January 24, 2024

🐫 Happy Wednesday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,353 words ... 5 mins. Thanks to Noah Bressner for all-night orchestrating. Copy edited by Bryan McBournie.

🗓️ If you're in D.C. next week: Please join me in person on Monday at 6 p.m. for our first News Shapers of 2024. I'll chat with actor Chris Evans and the other two co-founders of civic engagement platform A Starting Point. Request an invite.

1 big thing: Scorched-earth Trump

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a primary election night party in Nashua, N.H., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, as Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Vivek Ramaswamy watch.
Trump takes the stage at his victory party in Nashua, N.H. — with former rivals Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Vivek Ramaswamy. Photo: Matt Rourke/AP

New Hampshire's voters last night drove home a rare consensus between former President Trump, the Biden campaign and top Republicans in Congress:

  • The GOP primary is over, and it's time for the general election to begin, Axios' Zachary Basu writes.

Why it matters: There's one problem. Nikki Haley, who's headed for a double-digit loss to Trump, used her concession speech to insist that the race is "far from over."

  • A disgusted Trump lashed out in response, dropping any pretense of civility as he ripped Haley as an "imposter" standing in his way.

🔎 Zoom in: Haley's speech clearly got under the skin of the GOP front-runner, who unleashed a torrent of grievance-filled posts on Truth Social before taking the stage for a victory speech that was overshadowed by his anger.

  • "You can't let people get away with bulls**t. And when I watched her in the fancy dress that probably wasn't so fancy, I said: 'What's she doing? We won,'" Trump said.
Data: AP. Chart: Axios Visuals. Interactive map here.

Ironically, Trump repeated many of his false claims about past elections — including that he won New Hampshire in 2020 — while calling Haley "delusional" for acting as if she had a good night.

  • Demanding that Haley drop out, Trump went on to say that she would "be under investigation" if she won — ominously suggesting there are skeletons in Haley's closet that "she doesn't want to talk about."

Between the lines: Fresh off his own write-in victory in New Hampshire, Biden issued a statement declaring it's "now clear that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee" and that "the stakes could not be higher."

  • Trump is the presidential matchup that Bidenworld has been rooting for. But a drawn-out primary in which Haley continues to highlight the former president's vulnerabilities also would be welcomed.
  • As Trump told Fox News: "If [Haley] doesn't drop out, we have to waste money instead of spending it on Biden, which is our focus."
Supporters listen to former President Trump's victory speech last night.
Supporters listen to Trump's victory speech last night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

🔮 What to watch: Haley has 31 days to decide whether she wants to risk humiliation in her home-state South Carolina primary, where polls suggest Trump has a big lead — or embrace what appears to be inevitable.

  • Her donors will be making a similar calculation.
Data: AP. Chart: Rahul Mukherjee and Jacque Schrag/Axios

2. 🌀 Haley spins in defeat

Nikki Haley delivers remarks at her primary night rally in Concord, N.H.
Nikki Haley delivers remarks at her primary night rally in Concord, N.H. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

You wouldn't know it from the tone of her speech, but Nikki Haley's path to the nomination is virtually non-existent after she failed to win in the Granite State, Zachary Basu writes.

  • Why it matters: Moderate New Hampshire was her most favorable state on the early primary map.

Even with her odds evaporating, Haley delivered one of the sharpest speeches of her campaign — calmly needling Trump over his court cases, mental competence, refusal to debate and record of losing elections.

  • "Today, we got close to half of the vote," an upbeat Haley declared to the raucous crowd at her watch party, where she vowed to challenge Trump next month in her home state of South Carolina and beyond.
  • "The first party to retire its 80-year-old candidate is going to be the party that wins this election," the 52-year-old Haley quipped in a shot at both Trump and Biden.
The cover of the New Hampshire Union Leader
Cover: New Hampshire Union Leader
Cover: Boston Globe

3. 🫏 Biden's campaign shakeup

President Biden delivers remarks at a campaign rally in Manassas, Va., yesterday.
Biden speaks at a campaign rally in Manassas, Va., yesterday. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

In the face of grim poll numbers, two top White House aides are leaving to join the Biden re-election campaign in Wilmington, Del., Axios' Alex Thompson writes.

