Oct 4, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

☕️ Good Thursday morning ...

1 big thing ... October surprise: The Brett bounce

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Top Republicans tell Jonathan Swan and me that they're seeing a surprising and widespread surge in GOP voter enthusiasm, powered largely by support for Brett Kavanaugh and his Supreme Court nomination.

  • "The Kavanaugh debate has dropped a political grenade into the middle of an electorate that had been largely locked in Democrats' favor for the past six months," said Josh Holmes, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  • Pointing to Montana, Indiana, West Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee, Holmes added: "[P]rivate polling shows the enthusiasm shift is ... unmistakable in the red states that will determine control of the Senate."

In North Dakota, one of the top races, a Fox News poll yesterday showed Republican challenger Kevin Cramer leading Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) by 12 points (53%-41%) — up from four points last month.

  • "ND now appears out of reach entirely for Democrats," Holmes said.

Another stark example:

  • Missouri Rising Action, a super PAC backing Republican Josh Hawley, yesterday got back numbers from pollster Jim McLaughlin showing Hawley leading Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) by 52-44.
  • That's a huge swing from the previous poll, in June, which had McCaskill leading Hawley 46-42.

Across the critical midterm states, Republicans point to a major mood swing among voters — what one top operative called a "tidal shift."

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released yesterday found that the "wide Democratic enthusiasm advantage that has defined the 2018 campaign up to this point has disappeared," NPR reported.

  • "In July, there was a 10-point gap between the number of Democrats and Republicans saying the November elections were 'very important.' Now, that is down to 2 points, a statistical tie."
  • Republican pollster Glen Bolger, co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, agreed that Democrats' enthusiasm advantage dissipated since the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing. Before that, he said, GOP lassitude was "very scary."

⚠️ Caution from Swan: This doesn't mean GOP problems are solved. They still have a huge problem with independent voters.

  • But GOP pollsters and strategists like Bolger are breathing slightly easier because they are at least more confident now that the Republican base wants to turn out and vote in the midterms.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on a conference call with some major donors yesterday that fresh party polling showed the Kavanaugh fight had awakened Republican voters in some key House districts.

  • McCarthy said on Fox News: "Prior to the Kavanaugh hearing, the intensity level was really on the Democratic side ... But in the last week there has been a fundamental shift."

Be smart: Steven Law — a former McConnell chief of staff who runs the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC — warned that hard data is limited so far. But he said "a broad bitstream of calls, emails, cabbie conversations and other inputs from non-D.C. sources ... suggest a strongly negative reaction that is building far beyond the Beltway to where the Democrats and the media have taken this."

2. White House, Senate receive FBI report
Activists protest in D.C. yesterday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

The FBI's new report on Brett Kavanaugh has been delivered to the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

An administration source tells me there's nothing in it that's likely to stall confirmation.

  • "Never will satisfy critics," the source said. "But it's not problematic."

White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement emailed at 2:29 a.m.:

  • "The White House has received the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s supplemental background investigation into Judge Kavanaugh, and it is being transmitted to the Senate. With Leader McConnell’s cloture filing, Senators have been given ample time to review this seventh background investigation."
  • "This is the last addition to the most comprehensive review of a Supreme Court nominee in history, which includes extensive hearings, multiple committee interviews, over 1,200 questions for the record and over a half million pages of documents."
  • "With this additional information, the White House is fully confident the Senate will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court."

The Senate plans to begin a series of votes tomorrow, with the final vote expected over the weekend.

  • "All 100 senators, and a handful of Senate staff, will be able to read the FBI’s new report," per AP. "They are not supposed to divulge the contents ... According to a preliminary schedule, Republicans will read the first hour, starting Thursday morning, and Democrats will read the hour after that."
  • "[T]he FBI’s report is expected to be held in a secure room normally reserved only for classified matters. There are several of these rooms in the Capitol complex, but senators usually use one in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center just off the Senate side. The rooms are called SCIFs, or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities."
3. Tweet fatigue?

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A new Public Affairs Council/Morning Consult poll reveals that a majority of Americans have become indifferent to President Trump's tweets on business and politics, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.

  • Why it matters: Several polls have revealed Americans distrust political news from social media, but now responses show the president is no exception.
  • Overall, the poll of 2,200 adults revealed that people have a cynical attitude toward information on politics and business news.

The news media is the second most trusted source for political news (46%), yet it scores well below “friends and family” at 71%.

4. Pic du jour
Aaron Favila/AP

This woman is using the recovered mobile phone of her daughter, who was killed in the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit an Indonesian island and killed more than 1,400.

