Oct 30, 2020

Axios AM

Happy Friday! Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,180 words ... 4½ minutes.

💻 Please join me at 12:30 p.m. ET today for a "Facts Matter" virtual event featuring Larry Kudlow ... Hans Nichols talking with Biden policy director Stef Feldman ... and Niala Boodhoo interviewing Conference Board chief economist Dana Peterson.

🏈 Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID and is isolating with mild symptoms — putting into doubt whether the face of college football will play the #1 Tigers' biggest game of the season, against Notre Dame on Nov. 7. Go deep.

1 big thing: Power, pressure for Kamala Harris
Sen. Kamala Harris takes the stage with Alicia Keys in Phoenix on Wednesday. Photo: Nick Oza/The Arizona Republic via Reuters

Progressive leaders see Sen. Kamala Harris, if she's elected vice president, as their conduit to a post-Biden Democratic Party where the power will be in younger, more diverse and more liberal hands, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.

  • Why it matters: The party's rising left sees Harris as the best hope for penetrating Joe Biden's older, largely white inner circle.

If Biden wins, Harris will become the first woman, first Black American and first Indian American to serve as vice president — and would be seen as first in line for the presidency should Biden decide against seeking a second term.

  • Progressives want Biden to look outside of his own network when filling administration positions, and prioritize inclusion across the Democratic caucus over working with moderate Republicans.
Sen. Kamala Harris wears customized Converse Chuck Taylors in Vegas on Tuesday. Photo: David Becker/Reuters

The big picture: Harris wasn't a top choice for progressives during the Democratic primary. But several who spoke with Axios said there's a feeling that she's more accountable to their movement than Biden himself.

What we're watching: Activists hope Harris' portfolio w0uld include criminal justice, systemic racism, voting rights and early-vote expansions, a COVID-19 relief package that addresses racial disparities, and tech accountability.

2. A red flag in Michigan

Rep. Debbie Dingell says she "agreed to disagree" with a Trump demonstrator in Brownstown Township, Mich., on Saturday. Photo via Facebook

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), whose constant working of constituents had her worried ahead of Donald Trump's upset of Hillary Clinton, tells me she's talking to union workers who want more attention from Joe Biden.

  • Dingell — whose district is a mini-America that includes auto and steel plants, Ford's headquarters and the country's largest population of Arab Americans — said she definitely thinks Biden is ahead in Michigan.
  • Biden is up 6.5 points in the state's Real Clear Politics average.

But Dingell said Democrats need to be vigilant about the union vote, amid a focus on turning out women and urban targets.

  • At a Boston Market in Allen Park, an auto worker told her: "Democrats don't care about us and understand what it is like."
  • When Trump demonstrators — complete with trucks and flags — tried to disrupt a Democratic canvassing event in Brownstown Township, she spent 20 minutes talking with one of them, a steelworker who was laid off, and wound up bumping elbows.
3. Virus surge threatens to shut classrooms again

Data: COVID Tracking Project. Chart: Axios Visuals

The nationwide surge in coronavirus cases is forcing many school districts to pull back from in-person instruction, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.

  • Why it matters: Remote learning is a burden on parents, teachers and students. But the wave of new infections, and its strain on some hospitals' capacity, makes all forms of reopening harder to justify.

The big picture: Over 60% of public school students will be attending schools with in-person options, up 20% from Labor Day, Education Dive reports.

4. 🗳️ Tales from the trail: Split-screen Florida
Via Fox News
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Joe Biden's drive-in rally at Broward College in Coconut Creek, Fla., yesterday.

Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

President Trump arrives outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa yesterday.

5. Wall Street's "three-headed monster"

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Investors are facing a "three-headed monster," Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets, tells Axios' Courtenay Brown — a worsening pandemic, a stimulus package in limbo and the imminent election.

  • The threat of further lockdowns — already happening in France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe — alongside a worsening outbreak could dent corporate earnings and the fragile economic recovery.

🗞️ How it's playing ...

The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. economy grew at a 33.1% annualized pace in the third quarter, although GDP still remains well below its pre-pandemic level.

