Mar 19, 2019

Axios AM

Good Tuesday morning.

🎂 C-SPAN is 40: "On March 19, 1979, the cable television industry started C-SPAN as a public service providing unfiltered, unbiased coverage of Congress and the nation’s politics. Forty years later we continue to be your unfiltered view of government."

1 big thing: Trump exploits Facebook — again
Expand chart
Data: Adapted from a Bully Pulpit interactive chart. Chart: Axios Visuals

One of the great controversies of our time involves Russia's use of Facebook in 2016. And President Trump, who spent massively on Facebook in 2016, is doubling down on a Facebook strategy again —and once again, with few people noticing.

  • While 2020 Democrats suck up national attention, Trump's re-election campaign has quietly spent nearly twice as much as the entire Democratic field combined on Facebook and Google ads, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.
  • Trump is outspending the top-spending Democratic candidates (Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris) 9-to-1 in total advertising on Google and Facebook so far.
  • Why it matters: Political advertising strategists say that this level of spending on digital platforms this early in the campaign season is unprecedented.

The data — from Facebook and Google's political ad transparency reports, aggregated by Bully Pulpit Interactive, and covering December 2018 through now — provides a window into the Trump campaign's 2020 strategy.

  • The Trump campaign is led by digital vet Brad Parscale, whose home field is analytics and audience targeting.
  • "We have an experienced team, still together from 2016," a senior member of the Trump 2020 team tells Axios' Jonathan Swan. "But most of all, we have Donald Trump and nothing scales and converts like Trump."

Be smart: Democrats need to woo early donors with proof of momentum, while Trump needs to drive support from his base.

  • "The Trump campaign has built a low-dollar fundraising machine that makes hoarding cash less of a priority," says Michael Beach, CEO of marketing analytics firm Cross Screen Media, and a veteran of GOP presidential ad campaigns.

The bottom line: "Trump’s digital sophistication was one of the most over-reported stories of the 2016 election cycle," says Mike Schneider of Bully Pulpit Interactive. "Trump’s digital head start in the 2020 cycle is one of the most under-reported stories."

2. Kevin Rudd: Freewheeling Mar-a-Lago summit won't work with Xi
Xi welcomes Trump to Beijing in 2017. (Thomas Peter/Pool/Getty Images)

Kevin Rudd — the former Australian prime minister, who's now president of the Asia Society Policy Institute — warns that President Trump's freewheeling diplomatic style won't work with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

  • Rudd, a fluent Mandarin speaker who has as deep relationships at the highest levels in Beijing as anyone in the West, sees an end to the trade war between the U.S. and China — probably within the next month or so.
  • "Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are driven by similar, underlying interests — stronger growth to their respective economies — in trying to put this one to bed as quickly as possible," Rudd says.

But Rudd tells Axios' Jonathan Swan that Trump's preferred approach — meeting Xi at Mar-a-Lago to hash out a final deal — isn't a realistic way to get there.

  • "The deep Chinese learning from the Hanoi outcome is that we Chinese would never allow that to happen to our leader," Rudd says.

Rudd, who's in the rare position of being able to channel both Washington and Beijing, elaborates in an Asia Society Policy Institute post:

  • "Trump, as we have seen throughout his business career and most recently in Hanoi, wants to do a large part of it himself in a final round of brinksmanship with his opposite number."
  • "Unfortunately for the Donald, the Chinese just don’t do it that way with their leaders."

The bottom line, per Rudd: "Whenever the Mar-a-Lago Summit is held between Trump and Xi, ... however it is dressed up, for it to work it will need to be signed off in full in both capitals beforehand by Vice Premier Liu He and his American counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer."

  • "That’s where the art of this particular deal will have to lie, whether President Trump likes it or not."

Go deeper: Read former Prime Minister Rudd's post, "Ending the Trade War."

3. Data du jour
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

What's new: "The AP looked at 424 weather stations throughout the Lower 48 states that had consistent temperature records since 1920 and counted how many times daily hot temperature records were tied or broken and how many daily cold records were set. In a stable climate, the numbers should be roughly equal."

  • The data: "Since 1999, the ratio has been two warm records set or broken for every cold one."
  • "All four seasons have had more hot records broken than cold."

The context: "Most decades in the 20th century had close to an even ratio of hot to cold. The 1930s, driven by Dust Bowl summers, had about 1.4 hot records for every cold."

  • Why it matters: "The AP shared the data analysis with several climate and data scientists, who all said the conclusion was correct, consistent with scientific peer-reviewed literature and showed a clear sign of human-caused climate change."
  • "They pointed out that trends over decades are more robust than over single years."
4. Midwest's latest crisis could be last straw
"Angels of the sky": Volunteer private pilots, including Herb Johansen, dropped supplies and shuttled residents in Fremont, Neb., walled off by flooding. (Nati Harnik/AP)

"The record floods that have pummeled the Midwest are inflicting a devastating toll on farmers and ranchers at a moment when they can least afford it," the N.Y. Times reports.

