Jul 15, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🚀 Good Monday morning! It's Apollo 11 week: Saturday is the 50th anniversary of MEN WALK ON MOON.

You're invited ... If you'll be in D.C. tomorrow, please join me at 8 a.m. for breakfast and conversation with Sen. Tom Cotton; Brian Hook, U.S. special representative for Iran; Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense; and Susan Lund of the McKinsey Global Institute, an author of a huge automation study.

1 big thing: Tough time to be a Trump supporter

Conservatives who reluctantly support President Trump often try to pretend the daily outrage didn't happen.

  • But yesterday's "go back" tweets were like his "both sides" comment on Charlottesville — a transgression that won't instantly fade, and can't be laughed off.

Why it matters: Trump attacked four young, female House Democrats of color who are U.S. citizens, three of whom were born in the U.S. — "a racist trope ... factually inaccurate," as the N.Y. Times put it.

  • "Republicans with a conscience are cringing," a Trump ally said.
  • A former White House official tried to explain Trump for a couple of texts and then just said: "It's insane."

The bottom line: Trump is all-in on us-versus-them politics and does not care if he occasionally crosses the line into racism. Trump allies expect this to get worse, not better.

  • One influential Democrat told me Trump had achieved a tactical win — stoking both his own base and Dems' internal tensions: "His view is that he simply cannot go too far. The line doesn’t exist. ... I'm very worried."
  • The Trump ally said: "He believes the more he puts 'The Squad' front and center, the better his re-election chances get."

As Peter Baker writes on the cover of today's N.Y. Times:

"His attack on the Democratic congresswomen came on the same day his administration was threatening mass roundups of immigrants living in the country illegally. And it came just days after he hosted some of the most incendiary right-wing voices on the internet at the White House and vowed to find another way to count citizens separately from noncitizens despite a Supreme Court ruling that blocked him from adding a question to the once-a-decade census."

Between the lines: With Republican officials staying silent yesterday, the Trump ally told me, "If anything, history has said that this stuff does go away and that it’s not worth the potentially catastrophic political cost of weighing in against him (as a Republican)."

2. Listening to America: Trump's immigration edge

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Swing voters in a focus group in Michigan praised President Trump on immigration — a potential Republican strength in one of the states most likely to determine the 2020 winner, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports from Warren, Mich.

  • Why it matters: Trump won Michigan by less than half a percentage point, so keeping every voter on board is vital.
  • The lengthy conversation of a focus group doesn't yield the quantitative insight of a statistically valid poll. But it illuminates how key groups of voters are thinking and talking among themselves.

The Engagious/FPG focus group included nine people who voted for President Obama in 2012 and Trump in '16, and three who flipped from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.

  • The context: Trump's handling of immigration gets 40% approval and 57% disapproval nationally, according to the latest WashPost-ABC poll.

Participants' comments on immigration sounded a lot like Trump's "America first":

  • The room got really animated when discussing opposition to proposals by 2020 Democrats to give health care to undocumented immigrants.
  • Rhonda H. said: "They’ll come from anywhere and get a house and a car, too. ... I don’t want to be a jerk. I feel terrible for these people, but there are people in this country who are struggling to survive. We need to focus on the United States."
  • Others mentioned veterans or homeless people in the U.S. who they thought should be prioritized over immigrants.

Eight of the 12 participants, including one Romney-Clinton voter, agreed with this statement: "When we give migrants food, clothing, toiletries, and shelter, all we’re doing is encouraging more of them to come to the U.S., and we don’t want that."

3. U.S. loses moonshot mindset
On July 21, 1969, the lunar module approaches the command module, with Earth visible behind the moon. Photo: Michael Collins/NASA via AP

"The Apollo space program was the capstone of an era in which Americans took it for granted that the federal government could and should solve big challenges," writes Greg Ip, the Wall Street Journal's chief economics commentator (subscription):

  • Why it matters: "Not since then has the U.S. tried something as ambitious or as expensive."

The bottom line: "Today, Americans still take risks and solve problems, but they don’t look to the federal government to do it."

