Jul 5, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

😎 Good Sunday morning, and hope you had a great evening of family and fireworks.

🦠 Situational awareness: At least 15 states broke their single-day coronavirus infection records this week, according to data reviewed by Axios' Orion Rummler.

1 big thing: Sports return stalked by virus

Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Austin Meadows bumps elbows Friday during a workout at Tropicana Field. Photo: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports via Reuters

When MLB teams arrived this weekend for the first summer workouts of 2020, even the loudest crack of the bat couldn't mask the eerie silence of the stadiums, Axios sports editor Kendall Baker writes.

  • Virus cases are surging in Florida ahead of planned restarts for the NBA and Major League Soccer.
  • NFL player reps pushed back on opening plans on a call Thursday, asking why they're rushing back if the virus is such a threat, ESPN reported.

Why it matters: The surging pandemic has cast a shadow over once-optimistic plans from pros and college sports, down to high school and youth leagues.

  • With the likelihood of continuing alerts about positive tests, sports will be a constant reminder of how serious the pandemic remains.

As baseball's spring training began in summer, players stayed six feet apart.

  • Virtually no staff members were on the field. Clubhouse attendants cleaned balls with disinfectant after use. And masked reporters watched from the empty stands.
  • 31 players and seven staff tested positive for COVID-19, an encouragingly low percentage (1.2% of 3,185 tests). 19 teams had at least one player test positive.
  • The Angels' Mike Trout, baseball's best player and an expecting father, said he still hasn't decided whether to play this season, reflecting the tough personal choices being made around the country.
  • Several players, including Dodgers pitcher David Price and the Nats' Ryan Zimmerman, have already said they won't play.

What's next: MLS is scheduled to resume play at Walt Disney World on Wednesday. NBA teams are scheduled to fly there this week.

  • But Florida is suffering one of the nation's worst virus surges, logging one-day records for cases and positive tests.

The bottom line: Sports won't bring the "return to normal" we'd hoped.

2. Independence Day in time of virus
Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

A B-2 stealth bomber flies over the Washington Monument as part of President Trump's pre-fireworks air show.

Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

"Salute to America" guests on the White House South Lawn — few masks, little distance. Trump's remarks continued his divisive themes from Mount Rushmore:

  • "Those that are lying about our history — those who want us to be ashamed of who we are — are not interested in justice or in healing. Their goal is demolition."
  • "We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing. ... We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children."
Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Reuters

The lit window on the upper right is the president's personal quarters.

3. "Sleepy Joe" isn't sticking
Data: Google; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Google Trends data shows President Trump's "Sleepy Joe" name-calling isn't generating nearly the buzz "Crooked Hillary" or "Little Marco" did in 2016, Axios AM editor Shane Savitsky writes.

  • The Trump campaign senses this and has scrambled to rebrand Biden, Jonathan Swan reported, with Trump trying "Corrupt Joe" and targeting his opponent's mental acuity.

Trump's continued attack line about Biden not leaving his basement also hasn't taken hold with voters, according to the search data.

  • Why it matters: Biden's actions in terms of social distancing largely align with voters' own anxieties.

In another sign of Trump's disconnect from the national conversation, searches for "coronavirus" far outpace those for "statues," "police" and "antifa."

4. Columbus toppled by Baltimore protesters
Photo: Spencer Compton via Reuters

"A crowd of shouting protesters yanked down the Christopher Columbus statue near Little Italy, dragged it to the edge of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and rolled it with a splash into the water as fireworks went off around the city on the night of the Fourth of July," The Baltimore Sun reports.

  • Why it matters: "The legacy of the 15th-century Italian explorer, who had long been credited by history textbooks as a hero who discovered America, has come under fire over his violent enslavement of native people."

Below: President Ronald Reagan dedicates the statue on Oct. 9, 1984.

Photo: Lana Harris/AP
5. Why Biden could go big
Courtesy The Economist

"Biden finds himself in landslide territory ... Trump’s flailing has made a Democratic Senate majority possible," The Economist writes:

That opens up the chances of a highly productive presidency which once seemed inconceivable. Before COVID-19 and widespread social unrest, Mr Biden’s candidacy was about restoration — the idea that he could return America and the world to the prelapsarian days of 2016. It transpires that he could have the opportunity to do something big instead. ...
[T]o make lasting change through the federal government you need to win the Senate. And that cannot be done with a candidate at the top of the ticket who frightens the voters. ... [B]ecause he comes across as the grandfather he is, he is viewed with suspicion on the left.
Yet that is precisely what makes him reassuring ... to voters in states like Montana and Georgia where Democrats must win to gain a majority in the Senate. It is Mr Biden’s caution that opens up the possibility of more change than a real radical would.
6. Kanye running (not far)
Via Twitter

Rapper Kanye West is loving the frenzy he touched off during fireworks:

  • He's retweeting every story about him running for president, from the Philippine Star to Reuters.
  • Reality check: Kanye announced last year that he'd run in 2024. The hurdles to getting on enough ballots for Nov. 3 (121 days) are beyond formidable, and the date is late. (Shhh! Don't tell Twitter!)

As ABC's Terry Moran put it on the "This Week" roundtable: "These are serious times. ... We have two old men running for office. America is a tomorrow country. I think the person who better defines what tomorrow looks like is going to win. My hunch is that's not gonna be Kanye. ... His videos will be great, I'm sure."

7. 🇬🇧 There'll always be an England, in two acts
Spotted yesterday in Shaldon, England. Photo: Tony Hicks/AP

Act I ... "Naked men and drunks: England assesses the reopening of pubs" ... AP headline as UK restaurants and pubs reopen for the first time in three months.

Act II ... BBC presenter Lewis Vaughan Jones had this deadpan opening for a newscast on July 4, which they could take a little personally across the pond:

  • "Welcome to the program. President Trump has declared the United States to be the greatest and most virtuous nation in the history of the world, in a speech marking Independence Day."
8. 📷 Caught in the act
Photo: Christopher Sadowski for the New York Post. Cover courtesy N.Y. Post

The New York Post spotted Michael Cohen, who was released from federal prison in May to serve his sentence at home because of the pandemic, dining out Thursday night on the Upper East Side.

  • The president's former fixer lingered at a sidewalk table at Le Bilboquet, a French restaurant around the corner from his Park Avenue apartment.

"Cohen, his wife, Laura, and another couple spent about an hour chatting before they became the last patrons to leave around 11:30 p.m.," the Post reports.

  • Why it matters: Legal experts told the paper that the meal may cost Cohen his freedom.
Photo: The Daily Telegraph. Cover: Courtesy N.Y. Post

In a second classic Post cover, the paper today shows a newly surfaced 2002 shot of Ghislaine Maxwell, just-captured accused madam of Jeffrey Epstein, sitting on Queen Elizabeth II's throne, next to Kevin Spacey.

  • The private tour of Buckingham Palace, including the stop in the throne room, had been arranged by Prince Andrew, reports The Daily Telegraph.
Mike Allen

📱 Thanks for reading on this holiday weekend. Please invite your friends to sign up here.