Aug 13, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Happy Thursday! Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,498 words, 5½ minutes.

  • 💰 Situational awareness: Joe Biden raised $26 million in the 24 hours after he named Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, doubling his previous one-day record and signaling enthusiasm among Democrats, AP reports.
1 big thing: New real-estate gold rush

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Americans of all ages, races and incomes are moving away from urban centers, Axios managing editor Jennifer Kingson writes from New York.

  • Why it matters: Bidding wars, frantic plays for a big suburban house with a pool, buying a property sight unseen — they're all part of Americans' calculus that the virus has permanently changed our lives.

There's a gold rush in real estate across the U.S., driven by record-low mortgage rates and the dawning realization that for many of us, our homes are going to be the only place we work and play for the foreseeable future.

  • The trend started in the spring when school was cancelled in many areas, and has gained steam as companies have allowed workers to continue working from home (in some cases, indefinitely) and as question marks have arisen over in-person school this fall.
  • Spacious single-family homes in suburbs and exurbs are in hot demand, while rents are falling in Manhattan, where landlords are offering deals

What buyers are looking for: Fresh air, backyards, home offices (for two adults), a homeschooling area, space for pets, home gyms — plus proximity to beaches, lakes, parks and bike paths.

  • "Preferences have moved from 'what's a prestigious location?' to 'what's practical?'" Anna DeSimone, a housing finance expert who writes guidebooks for consumers and mortgage professionals, tells Axios.
  • Searches on real estate firm Compass' website for houses with pools are up threefold, CEO Robert Reffkin told CNBC.

As more people do their grocery and household shopping online, proximity to retail stores is no longer a real estate priority.

  • "We're not hearing as much around brick-and-mortar — where's the closest this-or-that," Kris Lindahl, CEO of Kris Lindahl Real Estate, outside Minneapolis, tells Axios. "Instead it's: 'Can we get delivery here?'"

By the numbers: Existing home sales rose 20.7% in June over May, and median housing prices rose in every region of the country, according to the National Association of Realtors.

  • Sales growth is particularly pronounced in the more-affordable South and Midwest, Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist, tells Axios.

Unlike in decades past, the move toward the suburbs doesn't represent "white flight," but rather the work-from-home phenomenon, Yun tells Axios.

  • "The people moving to the suburbs are of all races and ethnicities," Yun said.

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2. Axios interactive: How to vote in all 50 states
Expand chart
Data: RepresentUs. Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Millions of Americans who normally vote in person will turn to early voting or mail-in ballots this fall, Axios' Stef Kight and Naema Ahmed report.

  • Axios is launching an interactive resource, built on research by RepresentUs, a nonpartisan election reform group, to help voters across the country to get the information they need.
  • Click here.

What's next: Minnesota and South Dakota will be the first states to allow voters to cast ballots early in person, starting Sept. 18.

  • California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and D.C. are automatically sending voters ballots — not just applications, as even more states are doing.

But it's complicated:

  • 32 states require mailed-in ballots to be received by Election Day, which could present problems if postal service delays continue through November.
  • Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana and New York require an excuse to vote absentee — though New York is poised to change, and more may follow.
  • 11 states require absentee ballots to be notarized, have a witness signature or be submitted with a copy of an ID.
  • Voters in Rhode Island have until Oct. 13 to request absentee ballots — and Oct. 20 in New Mexico and Nevada — the earliest cut off dates.
Data: RepresentUs. Table: Naema Ahmed/Axios

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3. Biden: "Her story is America's story"

Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Without asking, Sen. Kamala Harris is getting something Joe Biden had to demand of Barack Obama — the right to stay in the Oval Office when everyone else has cleared out, Axios' Hans Nichols writes from Wilmington, Del.

  • What Harris is doing in return: energizing the base, and prosecuting the case against President Trump.
  • "I'm ready to get to work," Harris said in remarks carried live around the world.

Why it matters: From his experience in both the White House and Senate, Biden knows that it’s hard to synchronize movements between two equals. But he’s not offering Harris equality: He’s promising a partnership, not a co-presidency. 

Being there ... In the 24 paces that Biden and Harris took to half court in the Alexis duPont High School gym where the ticket appeared together for the first time, they were in lockstep for the first 16.

  • Biden conducted it like a ballroom dancer, raising his hand behind Harris’ back to get them started, and then again when it was time for her to break for the director’s chair.

Separated at half-court, the two families kept a respectable distance, and appeared to wave to a non-existent crowd. Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself.

