October 04, 2020

Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly look ahead from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops.

  • I'm Hans Nichols, Axios' national politics reporter.
  • We're 30 days from Election Day.

Situational awareness: Wearing a mask, President Trump briefly left Walter Reed to drive by and greet supporters outside the hospital. See video.

Today's newsletter is 993 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing ... Scoop: New strategy for veep debate

Sen. Kamala Harris arrives Friday at a voter mobilization drive-in event at UNLV in Vegas. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

President Trump’s hospitalization has changed the game plan for Sen. Kamala Harris for Wednesday's debate, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Harris was preparing to tie Vice President Pence to Trump — then shred Trump on the pandemic, health care, the Supreme Court, civil rights and more.
  • She had planned a handful of anti-Trump zingers.
  • Now, her approach will be less personal, although she won't shy away from the pandemic — or arguing that Pence owns Trump's record.

Team Harris knows Pence is more measured in his delivery than Trump.

  • Pete Buttigieg, a fellow Hoosier and the former mayor of South Bend, is summoning his inner Pence in Harris' debate prep.

As long as Trump is ill, look for an added sensitivity from the Democratic nominees — not because they think Trump would do the same for them, but because of the message they want to send Americans.

  • Sources familiar with the campaign's approach say Biden's speech in Michigan on Friday — which didn't directly attack Trump — will be a guide for Harris.

The intrigue: Harris’ team looked at research on how women are judged more on "likability" and held to a higher standard to prove they're qualified.

  • Harris advisers say their research shows that in public speaking, women are judged overwhelmingly more on physical appearance than on what they say.

The other side: Pence has held at least two 90-minute mock sessions with former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi standing in for Harris, Axios' Alayna Treene scoops.

  • With their similar prosecutorial backgrounds (Harris is also a former state attorney general), Bondi has been trying to channel Harris' slashing debate style.
  • Bondi, a member of Trump’s impeachment legal defense and denizen of cable TV, is dishing out many of the attacks she's received for the last year.

Pence chief of staff Marc Short is running the debate-prep process, ensuring Pence gets advice from all corners, including old friends in Congress and from his time as governor of Indiana.

  • "Pence is a preparation guy," a campaign official told Alayna.
  • The campaign sent "mounds of materials" to Pence's team weeks ago.

2. Biden's next move

Joe Biden arrives in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Friday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Biden campaign’s new plan after Trump’s diagnosis is the old plan, sources tell me: Protect the candidate. Stay the course. No mistakes.

  • Biden and Harris still plan to fly to Arizona on Thursday, but they're traveling from different locations on separate planes. Biden will head to South Florida for an MSNBC town hall on Monday.
  • The campaign is still preparing for two more presidential debates — but it's in discussions with the debate commission about health and safety protocols.

The big picture: Top officials see their spring and summer strategy of limiting Biden’s travel vindicated by events.

  • So watch for short, surgical trips, no big rallies, and a strict adherence to state and national COVID-19 guidelines.

The other side: Trump campaign officials privately admit that his diagnosis has blown up many of their plans in the sprint to November, Alayna reports.

  • The Trump campaign was planning to zero in on its "Biden's hiding in the basement" rhetoric for the rest of the month and draw a sharp contrast between the energy seen at Trump's massive rallies and the slimmer crowds at Biden's events.
  • Trump was planning to hold campaign rallies and hobnob with donors in battleground states for the majority of October.

But with Trump in quarantine for the foreseeable future, the campaign is now relying on members of the first family — Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric and Lara Trump — to carry the torch as part of a new "Operation MAGA" campaign.

  • Pence will also ramp up his travel schedule after Wednesday's debate.

3. Pic du jour

Photo: Erin Scott/Reuters

Chief of staff Mark Meadows listens as White House physician Sean Conley briefs outside Walter Reed today.

4. Democrats' college disadvantage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Republicans are hoping less-concentrated youth voter turnout on campuses that are closed or scaled back this semester can help them from Maine to Florida — in congressional races as well as Trump’s fight, Alayna and Hans report.

The big picture: The coronavirus will hinder both parties' ability to mobilize new voters on college campuses this year, but Democrats may be disproportionately affected.

Where it matters: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Iowa and Maine are home to battleground districts where the youth vote could have the most impact, according to a weighted index created by Tufts.

Between the lines: Quads have always presented a target rich environment for Democrats. But registering first-year students and getting upperclassmen to vote when classes are remote is proving to be is difficult.

What they’re saying: "I follow colleges because colleges on campuses in congressional districts go to Democrats. But if colleges aren’t in, it’s a much easier race. No one is paying attention to that," House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told Alayna.

  • "College kids don't usually vote in an off-presidential year,” he said. “But in a presidential year? They can earn you thousands of votes.”

By the numbers: Turnout among college students was 48.3% in 2016, according to data collected by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tisch College at Tufts University.

  • Young voters favored Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton over Trump 55% to 37%, according to exit polls.
  • But while the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who registered to vote in 2020 is already higher than in November 2016, there's an important caveat: Registration among 18- to 19-year-olds is far behind, according to Tisch.
  • In Pennsylvania, registration among young people (18–24) is down 3% compared to 2016.

5. Sneak Peek diary: The first Monday in October

Ron Stange and his wife, Nancy, join a Trump golf cart parade today in The Villages, Fla. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Supreme Court begins its new term tomorrow.

The House is on recess through the election, but Democratic leadership reserves the right to call members back for a potential vote on a coronavirus stimulus bill, Alayna reports.

  • Lawmakers and Hill staff say there's little chance Congress and the White House will reach a deal before Nov. 3.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has postponed floor activity through Oct. 19, but committee hearings will continue in hybrid fashion.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett are still set to begin Oct. 12.
  • Members are being asked to participate virtually if they can't in person.

Wednesday: Vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City, hosted by the University of Utah.