Sep 1, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🍂 Good Tuesday morning, and welcome to September!

✈️ Situational awareness: As we predicted in AM yesterday, Delta and American followed United and dropped the hated $200 change fee for most domestic flights.

1 big thing ... Exclusive: The "Red Mirage"
Data: Hawkfish; Graphic: Axios Visuals

The scenario is being called the "Red Mirage."

Hawkfish, Michael Bloomberg's data and analytics firm, revealed modeling to "Axios on HBO" showing it's highly likely President Trump will appear to have won — potentially in a landslide — on election night, even if he ultimately loses.

  • Why it matters: Imagine what it'll be like in America, with its polarization and misinformation, if the vote tally swings wildly in the days after Nov. 3.

What's happening: Way more Democrats are expected to vote by mail than Republicans, due to coronavirus fears, and it will take days if not weeks to tally these. And it's easy to mess up a mail-in ballot: Many will be disqualified.

  • That means Trump — since Republicans' in-person votes will be counted quicker than Democrats' mail votes — could hold big Electoral College and popular vote leads on election night.
  • Hawkfish, which is funded by Bloomberg and does work for the DNC and pro-Biden super PACs, warns that's a very real, if not foreordained, scenario.

Hawkfish CEO Josh Mendelsohn unveiled the "Red Mirage" modeling for Axios White House editor Margaret Talev: "When every legitimate vote is tallied and we get to that final day, which will be some day after Election Day, it will in fact show that what happened on election night was ... a mirage."

Data: Hawkfish survey research (17,263 respondents) showing 19% of Republicans plan to vote by mail, while 69% of Democrats plan to vote by mail. Graphic: "Axios on HBO"

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in response: "The news media should get out of the business of predicting the future."

2. Biden: "Do I look like a radical socialist?"
Joe Biden yesterday at Mill 19 in Pittsburgh. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

In condemning all violence yesterday, Joe Biden laid a trap for President Trump, Axios' Hans Nichols reports:

  • Biden will use the president's refusal to distance himself from violence on the right to further sharpen the distinction the former vice president drew in Pittsburgh: Trump’s rhetoric dials up the chaos; Biden's will dilute it.

"Donald Trump has been a toxic presence in our nation for four years," Biden said.

  • "Poisoning how we talk to one another. Poisoning how we treat one another. Poisoning the values this nation has always held dear. Poisoning to our democracy. ... Will we rid ourselves of this toxin?"

Biden isn't in an ideal position, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes:

  • He's been forced out onto the physical campaign trail because Trump and his Republican allies have dominated the narrative on safety and policing.
3. China censors Hollywood imagination

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's economic carrots and sticks are putting pressure on Hollywood to produce films that might soar in the country's box office — and avoid those that may displease Beijing, Axios China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes.

  • Why it matters: By censoring American blockbusters, Beijing believes it can prevent American and global audiences from imagining the Chinese Communist Party as a major threat, and from viewing the targets of China's repression as victims worthy of sympathy.

The big picture: China's box office is projected to soon surpass the U.S. as the largest film market in the world.

  • The result is an "epidemic of self-censorship" in Hollywood, said Aynne Kokas, assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, and author of the book "Hollywood Made in China."

Keep reading.

4. Lindsey Graham challenger: "This pain is not new"

Photo: "'Axios on HBO"

Jaime Harrison, the Democrat running against Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told Alexi McCammond for "Axios on HBO" that he's driven partly by the pain that Black people have long felt, but that now is getting more attention.

  • "This pain is not new," Harrison said. "That's why I'm working so hard, so that the next generation doesn't have to work hard like this."

"It is hard when I talk to friends and they say the hardest thing that they have to tell their kids is that Santa Claus ain't real, "Harrison continued in the emotional interview.

  • "Well for me, I got two Black boys. And the hardest thing that I have to do is tell them that one day they may lose their life because of the color of their skin."
  • "We are about to close the chapter on the old South and start a whole brand new book that I call the new South. A new South that is bold, that is inclusive, that is diverse."

See a clip.

5. Eli Lilly CEO: U.S. should share vaccine

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks, whose company has a coronavirus treatment in Phase 3 of clinical trials, told "Axios on HBO" that it'd be smart to share with other countries rather than going America first.

  • Ricks, incoming chair of the industry group PhRMA, told me that the goal would be to "protect as much of the planet as we can, versus looking after only one country by itself — creating an island, which would be, I think, illusory."