  • Life is on hold for more the than 70,000 who were displaced, AP reports.
  • People living in tents and shelters are unsure when they'll be able to rebuild, and spend hours each day (often futilely) trying to secure necessities like fuel for generators.
5. Navy proposing show of force to warn China

"The US Navy's Pacific Fleet has drawn up a classified proposal to carry out a global show of force as a warning to China and to demonstrate the US is prepared to deter and counter their military actions," CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports:

  • "The draft proposal from the Navy is recommending the US Pacific Fleet conduct a series of operations during a single week in November."
  • Why it matters: "The goal is to carry out ... exercises involving US warships, combat aircraft and troops to demonstrate that the US can counter potential adversaries quickly on several fronts."
  • "[D]efense officials emphasized that there is no intention to engage in combat with the Chinese."
6. Attack by Chinese spies reached almost 30 U.S. companies
Bloomberg Businessweek

Malicious chips inserted in servers during the manufacturing process gave China a stealth doorway into U.S. networks, Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley report in a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story:

  • "In Supermicro [a San Jose-based company that’s also one of the world’s biggest suppliers of server motherboards], China’s spies appear to have found a perfect conduit for what U.S. officials now describe as the most significant supply chain attack known to have been carried out against American companies."
  • "One official says investigators found that it eventually affected almost 30 companies, including a major bank, government contractors, and the world’s most valuable company, Apple."

Keep reading.

  • Statements from Amazon, Apple, Supermicro and the Chinese government.
7. 24-year streak is broken
Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb (Forbes)

The minimum net worth to get on Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans has hit an all-time high of $2.1 billion, according to the magazine:

  1. "Amazon's Jeff Bezos, whose fortune jumped $78.5 billion in one year, leads The Forbes 400 list this year, with a net worth of $160 billion — by far the highest ever."
  2. "Bill Gates, worth $97 billion, who held the No. 1 spot for 24 consecutive years, is now ranked at No. 2."
  3. "Warren Buffett, worth $88.3 billion, comes in at No. 3."
  4. "Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg holds spot No. 4 with a net worth of $61 billion, despite being $10 billion poorer than he was a year ago."
  5. Larry Ellison is worth $58.4 billion.

"Donald Trump’s ranking dropped to No. 259 [from 248] ... but his net worth remained the same from last year at $3.1 billion."

8. Stat du jour: $20,000 for employer to insure a family

For an employer-provided family health plan, average annual premiums rose 5% this year to $19,616, according to the yearly poll of employers by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. (Wall Street Journal)

9. #DiningDisruptions: Restaurants grapple with political protests

Last week's "confrontation between protesters and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and his wife lasted only a minute or so. The fallout for Fiola, the downtown restaurant where the incident took place, has continued for days," chef and co-owner Fabio Trabocchi tells the WashPost's Tim Carman.

  • "[P]rotesters interrupted the couple before they even sat down, chanting 'We believe survivors,' a reference to Christine Blasey Ford. ... The Cruzes were escorted from the restaurant via a side door, apparently never to return."

"The outrage machine immediately engaged. Fiola’s social media accounts were attacked. Its Yelp page was bombarded with ... one-star smears ... Fiola’s phone and reservation lines were tied up with calls — sometimes 50 calls a day from the same number."

  • The owners and staff "were threatened, either for not doing enough to protect Cruz and his wife or for allegedly tipping off the protesters to the senator’s presence."

Why it matters: "Dining disruptions have clearly become a tool for progressives looking to express their frustration at the Trump administration and its supporters."

  • In June, right before Sarah Sanders and the Red Hen, "protesters confronted Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary, as she tried to dine at MXDC Cocina Mexicana."
  • Also in June, "a diner at Espita Mezcaleria called Stephen Miller a 'real-life fascist' while the White House senior adviser tried to eat at the trendy Mexican restaurant in Shaw."
10. 1 fun thing: Gaga reborn (again)
Marilyn Minter for The New York Times

Lady Gaga, 32, "has, over the last decade, arguably moved the entire pop apparatus toward forceful weirdness," Rachel Syme writes in the N.Y. Times Magazine:

  • "Her influence is everywhere — she opened the doors for more female hitmakers to be cheekily bizarre (Miley Cyrus grinding on a wrecking ball, Katy Perry with her sniper-rifle bra filled with whipped cream, Sia living under her wig, even St. Vincent’s indie Fritz Lang affect)."

"Gaga swerved again, and again, and again":

  • "She made a jazz record with Tony Bennett. She made a crunchier, heavy-metallish album called 'Artpop' ... When she turned 30, she released a more minimalist fifth record called 'Joanne' ... She promoted the album in ripped T-shirts and a plain, pink felt hat. She toured dive bars before the arenas."
  • "She also released the Netflix documentary 'Gaga: Five Foot Two,' a vérité glimpse into her daily life as she prepped for the 2017 Super Bowl."

"I asked Gaga ... what we can expect from her next phase. Of course, there’s Vegas and a new record on the way, and she’s reading piles of scripts. But she really didn’t want to discuss any of that. Instead, she just smiled enigmatically. 'Oh,' she sighed. 'I’m just shape-shifting again.'"

About that cover: Photographer Marilyn Minter "had Lady Gaga sit behind a pane of frozen glass and spray it from an airbrush filled with rubbing alcohol and water. Minter then shot her through the glass, as the droplets, streaks and mists continually changed the surface."

  • "The effect is a portrait that appears to be morphing before our eyes."
Mike Allen