Aug 7, 2018

Axios AM

Good Tuesday morning. It's Election Day in Ohio, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan and Washington state. Live results all evening on

Situational awareness: "Cars and trucks with electronic driver assist systems may not see stopped vehicles and could even steer you into a crash if you're not paying attention, an insurance industry group warns," per AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher.

  • "The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in a paper titled 'Reality Check,' issued the warning [today] after testing five of the systems from Tesla, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo on a track and public roads."
  • "The upshot is while they could save your life, the systems can fail under many circumstances."
1 big thing: Why companies rarely talk about Trump

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A new study from Morning Consult finds that for most major companies, there is no upside in discussing the president, Axios media expert Sara Fischer reports:

  • Regardless of whether the message is positive or negative, it's far more likely to generate backlash for most companies than draw positive reactions.

Why it matters: Brands that stay true to their corporate values in messaging face less reputational risk than those that react directly to being called out by President Trump or his tweets.

  • The tech industry has been most out-front in taking stands on public issues, especially immigration, and other companies have taken stands on guns.

According to the study, only 30% of people will have a more favorable view of a company if it issues a positive statement about Trump. At the same time, only 32% will have a more favorable impression if it issues a negative statement.

  • The backlash can be worse from a negative statement. Most Trump voters (56%) have a much less favorable view of a brand if it says something negative about the president, while only 32% of Clinton voters say they would have a much more favorable view.
  • The bottom line: Regardless of what a company says about the president, an overwhelming majority (70%) of Americans will either disapprove or simply won’t care.

The big dilemma for brands is that they're being pulled in two directions when it comes to political and issue messaging:

  • On one end, consumers want companies to take a stand on certain issues, like civil rights and racial equality. The business risk in staying silent on corporate values can be massive, according to Edelman's Earned Brand study.
  • On the other, most consumers don't like it when companies address issues pegged to the president, even if many of his actions — like his recent tweets criticizing LeBron — bring certain issues to the public debate.

The solution: Brand experts tell Axios that there's a clear way to navigate the Trump trap — or being pulled into a politically-charged conversation with the president: Focus on long-term corporate values in response to being called out.

  • Just don't mention his name.
2. Immigration is chief motivator of GOP right now
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Data: SurveyMonkey online poll, Aug. 1–3, of 2,421 U.S. adults. Margins of error at the 95% confidence level are ±3 percentage points for total, ±9.5 for African-American women, ±6 for age 18–34, ±7 for suburban white women, ±10 for “Never Hillary” independent voters, and ±6 for rural. Poll methodology. Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

What you think of Trump on immigration — is what you think of Trump.

  • In key voter groups we're tracking with SurveyMonkey, there's almost perfect alignment between President Trump's approval rating on immigration and his popularity.

In our new poll, Axios' Stef Kight writes, rural voters are Trump's iron wall of defense: They give him rock-solid backing on his overall immigration policy, as well as his signature issue — his proposed border wall.

  • Their views are at odds with the majorities who disapprove of his policies in both cases.
  • DACA, an Obama-era policy that gives deportation protection to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, is supported even by rural voters, 61% to 35%.
  • White suburban women, a vital group for Trump to retain in 2020, oppose the wall 54% to 44%.

The bottom line: Three months out from midterms, more than half of voters disapprove of Trump's immigration policies, support DACA and oppose building a border wall along the southwest border.

  • So rural voters are the only key group he can count on— while Democrats can focus on turning out everyone else.
3. Women CEOs replaced by men
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Data: Fortune (CEOs and company rankings at the time each year's list was published). Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The announced departure of PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, one of the world’s most prominent corporate leaders, is "a stark reminder that the absence of women at the very top of corporate America remains a problem," the N.Y. Times' Julie Creswell reports on A1:

  • "She was one of 11 such women at the helm of the biggest American companies in 2006. She’s now one of only 25 in the Standard & Poor’s 500."
  • "In recent months, the list of departing female chief executives has included Denise M. Morrison at Campbell Soup, Margo Georgiadis at the toy company Mattel, Sherilyn S. McCoy at Avon, Irene Rosenfeld at Mondelez and Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard."
  • All five were replaced by men — as was Nooyi, whose successor is Ramon Laguarta, currently PepsiCo president.