  • Many in the region fear "that this natural disaster will become a breaking point for farms weighed down by falling incomes, rising bankruptcies and the fallout from President Trump’s trade policies."
  • "Farms filing for Chapter 12 bankruptcy protection rose by 19 percent last year across the Midwest, the highest level in a decade ... Now, many of those farmers have lost their livestock and livelihoods."
5. Poll du jour: Wisconsin 2020

The first Emerson College Wisconsin Poll of the Democratic primary found Bernie Sanders leading strongly in the state at 39%, followed by Joe Biden at 24%.

  • Elizabeth Warren, at 14%, was in third place — the only other candidate in double digits, per Emerson Polling.
  • Without Biden in the mix, the second choice for his supporters shook out as Sanders, 23%; Beto O’Rourke, 20%; Kamala Harris, 16%; and Warren, 14%.

General election: In a vital state, Trump tied or trailed all leading Dems.

  • Biden led the president, 54% to 46%.
  • Trump was in a statistical tie with Sanders, Warren, Harris and Klobuchar.
6. Cory Booker campaign in a nutshell
Screenshot via MSNBC

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told Chris Matthews on MSNBC's "Hardball" last night: "I have friends on the other side of the aisle."

  • "Name them," Matthews pressed.
  • And Booker was willing to do it: Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

The themes Booker hit, per Jonathan Swan: Condemning Trump on his divisiveness and defending John McCain against the president's attacks, plus openness to Republicans — that’s the Cory Booker campaign in a nutshell.

  • When asked if he considers the President to be a racist, Booker said: "Racists think he's a racist and his language hurts people. His language is causing pain, fear — the way he’s talking is making people afraid."

Be smart: Even that answer is revealing of Booker's eagerness to unify.

  • What Booker still lacks: A clear ideology or uncompromisingly progressive policy ideas that would excite the base.
7. One of the books of the year
Random House

Out today from the prolific Evan Thomas, "First: Sandra Day O'Connor" (Random House) ... An astonishing feat of reporting: Over three years, Thomas and his wife, Oscie, interviewed 350 people, including 94 of Justice O'Connor's 108 law clerks, almost all on the record; and seven current and former justices.

Justice O’Connor ... moved — not dramatically, but measurably — in a leftward direction ... Some friends, particularly Westerners, have argued that her hearty Western individualism was altered by spending time hobnobbing with the Washington establishment ... Judge Laurence Silberman, an outspoken conservative on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, suggested that O’Connor was co-opted by what he called the Greenhouse Effect, referring to the influential, liberal-minded New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse ...
Less than forty-eight hours after the Court’s decision [in Bush v. Gore], Justice O’Connor encouraged a mutual friend to recommend to Bush’s recount adviser Jim Baker that the president-elect "immediately communicate his intention to play down lavish inaugural celebrations, the high-profile parties with costly catering, the expensive parades with exotic floats, etc., and perhaps somehow redirect those celebration funds toward underwriting the costs of an extensive study of the election flaws and inconsistencies in this country." The suggestion went nowhere.
8. Article of the day: A risky business in Trump loans

The long, puzzling relationship between President Trump and Deutsche Bank was tense and bitter behind the scenes, David Enrich, finance editor of the N.Y. Times, reveals in a 4,000-word opus, "A Mar-a-Lago Weekend and an Act of God":

  • "Trump told the bank he would use [a $48 million] loan to repay what he still owed the investment-banking division ... Even by Wall Street standards, borrowing money from one part of a bank to pay off a loan from another was an extraordinary act of financial chutzpah."
  • After convincing the bank's Mike's Offitt to grant a $125 million loan, "Trump seemed giddy with gratitude, Mr. Offit recalled. He took Mr. Offit golfing. He flew him by helicopter to Atlantic City for boxing matches."

"After Mr. Trump won the election, Deutsche Bank’s board of directors rushed to understand how the bank had become the biggest lender to the president-elect."

  • "A report prepared by the board’s integrity committee concluded that executives in the private-banking division were so determined to win business from big-name clients that they had ignored Mr. Trump’s reputation for demagogy and defaults."
  • "On Deutsche Bank's trading floor, managers began warning employees not to use the word 'Trump' in communications with people outside the bank. Salesmen who violated the edict were scolded by compliance officers who said the bank feared stoking public interest in its ties to the new president."

Worthy of your time.

  • Enrich has a book on Trump and Deutsche Bank coming next year. Preorder here.
9. George W. Bush defends immigration
Courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Center

Former President George W. Bush, speaking yesterday at a naturalization ceremony in Dallas:

The United States of America is in many ways the most successful of nations. Historically, where immigration is concerned, we are also the most welcoming of nations. And these two facts are related. ...
Amid all the complications of policy, may we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength. 
I hope those responsible in Washington can dial down the rhetoric, put politics aside, and modernize our immigration laws soon. 
As president, I worked hard on comprehensive immigration reform, and I regret that our efforts came up short. Today, emotions can cloud the issue. But here at the Bush Center, we are clear-eyed about the need to enforce our borders and protect our homeland, and about the critical contributions immigrants make to our prosperity and to our way of life.
10. 🇬🇧 1 fun thing: Brexit humor

"France's EU Minister Names Her Cat 'Brexit' Because After He Cries To Go Out, He Won't Actually Leave." (@JoeMyGod; bowler tip: Ina Fried)