August 18, 2020

🗳️ Happy Tuesday! Live now: Axios convention hub, app channel (Apple, Android).

⚡ Breaking ... Amazon is expanding its physical offices in six U.S. cities, adding 3,500 corporate jobs in New York, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Detroit and Dallas, The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

  • Why it matters: The tech giant is "making long-term plans around office work even as other companies embrace lasting remote employment."

1 big thing: Democrats prioritize racial justice

Eva Longoria introduces a tape of Michelle Obama. Photo: Democratic National Convention via Getty Images

On opening night of their awkward but stirring virtual convention, Democrats prioritized racial justice along with the pandemic and the recession.

  • Why it matters: On issues, Joe Biden's widest margin over President Trump in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll is race relations — a 24 point spread.
  • But Democrats have to show Black voters that they're listening, fighting, and making room for their voices in the party, Alexi McCammond writes.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser invoked her 2-year-old daughter as she overlooked the new Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House.

  • George Floyd's brothers, Philonise and Rodney Floyd, led a moment of silence early in the two-hour show.

Between the lines: The Biden campaign included nods to white male Democrats, and to Republicans who might cross over.

  • But the focus was even more on appeals to progressives, women and people of color who didn't bother to vote in 2016, politics editor Margaret Talev notes.

Trump's handling of the virus animated the night's top zinger — from Kristin Urquiza, who wrote a viral obituary for her father, Mark Urquiza of Arizona:

  • "My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life."

Michelle Obama owned the night, and used a line from President Trump’s "Axios on HBO" interview as a rapier: "[H]e is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is."

  • 'Those five words — down from her seven-word catchphrase at the 2016 convention, "When they go low, we go high" — have become a cultural shorthand for Trump's handling of the virus.

The former first lady encouraged viewers to "request mail-in ballots tonight," and urged them to be prepared for chaos at polls:

  • "We've got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on a mask, pack a brown bag dinner and maybe breakfast, too, because we have to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to."

Timekeepers at the N.Y. Times (subscription) say Michelle Obama had the most time (18.4 minutes), followed by host Eva Longoria (12.5 minutes) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (8.4 minutes).

  • Margaret Talev, David Nather, Alayna Treene, Hans Nichols and Sara Fischer contributed reporting.

2. Harris gives Biden big shot of online enthusiasm

Data: NewsWhip. Graphic: Axios Visuals

The addition of Sen. Kamala Harris to the Democratic ticket gave Joe Biden the biggest surge of online enthusiasm he's seen in the entire campaign, Neal Rothschild and Sara Fischer write from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

  • Why it matters: While Biden has been getting much of his momentum from voters who are opposed to President Trump, rather than excited about him, Harris could stir other voters looking for reasons to turn out.

Biden stories received 64 million interactions on social media (likes, comments, shares) last week — 35% higher than the next biggest week of his campaign, according to the NewsWhip data.

  • The 55 million interactions on stories about Harris were higher than Biden had in any other week.

Biden's second-most engaged tweet of the campaign was his announcement of Harris last Tuesday (1.02 million engagements), according to data from KeyHole.

  • No. 1 was: "I can't believe I have to say this, but please don't drink bleach."

Share this story.

3. Trump ad attacks Biden mental faculties

Screenshot from Trump campaign ad

President Trump's re-election campaign launched its most brutal ad of the 2020 election overnight, suggesting Joe Biden has experienced severe mental decline over the past four years, Jonathan Swan scoops.

  • The digital ad, "What happened to Joe Biden," is timed to overlap with the Democratic National Convention, and launches the Trump campaign's four-day takeover of the YouTube masthead.
  • The campaign bought that prime internet real estate in a "high seven figures" digital advertising effort to undercut the DNC's messaging this week.

The new ad splices footage of Biden speaking energetically and articulately in 2015 and 2016, alongside clips of him stumbling over his words and appearing to lose his train of thought during the 2020 campaign.

  • 🥊 It's the harshest president campaign attack in what is shaping up to be an even uglier messaging year than 2016.

Behind the scenes: Earlier in the campaign, some Trump aides privately expressed reservations about attacking Biden over his mental fitness. Several argued that it could alienate seniors. But the proponents of this strategy prevailed.

The other side: "Donald Trump is spectacularly failing every conceivable strategic test by ramping up mentions of this subject at all," Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in response to the ad.

  • The Biden campaign also cited polls suggesting Americans have more confidence in Biden's mental fitness than Trump's. A July Monmouth University poll that found 52% believe Biden has the mental and physical stamina to serve as president, compared to 45% for Trump.

Share this story.

4. How to cover a virtual convention

The New York Times
The Washington Post
From left: Juan Williams, Martha MacCallum, Bret Baier, Dana Perino. Photo: Fox News

5. How QAnon hooks people like a video game

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

QAnon, the conspiracy theory with a galaxy of false claims about everything from coronavirus to 5G to e-commerce, is seen by the FBI as a domestic terror threat. But many followers see it as fun, tech editor Kyle Daly writes.

  • Why it matters: For all its real-world danger, QAnon hooks people by working like a video game. Game designer Adrian Hon argues that QAnon is a lot like an alternate-reality game, in which players follow a trail of clues online and off, to solve mysteries or just discover more clues to chase.
  • QAnon also echoes other game genres, mashing them together to become a highly addictive experience. Intentionally or not, it has rolled up gameplay components from the past several decades of game design.

Keep reading.

6. 🎬 Julián Castro warns Dems of "potential slide of Latino support"

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Julián Castro told Alexi McCammond for "Axios on HBO" that Democrats could win the presidency in November but lose support with Latino voters, which could "benefit the Republicans in the years to come."

  • Castro said the Biden campaign has "to make sure that they are doing everything they can to reach out to a community that already has one of the lowest rates of voting, that needs to be brought into the fold."

The Democratic National Convention has been criticized by some for featuring too few Latino speakers. Castro, the only Latino presidential candidate this cycle, was not asked to be one of the featured, solo speakers.

  • "It's disappointing — no doubt," Castro said. "And I wish that there were more."
  • See a video clip.
Photo: "Axios on HBO"

🎥 See my full interview with Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf.

7. Axios-Ipsos poll: Dems fear in-person campaigning, voting

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll (1,141 U.S. adults surveyed between Aug. 14–17; ±3.1% margin of error). Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Democrats are significantly more concerned than Republicans about the safety of in-person voting and traditional door-to-door campaigning amid the coronavirus pandemic, health care editor Sam Baker writes from the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • Why it matters: The pandemic is causing Democrats to turn from the tools and traditions that typically form the backbone of a successful campaign.

Keep reading.

8. Banner year for SpaceX

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

SpaceX is solidifying its role in the top tier of U.S. space companies — and pressuring the rest of the industry into a new era of spaceflight, Axios Space author Miriam Kramer writes.

  • Why it matters: Instead of remaining the young upstart breaking all the rules, SpaceX is now creating the rules for the other companies involved in the industry.

Keep reading.

9. 100 years ago today: Women win right to vote

In 1916, demonstrators in New York hold a rally for women's suffrage. Photo: AP

The bulletin moved at 1 p.m. on Aug. 18, 1920, breaking the news that the 19th Amendment had been ratified, giving women the constitutional right to vote.

  • AP posted highlights of its century-old coverage, including the "Why it matters" of its day:
Ratification of the suffrage amendment to the Constitution ends a struggle which began in this country before the Colonies declared their independence. It will eventually enfranchise 25,000,000 women.

Keep reading.

10. 🎧 Obama's summer playlist

📱 Thanks for reading Axios AM. Please invite your friends to sign up here.