Axios Detroit

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Happy Friday Jr.

  • We hope you enjoyed those sunny skies yesterday.

🌧️ Today's weather: Rain and snow showers. High near 42.

Today's newsletter is 908 words β€” a 3.5-minute read. Edited by Everett Cook and copy edited by Cindy Orosco-Wright.

1 big thing: Trump leads with Metro Detroit swing voters who say Biden’s too old

President Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House this week. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's age was a big problem for swing voters in Metro Detroit participating in focus groups on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Voters have concerns about Biden's age and fitness, but none who participated in the focus group are concerned he's a threat to democracy.

  • While seven of 14 voters said they would describe former President Trump as a threat to democracy, 10 out of 14 also said they would take the twice-impeached president back over voting for Biden again in 2024.

The big picture: Almost all of the respondents said they believe Biden is showing signs of mental decline.

  • The economy, abortion rights and foreign policy are on the minds of the swing voters who raised concerns over Biden's age more than they did Trump's legal baggage.

The intrigue: Axios sat in on two Engagious/Sago online focus groups Tuesday night with 14 Michiganders who voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020.

  • Eight are independents and six are Republicans. Most are from cities across Metro Detroit and two are from Holland and Jackson.
  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters feel about current events.

What they're saying: "For most of the Michigan swing voters who would take Trump back in November, his receiving a possible felony conviction before the election would barely register as a speed bump," said Rich Thau, president of Engagious, who moderated the focus groups.

Meanwhile, voters in and outside of Arab American communities said that Biden has lost voters who supported him in 2020 over his handling of the war in Gaza.

  • Half of the participants said they've heard from Arab or Muslim friends that "they're not going to support him."
  • "They're going more toward Trump than they are toward Biden," Ann N., a 68-year-old woman from Novi who identified as Arab American, told the group.

What's next: Participants in the focus group also answered questions about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's political future, the state's Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve fund (SOAR), electric vehicles and more.

  • We'll have more on those topics tomorrow.

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2. American automakers' Chinese EV panic

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The Detroit Three automakers consider Chinese electric cars an existential threat even though they aren't for sale in the U.S. yet.

Why it matters: For big legacy automakers like Ford, Stellantis and General Motors, budget-priced Chinese cars represent another Tesla-like seismic disruption, Axios transportation correspondent Joann Muller reports.

  • The local automakers are reassessing their strategies and cutting budgets to stay competitive.

The big picture: The entire industry is worried about the magnitude of what Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares calls "the China offensive."

  • Companies that can't match China's low-cost electric vehicles (EVs) "are going to be in an existential problem," Tavares told Bloomberg.
  • Even the indomitable Tesla CEO Elon Musk is concerned.

Catch up fast: China is the world's largest and fastest-growing automobile market.

  • Chinese cars have long been poorly made. But thanks largely to government support β€” plus access to cheaper batteries and labor β€” the country now makes attractive, affordable models, like the sub-$11,000 Seagull EV from BYD, the world's top seller of EVs and plug-in hybrids.

What we're watching: Chinese cars are already being exported to Mexico, and Chinese carmakers are scouting plants there, the Financial Times reported β€” meaning Mexico could become a back door for selling these cars in the United States.

The bottom line: Detroit has seen this movie before with Japanese and Korean rivals, which filled a need for affordable, efficient cars that consumers eventually embraced.

Go deeper

3. The Grapevine: You heard it here

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

🎣 Check out where to find fish fry dinners being hosted around Metro Detroit as Christians mark Lent, the 40-day holy period before Easter. (Free Press)

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ Vice President Kamala Harris is headed to Grand Rapids on Feb. 22 as part of her "Fight for Reproductive Freedoms" tour ahead of Michigan's presidential primary on Feb. 27. (Detroit News)

🐘 Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra has been recognized by the national Republican party as Michigan's GOP chairman in a vote affirming Kristina Karamo was properly removed from the position this year. (Associated Press)

Bill Post, the Grand Rapids man who invented Pop-Tarts, passed away last week. He was 96. (MLive)

4. What to do this weekend

Downtown Detroit. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

It's Presidents Day weekend β€” here's what's happening across our chilly city:

✊🏽 The Wright Museum's Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design exhibition features over 60 original designs from iconic films like "Black Panther," "Malcolm X," "Do The Right Thing" and more.

  • Carter is the special guest at the museum's $50 event on Friday from 7-9pm.

⛸️ Disney On Ice presents Magic in the Stars at Little Caesars Arena, with the Pistons and Red Wings both on West Coast road trips.

  • Tickets for shows from tonight to Sunday start at $20.

πŸ’½ Listen to Wu-Tang Clan all night at Paramita Sound Saturday starting at 10pm. Free!

πŸ•ΊπŸ½ The Motor City Street Dance Academy celebrates Black History Month with the downtown YMCA for a hip-hop dance workshop from 1-3pm Saturday.

  • Learn jit, breaking and krump from some of the best dancers in the city.
  • The all-ages event is free, with registration required.

🐈 Cat Yoga is exactly what it seems: Enjoy a morning yoga session Sunday with the playful cats at Catfe Lounge in Ferndale at 10am.

πŸ–ΌοΈ Fisher Building tours guided by Pure Detroit are on Saturday for those looking to marvel at the fresco ceilings, marble walls, bronze doors and art deco chandeliers.

  • Tickets: $10.

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Our picks:

πŸ€” Joe is having an internal debate over the best local sports bar to watch a game β€” a place with decent food, where it's not a hassle to get a table with good sightlines to TVs. Thoughts?

🏐 Annalise's favorite sports bar is a bar where you can play sports and also drink. And also watch them if you would like: Detroit City Fieldhouse.

🍜 Sam's favorite sports bar is Pho Lucky's bar to watch George and Greg before a Pistons game.

πŸŽ‚ Everett is wishing his brother a very happy birthday!