The big picture: 66% of Americans don't want to share a vaccine right away with the rest of the world if the U.S. gets there first, according to a recent Harris poll.

6. Future of shopping: Walmart+, Amazon drones

Walmart today announced a new membership service for shoppers that it hopes can compete with Amazon Prime, AP reports:

  • Walmart+ will cost $98 a year, or $12.95 a month, and give members same-day delivery on 160,000 items, a fuel discount at certain gas stations and a chance to check out at Walmart stores without having to wait at a register.
An Amazon delivery drone. Photo: Jordan Stead/Amazon via AP

The FAA designated Amazon's Prime Air an "air carrier," making it one of only a handful of U.S. companies — along with UPS and Google's parent, Alphabet — certified to operate as a drone airline, per Bloomberg.

  • Amazon, which is testing drones, and competitors must still clear "imposing regulatory and technical hurdles before small packages holding ... cat food or toothpaste can routinely be dropped at people’s homes."
7. Scoop: Zuckerberg, Chan invest $300 million in election infrastructure

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg are putting up $300 million to promote "safe and reliable voting in states and localities" amid the pandemic, the Center for Tech and Civic Life and Center for Election Innovation & Research will announce today.

  • Zuckerberg told me: "The more I've focused on this election, the more important I've felt it is both to make sure local counties and states have the resources they need to handle these unprecedented conditions, and that people are aware that the infrastructure is in place to make every vote count so they can accept the result of the election as legitimate.
  • Chan said in a statement: "These donations will help to provide local and state officials across the country with the resources, training and infrastructure necessary to ensure that every voter who intends to cast a ballot is able to, and ultimately, to preserve the integrity of our elections."

The Facebook CEO and his wife committed $250 million to CTCL, which will use the money to help local jurisdictions with staffing, training and equipment.

  • Chan and Zuckerberg committed $50 million to CEIR, which focuses on voter education, to assist state and local election officials in making sure elections are secure, and voters have confidence in the outcomes.

Read the release.

8. Michael Schmidt adds intrigue to Trump hospital visit

A montage of Schmidt's scoops. Screenshot via MSNBC

The newsy book by N.Y. Times scoop machine Michael Schmidt — "Donald Trump v. The United States," out today — adds to the mystery surrounding President Trump's sudden visit to Walter Reed amid the impeachment fight last November, explained at the time as a "routine, planned interim checkup":

In reporting for this book, I learned that in the hours leading up to Trump’s trip to the hospital, word went out in the West Wing for the vice president to be on standby to take over the powers of the presidency temporarily if Trump had to undergo a procedure that would have required him to be anesthetized. Pence never assumed the powers of the presidency, and the reason for Trump’s trip to the doctor remains a mystery.

Between the lines: The White House account never added up. This reporting suggests there was more to it.

9. Don Jr. aims to disrupt publishing
Illustration: Eric Yahnker for The New York Times Magazine. Used by permission

Don Jr., out today with "Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats' Defense of the Indefensible," told me he self-published because his massive social channels — 5.5 million Twitter followers, 3.4 million Instagram followers — give him a distribution edge that allows him to keep full control and profits.

  • "You're not beholden to someone else," Trump told me from New York after signing 100 copies at Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue. "I'm actually probably at an advantage."
  • He estimated that about 75% of his bestseller "Triggered" moved online.

As for Don Jr.'s presidential fortunes, Jason Zengerle reported in The New York Times Magazine (subscription) two weekends ago that the son told comedian Jim Norton on a radio show in February:

It’s sort of cool if you’re at a stadium of 15,000 people and they start chanting '46' when you’re speaking ... I don’t know that I’d like the day job, and that’s a big part of it.
10. 1 Hoya thing
Photo courtesy Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba

Georgetown student athletes see this quote as they leave Georgetown's John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center (Vimeo).

Column by the WashPost's Thomas Boswell, who covered the whole career of Georgetown's legendary John Thompson Jr., the first African American coach to lead his team to the NCAA championship, who died Sunday at 78:

Thompson’s pride was the impact he had on his players. And if they didn’t want to receive the full weight of that impact, they could move along — out of Georgetown. The Hoyas’ graduation rate for four-year players was 97 percent, because they knew that, no matter what their academic challenges when they entered, they only had two years to prove they were serious about using school to prepare themselves for life — or give somebody else the chance they were wasting.
Mike Allen

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