May 13, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Monday morning from Oregon, where all four of my siblings were together with our Mom on Mother's Day.

1 big thing: Trump voters who want Warren policies

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A focus group of swing voters in Sioux City, Iowa, said they're skeptical of the 2020 Democrats but like their proposals, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports:

  • The group backed Obama in 2012, then Trump in 2016 — classic swing voters.
  • The voters strongly supported a student loan debt plan that mirrors Elizabeth Warren's (cancel up to $50,000 in student debt for families making less than $100,000 per year).
  • They also want to tax American corporations, especially big banks, to pay for Trump's infrastructure plans.

These were the main takeaways from the Engagious/FPG focus group of 11 swing voters, all but one of whom would vote for Trump again if he were running against Hillary Clinton:

  • Eight of the 11 voters said that managing student loan debt is a problem for them or someone they know.
  • They're not excited about any of the Democrats running for president, and they only really recognized Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
  • The economy was the issue that came up the most. Although half of the voters thought the national economy is booming, not one said they've seen an improvement in their own wages or financial situation.
2. Swing voters' climate interest rises

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Swing voters in three battleground states want President Trump to do more on climate change, think the weather is getting weirder and don’t know much about the Green New Deal, Axios' Amy Harder writes in her "Harder Line" energy column.

Harder watched three recent focus groups of swing voters, conducted by the nonpartisan research firms Engagious and Focus Pointe Global, in Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa. Her takeaways:

  • There was widespread agreement that Trump should do more on clean energy innovation to reduce carbon emissions.
  • There was general agreement that the weather is getting weirder, and some connected it to climate change.

The bottom line: Energy and climate change seem to be rising in the minds of America’s swing voters. But the interest is less intense than you'd assume from Twitter or cable news.

3. Democrats' non-Trump 2020 problem
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Democrats have more than beating President Trump to fret in 2020: They face an uphill battle to win the Senate, and the possibility of losing House seats, too.

The Senate looks tough to win back for Democrats, who have suffered a string of recruiting disappointments:

  • Democrats need four [Corrected] seats to win a majority — but very few Republican incumbents look beatable right now. Susan Collins, who sits atop the list, is fairly popular in Maine. 
  • The other two most vulnerable Republicans are Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona, who's being challenged by Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut turned gun-control advocate.
  • But even if Democrats somehow took out those three, they'll still struggle to hold onto the seat of Sen. Doug Jones in deep-red Alabama.

Many Democrats wish these 2020 presidential candidates — and possibilities — would run for Senate instead: Beto O’Rourke in Texas, John Hickenlooper in Colorado and Steve Bullock in Montana.

  • In Georgia, Stacey Abrams has said no to the Senate but is still entertaining a presidential run.

In the House, Democrats will have a hard time making big gains:

  • House Republicans need to pick up at least 18 seats to win back control. 31 Democrats represent districts that President Trump carried in 2016; another 12 represent battleground districts that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. 
  • But House Republicans say it'll be difficult to win back control. Trump's likely 2020 path is so similar to his 2016 map that Republicans can't see flipping a lot of districts.
4. Pic du jour
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook took selfies this weekend at the opening of the new Apple Store in the 116-year-old Carnegie Library building in D.C.

5. Asylum interviews get more adversarial
U.S. border wall in Calexico, Calif. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

"Homeland Security officials are making it tougher for people seeking asylum [at the border with Mexico] to get over the first hurdle in the lengthy process of gaining U.S. protection," the L.A. Times' Molly O'Toole reports.

  • Internal memos show Border Patrol agents are getting more power, taking some discretion away from trained asylum officers.

Why it matters: "The new guidance is the latest in a series of steps the Trump administration has taken to try to deter people from applying for asylum or to find ways to reject their claims earlier in the process."

6. Stat du jour

About 1.1 million Americans lost health insurance coverage last year, according to USA Today:

  • About 30.4 million went without insurance in 2018, up from 29.3 million in 2017, according to the CDC.
  • That's the second year the figure rose, after several years of declines under the Affordable Care Act.

Why it matters: Efforts by the Trump administration and Congress to challenge and loosen ACA requirements probably played a role in the lost coverage.

7. Axios analysis: Drugmakers getting richer
Expand chart
Data: Company filings. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A majority of the health care industry's profits in the first three months of 2019 went to the top 10 companies, and nine of those 10 companies were pharmaceutical manufacturers, according to Axios' Bob Herman's quarterly analysis of industry financial reports.

8. China hardens line
The Chengdu Commercial Daily, in the capital of Sichuan Province. (Photo courtesy Kevin Rudd)

Axios AM reader Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister, sends Axios' Jonathan Swan this dispatch on the trade war, from Beijing:

  • "This morning’s papers ... are quite hardline."
  • Rudd calls the latest Chinese stipulations "a reasonably firm 'screw you.'"

Between the lines, from Sinocism's Bill Bishop: The Chinese are digging in, with official media over the weekend making it clear what China won’t agree to."

  • "Now that that's been done officially, it'll be hard for Chinese officials to walk back, even if they wanted to."
  • Subscribe to Bill Bishop's Sinocism.

P.S. ... Larry Kudlow, Trump's economic adviser, asked by Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" if it's U.S. businesses and consumers who pay tariffs on China:

  • "Yes, I don't disagree with that. Again, both sides will suffer on this."
  • Why it matters: Trump insisted in a tweet, incorrectly, that China pays.
9. Russia's new "economic warfare"

Russia is spreading propaganda about a phony "5G Apocalypse" in an effort to make Americans fear the technology, the N.Y. Times' Bill Broad reports.

  • But Putin in February "ordered the launch of Russian 5G networks in a tone evoking optimism rather than doom."

Why it matters: The attack on 5G by Russian network RT America is geopolitically bold, targeting "interconnected, futuristic technologies that would reach into consumers’ homes, aid national security and spark innovative industries."

10. 🏀 1 hoop thing

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

NBA final four: In the West, the Golden State Warriors play a best-of-seven series against the Portland Trail Blazers. And in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks face the Toronto Raptors. That'll determine who tips off in the NBA Finals beginning May 30.

The highlight, from Axios Sports editor Kendall Baker:

  • In a moment so dramatic it felt scripted, Toronto's Kawhi Leonard buried the first Game 7 buzzer-beater in NBA history to put the Raptors through to the next round — and etch his place in playoff lore.
  • See the video.

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Mike Allen