  • It was Dr. Jill Biden who couldn’t help herself, and reached out to Harris.

When CNN’s Arlette Saenz asked Biden if they’d campaign together, he hedged: "If the science allows us, you’re going to see us campaigning together."

4. Our weekly map: Cases fall, but don't get too comfortable
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Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments. Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Danielle Alberti, Sara Wise/Axios

America's coronavirus outbreak is slowing down after a summer of explosive growth, Axios health care editor Sam Baker writes.

  • The U.S. is averaging roughly 52,000 new cases per day — still a lot, but about 10.5% fewer than last week.
  • New cases slowed in 21 states — including Arizona, Florida, Texas and Southern states that experienced dramatic outbreaks.

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5. 🚨 We're doing a lot less testing
Data: The COVID Tracking Project. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. is cutting back on coronavirus testing: Nationally, the number of tests performed each day is about 17% lower than it was at the end of July, and testing is also declining in hard-hit states, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

  • Why it matters: This big reduction has helped clear away delays, but fewer tests can undermine our response.

HHS estimated this week that nearly 90% of all tests are being completed within three days — a big improvement.

6. Virus hits cities harder than Great Recession
Data: National League of Cities; Chart: Axios Visuals

With tax revenue in free-fall and expenditures dramatically rising, the pandemic is on pace to crush cities' finances, Axios' Kim Hart reports.

  • During the Great Recession, cities' year-over-year decline occurred over six years. The rapid fiscal plunge cities have felt over the past six months has been a much greater shock to cities' budgets.

Why it matters: Almost all cities are required to balance their budgets, and at this rate they'll have no choice but to cut more services, layoff or furlough more workers and freeze capital projects.

7. Woodward: Kim Jong-un sees "fantasy film" bond with Trump
Cover via Amazon

Bob Woodward — whose new book about President Trump, "Rage," is out Sept. 15 — obtained 25 personal letters between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that have not been public before, according to the book's Amazon listing.

  • I've been at this awhile, and that's the first time I've used that attribution!

Woodward spent extensive time with Trump, including at Mar-a-Lago.

  • "Rage" follows "Fear," Woodward's first book about Trump.

Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a "fantasy film," per the description from Simon & Schuster.

  • "'Rage' draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand witnesses, as well as participants’ notes, emails, diaries, calendars and confidential documents."
8. New amid virus: Newspapers without newsrooms
From the heyday: The Daily News Building on East 42nd Street. Photo: Mel Longhurst/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Facing enormous financial pressure, media companies are giving up on their downtown newsrooms for more permanent work-from-home structures, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Tribune Publishing announced yesterday that it was shuttering its main newsrooms for five papers, including The New York Daily News, The Orlando Sentinel and The Capital Gazette.
  • Condé Nast is considering downsizing from its headquarters at One World Trade Center despite signing a 35-year lease for 21 floors in 2014.

The bottom line: Many of the newsrooms being vacated have historic value and represent the foundation of democracy in America.

9. Dark clouds envelop Pinterest

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Pinterest set out to be a bright spot in cutthroat Silicon Valley, but now faces allegations of mistreatment and a toxic culture by women who held senior roles at the company, Axios' Ashley Gold reports.

  • Former COO Francoise Brougher is suing the company for, she says, firing her in retaliation for speaking up about perceived gender bias.
  • It comes after Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, who are Black, left the company in May — sharing their experiences of racist and sexist comments from co-workers, unequal pay and pushback for speaking out.

The other side: "We remain committed to advancing our culture to ensure that Pinterest is a place where all of our employees feel included and supported, which is why there is an ongoing independent review regarding our culture, policies, and practices," said a Pinterest spokesperson.

The bottom line: With 2,000 employees and 400 million monthly users, the company is beginning to get a taste of the public scrutiny that so many other big social networks grapple with daily.

10. 🏈 NFL's virus tracker
During an Aug. 5 Zoom interview with reporters, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph shows the proximity tracking device. Photo: AP

"It’s weird when someone tells you you’ve been too close for too long,” Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said.

  • But that's NFL 2020, AP's Dave Campbell writes.

Players and staff are wearing a smartwatch-like device that produces audible and visual warnings to help maximize social distancing. They also keep employees not required to interact with players apart from those who must.

  • The tracker can provide instant reports for contact tracing in case of a positive test.
  • The devices are worn during practice but turned in at the end of the day.
Mike Allen

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