criminal investigations, with more than $106 billion in cash, real estate, businesses, securities and other assets recovered in the Ritz operation."
  • MBS "said in an interview last month with Bloomberg News that only eight men were still being detained. ... But other people familiar with the detentions said the number is much higher, with 45 Ritz detainees still locked up."

P.S. "Turkey still has 'certain evidence' in relation to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that it has not released to the public and it will do so once the investigation is finalized," per the Post.

9. How MSNBC's Steve Kornacki preps for Game Day

Photo: MSNBC

Since today is political journalism's Game Day, we talked with three of the cable stars of election night about how they prep. Here's MSNBC's Steve Kornacki, author of "The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism":

How Steve preps: "I'm in my office right now," he told me by phone. "I am staring at a notecard that's got the — what am I looking at here? — I've got Illinois: I've got the different potentially competitive districts in Illinois. I've got the component counties. I've got the share of each county that's part of the district.  I've got the share of the district the county accounts for. I've got the 2016 Trump and Clinton numbers, and I've got a very rough turnout estimate for each."

  • "So my goal is to internalize as much of this as I can ... The more time I spend writing this, looking at it, staring at it, repeating it, the more I'll internalize."

On the physicality of his reports: "People say I come across a little energetic and I can tell you, it's not an act. It's not shtick. I'm not trying to channel Crazy Eddie from those old commercials or something."

  • "Honestly, It's my natural reaction to what I'm seeing — to all of the different, pieces of information coming in, and the challenge of trying to process them on the fly and make sense of them."

What we'll learn tonight: "I think we're going to find out how much of the polarization or tribalism that was reflected in the 2016 results, how much of it's permanent, at least for the Trump era."

Steve's Game Day ritual, between his "Morning Joe" appearance and the 6 p.m. beginning of his reports from 30 Rock: "I used to go just find a sandwich shop, bring a newspaper, and I would go carve out a couple hours and just zone out, read that."

  • "I think this year I'm going to have to stay closer to the office. But my goal for the afternoon hours is more to step back from trying to do TV stuff and say: 'OK, I've learned what I need to learn for this. Let me just take a few breaths, focus myself.' And then when numbers start coming in, here we go."

Sunday: CNN's Dana Bash ... Yesterday: Fox News' Bret Baier.

"Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd, "Today" co-anchor Savannah Guthrie and "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt rehearse yesterday in 30 Rock's Studio 1A. (Nate Congleton/NBC)
10. 1 phone thing

"'It’s Giant and Has Like Five Million Buttons.' The Office Desk Phone Won’t Die" — Wall Street Journal A-hed by Jennifer Levitz (subscription):

  • "With people carrying smartphones everywhere, a segment of the workforce has a hang up with the clunky office versions. Employees find them annoying and complicated, if they use desk phones at all."
  • "Businesses consider them reliable and secure, and may have put substantial money into their systems, said Jon Arnold, a technology analyst."
  • "People freak out when they have to transfer a call to someone," Rich Costello, a senior communications analyst with International Data Corp., told the Journal. "And if you’re in a call and you want to add someone to the conversation — oh boy, forget it. People just avoid that."
Mike Allen