  • "[B]ack then, the federal government, enmeshed in the space race and Cold War, spent twice as much as private business" on R&D.
  • "Today, business spends three times as much as the federal government."
  • "We now equate risk-taking and innovation not with moonshots, but with venture capitalists, pharmaceutical labs and internet entrepreneurs."
4. Echo chambers: Fake news outruns fact checks

A study of European elections shows journalistic fact-checking rarely catches up with fake news, Reuters' Alissa de Carbonnel reports:

  • Why it matters: "The analysis by big-data firm Alto Data Analytics over a three-month period ahead of this year's EU elections" shows fact-checkers "are often preaching to the choir."
  • "[O]nline communities ... exposed to junk news in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland had little overlap with those sharing fact-checks."

Go deeper.

5. Bill Gates faces "daunting" nuclear energy future

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The optimism usually radiating from billionaire Bill Gates when it comes to climate change is starting to fade on one of his biggest technology bets: nuclear power, writes Axios' Amy Harder in her weekly "Harder Line" column.

  • Gates told Axios that setbacks he is facing with TerraPower, a nuclear technology firm he co-founded in 2006, has him questioning the future of that entire energy source.

The big picture: At 10% of global power supply, nuclear power is the second-largest electricity source that emits no carbon dioxide. It’s declining in most places around the world, including the U.S., due to aging reactors, cheaper energy alternatives and public unease about radioactive risk.

6. Border Patrol's worst week in recent memory

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol faced one of its worst weeks in modern memory last week as it confronts "a huge and unresolved mismatch between the agency’s founding identity and its current mission," writes Garrett M. Graff for Politico Magazine.

Why it matters: Most of its agents "signed up for a tough job in a quasi-military agency protecting the country against terrorists and drug dealers. They’ve found themselves instead serving as a more mundane humanitarian agency."

  • "CPB doesn’t have the culture to meet this challenge, nor does it have the manpower or support from the rest of government."

Worthy of your time.

7. Beto says relatives owned slaves
Beto O'Rourke campaign

"Beto O'Rourke says he was recently given documents showing that both he and his wife are descended from people who owned slaves," per the AP.

  • In a Medium post, O’Rourke wrote: "Along with other possessions listed in their property log were two human beings, Rose and Eliza."
  • "We all need to know our own story as it relates to the national story, much as I am learning mine. It is only then, I believe, that we can take the necessary steps to repair the damage done and stop visiting this injustice on the generations that follow ours."
8. Biden's new option

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Joe Biden rolled out a health care plan this morning whose policies and political priorities are both rooted firmly in the Affordable Care Act, writes Axios health care editor Sam Baker.

  • Biden's proposal, which includes a new public insurance option as its cornerstone, is more ambitious than anything that was seriously on the table during the ACA debate — but looks decidedly moderate compared to Bernie Sanders' plan.

The bottom line: Health care may be the most defining substantive policy disagreement among the 2020 Dems.

Bonus: Cover du jour
Courtesy N.Y. Post
9. Manufacturers shift from China

"Companies that make Crocs shoes, Yeti beer coolers, Roomba vacuums and GoPro cameras are producing goods in other countries to avoid U.S. tariffs [on imports] from China," writes the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

  • "The biggest beneficiaries of that decline have been other countries in Asia where production costs are low, such as Vietnam, India, Taiwan and Malaysia."

Why it matters: "The moves ... add up to a reordering of global manufacturing supply chains as they prepare for an extended period of uneven trade relations."

10. 1 📺 thing
Courtesy CBS News

Norah O’Donnell at 6:30 tonight becomes anchor of the "CBS Evening News" — the Walter Cronkite chair — then anchors tomorrow from Kennedy Space Center.

Why it matters, from the L.A. Times' Stephen Battaglio: O'Donnell "is faced with the task of making a nightly half-hour newscast a regular appointment for viewers in an era when they are inundated with news throughout the day."

  • "The three network newscasts still collectively averaged 23 million viewers a night in the 2018-19 TV season, compared to around 7 million that Fox News, CNN and MSNBC draw in prime time."
  • "According to data from Kantar Media, the three network evening newscasts took in $518 million in ad revenue in 2018, a 6% decline from 2017."
Mike Allen

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