Legacy: Nooyi moved toward more nutritious products and limiting environmental impact — values she called “Performance with Purpose.”

Female CEOs in S&P 500 ... Of 339 CEOs who have held the top job at an S&P 500 company for at least two years, only 16 — 5 % — were women, per AP. These remain after Nooyi's departure:

4. Pic du jour
Flames consume a home in Lake County, Calif., last week. (Noah Berger/AP)

"The Mendocino Complex fire is now the largest wildfire in modern California history, scorching more than 283,000 acres and frustrating firefighters as it continues to leap across natural and man-made barriers in Lake County," north of Sacramento, per the L.A. Times:

  • The blaze is only 30% contained and is still growing.
  • "The blaze surpassed the Thomas fire, which burned through more than 281,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties late last year."
  • "There are 18 large wildfires burning across California, scarring a combined 559,000 acres."
  • More than 14,000 firefighters are battling the fires, per AP.
5. Silicon Valley's ballot-box awakening

From left: Brian McClendon, Suneel Gupta, Phil Weiser

A handful of candidates with ties to the technology industry are on the midterm election ballots this year, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva and Kim Hart write:

  • Why it matters: Many in the technology industry long believed that building companies and developing new technologies is more impactful than working in politics. But President Trump's election was a turning point away from the tech industry’s well-known political apathy.
  • The desire to tackle problems with better tech, resources, processes, or management is a common theme among the candidates.

The 2016 election seems to have shaken the broader tech industry into a political awakening, with tech company employees becoming more politically active, and some even forming organizations to put their skills to work, like Tech for Campaigns.

  • Unsurprisingly, all of the tech candidates Axios identified are Democrats who, like many in the left-leaning tech industry, supported Hillary Clinton.

Here are three of tech-rooted candidates, all of whom cited the 2016 election when we asked why they ran:

  • Brian McClendon, running for Kansas secretary of state, is a former Uber and Google executive and entrepreneur.
  • Suneel Gupta, running in Michigan’s 11th congressional district, sold a nutrition management startup two years ago and was previously a Groupon executive.
  • Phil Weiser, running for Colorado attorney general, is a former White House technology adviser and deputy attorney general in the Obama administration, and launched the popular Silicon Flatirons tech policy conference in Boulder.

Reality check: While these candidates can confidently sell the importance of STEM education, tech jobs and broadband access, they often lack experience dealing with constituents' other priorities.

6. On Iran, it's Trump v. Europe

"The U.S. moved to reimpose punishing sanctions on Iran and threatened even-tougher measures for later this year as the Trump administration sought to increase pressure on the Tehran regime to negotiate or step aside," the Wall Street Journal's Michael Gordon writes:

  • Why it matters: The executive order signed yesterday by President Trump was the broadest economic action against Tehran since he said in May the U.S. would withdraw from Obama's Iran nuclear accord, which lifted sanctions.

"Hours after Monday’s announcement, European officials registered their opposition to the new sanctions":

  • "They said the remaining parties to the Iran agreement — Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the EU — would work to maintain financial channels with Tehran and facilitate Iran’s continued exports of oil and gas."

Trump tweets: "The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!"

