Aug 26, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Bulletin: "Kenosha Police said early [this] morning that two people had been shot and killed and a third injured during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake; authorities were looking for a man armed with a long gun," reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

🗳️ Join me tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET for an Axios virtual event on future tech, from broadband to wearables, with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Microsoft President Brad Smith and Frank Luntz.

1 big thing: How Trump could pull off another upset

Spotted near Bangor, Maine. Photo: Jeff Worcester for Axios

It feels like August of 2016 all over again. Polls show Donald Trump losing big. Pundits proclaim he can't win. Reporters sneer at Trump voters on Twitter and cable. 

  • This raises the question, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei writes: Could everyone be wrong all over again? 

Why it matters: We have no clue who'll win, but there are several signs that should give the Trump-is-toast self-assured pause.

  • He’s doing better in some swing-state polls than he was at this point in 2016. And his floor of support holds strong, regardless of what he says or does. 
  • Not only is the stock market on fire, but a lot of blue-collar workers in building, plumbing and other manual crafts are doing quite well, too.

Trump’s big bet is that there are a lot of working class voters, especially in rural areas, who did not vote in 2016 but will this time.

  • His other bet is that months of dumping on Joe Biden, often with lies or wild hyperbole, will do what he did to Hillary Clinton: Make the Democratic nominee seem slightly more unpalatable than himself. 

Behind the scenes: People in Trump’s orbit feel much better about the race than they did in mid-June, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

  • These officials feel the operation is becoming more disciplined, and is more centered around a message — that Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris embrace leftist policies, and won’t stand up to the violent excesses of the far left.

A few caveats: Biden has some strengths that Clinton didn’t. He's viewed more favorably — and is stronger among seniors, eating into Trump’s sweet spot.

  • Women and college-educated whites have continued drifting away from Trump.
  • And Trump now has a record to defend, so he doesn’t have the outsider factor that he exploited last time.

Although Biden isn’t as polarizing as Clinton inside or outside the Democratic Party, the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for social justice and progressive changes are tugging Biden to the left.

  • President Obama recently told The New Yorker's Evan Osnos: "If you look at Joe Biden’s goals and Bernie Sanders’s goals, they’re not that different, from a forty-thousand-foot level."

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found 13% of voters remain "in play," enough to tip the election.

  • It also found Trump’s standing with Hispanics is as good if not better than 2016 — and had improved his image by 20 points among whites, who are more than 70% of the electorate.

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2. Cost of closed schools

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When schools close down, the whole economy suffers, Axios' Erica Pandey and Felix Salmon write.

  • Why it matters: Beyond the stress of overwhelmed parents or the cabin fever of restless kids, closing schools for COVID-19 could cost about $700 billion in lost revenue and productivity, according to a Barron's analysis — a whopping 3.5% of GDP.

How it works: Schools exist to educate children — but they also serve a vitally important child care function, looking after kids so that their parents can go to work.

On average, a working parent loses around eight hours a week — a full workday — due to pandemic-era childcare responsibilities, per research by Alicia Modestino, an economist at Northeastern University.

  • That goes up to 10 hours per week when considering lower-income Americans or people of color. Both groups are disproportionately represented in essential, in-person jobs and can't make up for lost time with early mornings or late nights.

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3. Axios-Ipsos poll: The racial gap on coronavirus vaccine
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: 1,084 U.S. adults were surveyed between Aug. 21-24, 2020 with a ±3.3% margin of error; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Black Americans are less likely than white Americans to say they plan to get a flu vaccine this year, and significantly less likely to say they'll take a first-generation coronavirus vaccine, Axios' Bryan Walsh writes from the latest edition of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index (1,084 adults, +/- 3.3 points).

  • Why it matters: Black Americans have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19, which means they also stand to benefit from a successful vaccine.

The backdrop: That trust gap has been created by a legacy of medical mistreatment, systematic racism in health care and targeted efforts by anti-vaxxers.

  • During the 1930s, hundreds of Black men were recruited into what became known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, where doctors permitted the disease to progress without treatment.
  • A 2016 study indicated that Black patients were routinely under-treated for pain compared to whites, in part because many white doctors believed in inaccurate differences between races.
  • Just 5% of active physicians identify as Black, compared to more than 13% of the total U.S. population.

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4. Pics du jour: RNC Day 2

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

First Lady Melania Trump told Americans that "Donald will not rest until he has done all he can to take care of everyone" from a recently renovated Rose Garden last night to cap off the second night of the Republican National Convention.