  • Axios graphic, which you got yesterday in an Axios AM Thought Bubble, along with analysis from Axios' Courtenay Brown, Felix Salmon and Alayna Treene.

President Trump, wearing a red "Make America Great Again" cap at a rally in Tampa yesterday:

  • "You see the number today? 33.1 GDP. ... This is the greatest number — 33.1%. If you asked me two weeks ago, I would've said: 'I'll take 12%.' 12% would have been very nice. Nobody ever heard of 12%. 33.1!"
6. California ballot could reshape Valley

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Voters in San Francisco, the greater Bay Area and California at large will vote on issues that could significantly alter Silicon Valley's labor structure, privacy practices and more, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva writes from Northern California.

  • Why it matters: At stake are industry issues like gig workers' employment status and internet privacy, as well as broader measures on business taxes and the region's housing crisis.

Go deeper: Ballot details.

7. Walmart takes guns off shelf

Walmart removed all guns and ammunition displays from its 4,700 U.S. stores this week, citing protests and looting in Philadelphia after the police shooting of a Black man there, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez reports.

  • "We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution," a spokesperson told Axios.
8. New from Ronan Farrow: CIA coverup
Illustration: Eiko Ojala for The New Yorker. Used by permission

Ronan Farrow examines the Trump administration's moves to silence whistleblowers in a new piece in The New Yorker, focusing on a Justice Department lawyer's previously unreported complaint that a CIA program was secretly used to secure drug prosecutions in U.S. courts.

  • The lawyer, Mark McConnell, alleges that CIA Director Gina Haspel said he would have to face repercussions for his actions.
  • "I knew that caving in to bribes or threats would make me unhappy with myself for the rest of my life. Why would I ever acquiesce to that?" McConnell told Farrow.

Keep reading.

9. Intercept founder spotlights lure and limits of solo journalism
Via Substack

More high-profile journalists — most of them white men — are leaving newsrooms to launch newsletters on Substack and other independent publishing platforms, Axios media-trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

  • Glenn Greenwald, a columnist at The Intercept, quit the publication he co-founded after seven years, citing efforts by his editors to "censor" an article critical of Joe Biden.

In a 3,300-word post on Substack, Greenwald said a "repressive mentality" has taken over most center-left newsrooms and academic institutions.

  • The Intercept fired back, writing that Greenwald "was attempting to recycle the dubious claims of a political campaign — the Trump campaign."

What's next: Like tech's bigger social platforms, independent writing platforms will also begin to face tough calls about creators and content they harbor.

10. 🎞️ 1 film thing: Landslide of political docs
From left: Amazon, Apple TV+, HBO Max and Magnolia Pictures (2) via AP

Dozens of new documentaries explore issues from gerrymandering to white supremacists, after filmmakers have rushed to finish before Election Day, AP's Jake Coyle reports.

  • Why it matters: A sense of urgency drives many of the films streaming, airing on TV or playing in theaters.
  • The woeful state of movie theaters during the pandemic hasn't enabled a box-office breakout like Michael Moore's 2004 "Fahrenheit 9/11." But the sheer deluge has put politics at the top of countless streaming-service queues.

Quick clips:

  • "537 Votes": The lesson of Billy Corben's film is clear: vote. The "Cocaine Cowboys" filmmaker's HBO movie returns to Florida 2000.
  • "The Fight": Streaming on Hulu, it documents the ACLU in its battles against the Trump administration, giving an intimate look at attorneys on the front lines in cases involving LGBTQ, immigrant and reproductive rights.
  • "Not Done: Women Remaking America": Sara Wolitzky's documentary, which premiered Tuesday on PBS, looks back on the last few years of the women's movement, starting with the Women's March the day after the inauguration.
  • "Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America's Elections": Simon Ardizzone, Russell Michaels and Sarah Teale's documentary may lead all others in its ability to keep you up at night. The HBO film, relying on cyber-security experts and experienced hackers, details how hackable U.S. voting technology really is.

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