  • Deputy chief of staff Jen O'Malley Dillon — who managed President Biden's general election bid in 2020 — and senior adviser Mike Donilon will move to the campaign in the coming weeks.

Why it matters: The Biden team has publicly projected calm. But the personnel moves are a reaction to deep anxieties among Democrats, Biden's team and the president himself that the re-election campaign is falling behind.

  • Biden's most trusted aides have remained in the White House. So top campaign officials weren't fully empowered to make many decisions without the West Wing signing off.

Donilon, one of Biden's most trusted political aides, has worked with him since the 1980s.

  • Except for the president himself, Donilon is often the last person to review and change Biden's speeches.
  • O'Malley Dillon took over as Biden's 2020 campaign manager just as he became the Democratic nominee.
Data: AP. Chart: Axios Visuals

📱 Behind the scenes: Biden last night phoned Granite State Democrats Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Sen. Maggie Hassan, Rep. Ann McLane Kuster and former Gov. John Lynch after write-in results came in.

4. 🤖 AI moral dilemmas

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The creators of AI systems are being forced to make hard choices about what partisan rifts, culture-war chasms and international tensions they want to side with, Ina Fried writes for Axios AI+.

  • Why it matters: AI's makers routinely talk about "alignment with human values" without acknowledging how deeply contested all human values are.

🔬 Zoom in: In the U.S., for instance, you can say your chatbot AI is trained to "respect human life." But then you have to decide how it handles conversations about abortion.

  • Many AI creators who are struggling to prevent their systems from showing racist, antisemitic or anti-LGBTQ tendencies face complaints that they're "too woke."
  • The Grok system from Elon Musk's X.ai is explicitly designed as an "anti-woke" alternative.

Keep reading.

5. 🍽️ Inside the restaurant boom

New restaurants on Yelp per 100k people, 2023
Data: Yelp. Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The restaurant industry is showing signs of life after the brutal pandemic stretch, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj write from new Yelp data.

  • Why it matters: If the new numbers hold up, COVID's impact on the restaurant business was something like a wildfire — clearing out space for new growth in a changed environment.

🧮 By the numbers: Some of the fastest-growing restaurant categories include dessert shops (up 66% in 2023 compared to 2022), creperies (+63%) and hot pot joints (+53%).

  • African restaurants are up 65% from 2019. Peruvian restaurants increased 28%.

🥊 Reality check: Many existing establishments are struggling with high food, rent and labor costs.

6. 📺 Netflix's wild day

Churn rate for select streaming platforms
Data: Antenna. Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

A pair of major media victories for Netflix yesterday reminded investors that it's the only profitable streaming service, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: Netflix's soaring stock is a testament to how good the streamer has gotten at retaining subscribers and avoiding cancellation churn (charted above).

💥 What's happening: The company reported its strongest subscriber growth numbers since the very beginning of the pandemic.

  • Earlier yesterday, it announced a 10-year deal to air one of TV's longest-running weekly programs: WWE's "Monday Night Raw."
  • That deal, valued at more than $5 billion, represents a seismic shift for the entertainment industry as it transitions from linear TV to streaming.

Keep reading ... Get Sara's weekly Axios Media Trends.

7. 🇨🇳 China uses balloons to pressure Taiwan

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

China has sent a growing number of high-altitude balloons near Taiwan in recent days as it steps up pressure on the self-governing island after it held elections this month in defiance of China's claims of sovereignty, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reports.

  • Why it matters: It's part of a larger intimidation effort that Taiwan's defense ministry has called "cognitive warfare" — an attempt to weaken the resolve of Taiwan's residents and leaders.

The balloons come in addition to incursions by Chinese military planes and ships across the Taiwan Strait, which have occurred on a near-daily basis since then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in 2022.

8. 🍔 1 food thing: Monster burger

McDonald's Double Big Mac
Photo: McDonald's

Fast food is getting bigger with today's return of McDonald's Double Big Mac, Axios' Kelly Tyko writes.

  • The burger has four burger patties, Big Mac sauce, pickles, lettuce, onions and American cheese.

Subway just released a Subway Sidekicks trio of footlong snacks — cookies, churros and pretzels.

  • Costco's food court now offers a giant cookie that packs 750 calories.

Share this story ... New: McDonald's state-by-state economic impact.

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