  • "Addiction has touched every part of our society in some way. And now, more than ever, we have programs and medicine to combat it. We just need to talk about it openly, and you the media have the platforms to make that happen."
  • "No matter the amount of negative or false media headlines or attacks from the other side, Donald Trump has not and will not lose focus on you."
Photo: Republican National Committee via Getty Images

From a rooftop in Jerusalem, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he believes President Trump "has led bold initiatives in nearly every corner of the world" that have kept the U.S. safe.

  • His speech drew criticism for breaking the precedent of America's top diplomats staying out of partisan battles.
Photo: Republican National Committee via AP

And Nicholas Sandmann, the teenager at the heart of a viral controversy after his confrontation with a Native American elder in D.C. last year, took aim at "cancel culture."

  • "I wouldn't be canceled. I fought back hard to expose the media for what they did to me and won a personal victory."
  • At the end of the video, he donned a MAGA hat.
5. Trump pardons bank robber who found Jesus

Photo: Republican National Committee via Getty Images

President Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, a convicted bank robber turned activist, during the RNC last night, calling his story "a beautiful testament to the power of redemption."

  • Ponder started his nonprofit, Hope for Prisoners, as a post-prison re-entry program.
Photo: Republican National Committee via Reuters

Entering a small White House gathering to "Hail to the Chief," President Trump oversaw a naturalization ceremony for several immigrants.

  • In Sneak Peek on Sunday, Axios' Jonathan Swan foreshadowed these actions with his news that Trump would use "executive power as performance art."
6. Biden floods zone with celebrity surrogates

Reporters sit in Wilmington's Chase Center during Billie Eilish's appearance at the DNC. Photo: Olivier Douilery/AFP via Getty Images

With in-person campaigning largely suspended, a parade of movie and TV stars, pop icons and sports standouts are helping Joe Biden raise money and energize supporters, AP's Will Weissert writes from Wilmington.

  • Events this week with celebrities and advocates, including actress Alyssa Milano, are counter-programming the Republican National Convention.

Biden's campaign now has a team of 15 staffers dedicated to organizing surrogate activities.

  • Michelle Kwan — the Olympic medalist figure skater, who is Biden's surrogate director and held a similar post for Hillary Clinton in 2016 — said: "Our artists and actors who are surrogates ... tend to be at home, so their availability and their schedule has opened up."
7. America's new quantum push

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The White House today is announcing over $1 billion to establish 12 new federal research centers dedicated to AI and quantum sciences, Axios' Bryan Walsh writes.

Why it matters: The two fields are among the most important in emerging technology, and the new initiative will help the U.S. assert its international leadership in an increasingly competitive field that will impact everything from national security to climate change.

8. Palantir CEO slams Valley in IPO offering

Alex Karp in May. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Palantir CEO Alex Karp, who recently announced plans to move his company to Denver from Palo Alto, took aim at Silicon Valley in a letter to the software maker's investors, reports CNBC.

  • "The engineering elite of Silicon Valley may know more than most about building software. But they do not know more about how society should be organized or what justice requires."
  • "Our company was founded in Silicon Valley. But we seem to share fewer and fewer of the technology sector’s values and commitments."

Why it matters: Karp's veiled broadsides at Facebook and Google belie a frustration with their business practices while Palantir has faced scrutiny for its secretive government contracts, often focused on intelligence and counterterrorism work.

  • 🎬 Video: Karp previewed his thinking about Silicon Valley "monoculture" in an interview with me for "Axios on HBO" in May.
9. Milestone: Squaw Valley changes offensive name

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

California's popular Squaw Valley Ski Resort will change its name due to its use of a derogatory term for Native American women, AP writes from Tahoe City.

  • The decision was reached after consulting with local Native American groups, and research into the etymology and history of the term.
  • A new name hasn't been picked, but is to be announced early next year.

🇬🇧 Across the pond, the BBC confirmed that "Rule, Britannia!" and "Land of Hope and Glory" will still feature at its patriotic Last Night of the Proms this year, although without lyrics.

  • Some activists had pushed for them to be dropped due to connections with colonialism and slavery.
10. 1 smile to go: Trevor Noah at home
Cover photo: Wayne Lawrence for Variety

Trevor Noah is guiding "The Daily Show" through its pandemic era "from his comfort zone," Variety's Daniel Holloway writes.

  • "This comes from being a stand-up. I want you to feel like I feel, so I need to be in the most comfortable space, where I feel the most intimate with this lens," Noah says.

That means he often records his monologues directly into an iPhone like a YouTube video, wearing a hoodie, in "the little nook where I read books and I play PlayStation and Xbox. This is my Trevor area. So it’s like 'Welcome to me,' essentially."

Mike Allen

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