P.S. N.Y. Times Qu0te of the Day ... Amir Sherafari, who sells fruit and vegetables in Tehran, describing the atmosphere of economic anxiety as Iranians prepare for the renewal of U.S. penalties:

  • "People think twice about even buying an ice cream."
7. Gates says he stole for — and from — Manafort
Bill Hennessy for NBC News

"Rick Gates — the star witness against President Trump’s former campaign chairman — admitted in federal court ... that he committed a host of crimes with his former boss, and confessed to stealing from him and others," per the WashPost's Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Ann Marimow and Devlin Barrett:

  • "Gates catalogued years of illegal activity, saying most of his wrongdoing was committed on behalf of his former boss, Paul Manafort, while other crimes were for his own benefit, including the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars."
  • "Gates also made clear that he was testifying against Manafort with the hope of receiving a lesser prison sentence."

Why it matters: "Manafort’s trial in Alexandria, Va., is the first to arise out of the Mueller probe and marks a major public test of that investigation’s credibility."

8. Don't ask Paul Ryan about Trump anymore
January 2016 (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In the upcoming N.Y. Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich notes that when House Speaker Paul Ryan announced in April that he wouldn't seek re-election, he was "ending a 20-year run in Congress that, for most of it, seemed to be on a straight-up trajectory":

  • "Ryan should, by rights, be riding out of town at the pinnacle of his starlit Washington career. Yet he remains a distinctly awkward match to a moment — and president — that seem certain to define much of his legacy."

Leibo was there when Ryan got a call from President Trump. "The president saw me on 'Fox & Friends,'" Ryan said after stepping out. "He said he thought I looked good. ... That happens to me a lot,” Ryan added, referring to his post-TV attaboy.

  • Ryan, seizing the opening, steered Trump to trade policy: "After a few minutes, the conversation concluded with Trump reiterating to Ryan that he 'looked good' on 'Fox & Friends.'"

Ryan to Leibo:

"I’m very comfortable with the decisions I’ve made ... I would make them again, do it again the same way ... I think some people would like me to start a civil war in our party and achieve nothing."

Worthy of your time.

9. Remembering Paul Laxalt, Reagan "first friend"
Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) and his wife, Carol Laxalt, in his office in 1980. (CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

"Paul D. Laxalt, a United States senator and close friend of Ronald Reagan’s whose insights aided his presidential campaigns and presidency, died Monday in McLean, Va. He was 96," the great Adam Clymer writes for the N.Y. Times:

  • "As governor of Nevada from 1967 to 1971, Mr. Laxalt got to know Mr. Reagan when he was the governor of neighboring California, and they worked together to clean up the increasingly polluted Lake Tahoe."
  • "When Mr. Reagan ran for president in 1976 and 1980, Mr. Laxalt was his campaign chairman, and he served as general chairman of the Republican National Committee during the Reagan presidency. In private, he continued to address the president as 'Ron.'"
  • "As a Republican senator from Nevada from 1975 to 1987, Mr. Laxalt was known for a firm conservatism conveyed courteously."

Reno Gazette Journal's Siobhan McAndrew: "Laxalt and Reagan ... teamed up in 1976 when Reagan ran as an insurgent candidate against Republican President Gerald Ford. Laxalt chaired the campaign."

  • "What sprouted from that 1976 campaign was the conservative revolution led by an undeterred Reagan, with Laxalt at his right hand."
  • "The 1980 campaign got off to a rocky start for Reagan including an abysmal debate performance and a loss to Bush in Iowa."
  • Reagan biographer Lou Cannon: “Laxalt told him bluntly, ‘You were sitting on your ass in Iowa and you have to get off it and work.'"
10. 1 crazy stat

"In the year since the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville [anniversary is Sunday], about 75 Confederate memorials have been renamed or removed from public places across the nation, according to a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group," per USA Today's Rick Hampson:

  • "That’s in addition to another 40 or so that were erased in the year after a white supremacist opened fire on a Bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015."

"But today, the law center's list of public Confederate memorials — monuments, place names, symbols, holidays — is 237 entries longer, at 1,740, than in 2016."

  • "That’s because the same outrage that led to the removal of some memorials has led to the identification of others."
  • "Confederate sites, most of them established long ago, are being discovered faster than they’re being removed."

Thanks for reading. See you on, with election updates all night.