Oct 18, 2020

Axios Sneak Peek

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

  • Read a dispatch from Israel’s most plugged-in reporter, Barak Ravid, on today's historic flight from Israel to Bahrain. Then sign up for his new, weekly Axios from Tel Aviv newsletter here.
  • We're 16 days from the election.

Tonight's newsletter is 1,348 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing ... Scoop: Black Dems demand minority for Treasury
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some Black lawmakers are demanding Joe Biden tap an African American nominee to lead the Treasury, complicating prospects for establishment women — like Lael Brainard, Janet Yellen and Sarah Bloom Raskin — to become the first female Treasury secretary.

  • That could put high-profile Black candidates from the financial services industry in play, including Roger Ferguson, the CEO of TIAA, and Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments.

The big picture: As a Biden victory looks increasingly likely, Democratic Party interest groups are looking to personnel decisions as a way to consolidate power and steer the direction of his prospective presidency.

  • "We all know that minorities have been mistreated historically by the fiscal policies of this country," Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who is spearheading the effort, told me. "There's no substitute for being in charge."
  • "This is the right time to recognize the most loyal voice of people that the Democratic Party has ever had," Thompson said. "And that's the African American vote."

What we're hearing: Senior Black lawmakers tell Axios' Alexi McCammond and me that they won't settle for departments like Housing and Urban Development or Health and Human Services that have traditionally gone to minorities. They want top-tier and "nontraditional" posts.

  • Within the Congressional Black Caucus, there's a push to make Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio the Secretary of Agriculture.
  • Thompson also has made it clear he wants Biden to look at candidates with different backgrounds. "Everybody couldn't go to Yale and Harvard and Princeton," he said. "We don't want any artificial barriers."

Between the lines: Biden has promised to assemble a Cabinet with racial and gender diversity — and he's aggravated party progressives by not ruling out executives with Wall Street experience.

  • “If you take the left at their word, Mellody Hobson should not be considered because right now she is the president of a major asset management firm; that is wrong,” said Paul Thornell, a Black lobbyist at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas.

Progressives counter there are worthy Black candidates who didn't work on Wall Street.

  • "You don't have to choose between racial diversity and ideological purity," said Jeff Hauser, the founder of the Revolving Door Project.
  • He says Howard University economics professor William Spriggs and Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic are "two progressives who don't come from the financial services sector."

But, but, but: Not all Black lawmakers are prioritizing Black nominees so publicly. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the CBC's chair, tells Alayna Treene the caucus "is singularly focused on making sure Biden-Harris are elected on Nov. 3."

  • “The Biden-Harris transition team is not making any personnel decisions pre-election,” said Cameron French, Biden transition spokesperson.
2. Scoop: What Trump's debate coaches are telling him

President Trump at the Sept. 29 debate in Ohio. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump's team is telling him ahead of Thursday's final debate: Stop interrupting Joe Biden. And try to be more likable.

  • Watch for Trump to tell more jokes and to try, if he can stay on message, to strike a softer tone, Alayna reports. At the same time, aides expect Trump to keep going after Biden's son Hunter.

Be smart: Trump's team thinks that if he'd just yield the stage to Biden while the moderator is asking questions, Biden would wander rhetorically, "look doddering" and "step on himself."

  • "Don’t save him,” is their advice to the president, a Trump adviser tells Alayna.
  • In the September debate, Trump interrupted Biden 71 times, compared with Biden's 22 interruptions of Trump.

What we're hearing: Trump’s team went back to his third debate against Hillary Clinton in 2016 for inspiration. “All Trump has to do is give people permission to vote for him," one source close to the campaign tells Axios.

  • "He did exactly the opposite of that in the first debate. So hopefully he can right the ship in this one, because his re-election may depend on it."

The big question: Will debate prep matter? "It was clear Trump didn’t study his debate document for round one," one campaign source said.

3. Graphic: The green tsunami
Data: FEC; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Go deeper.

4. Trump to push more peace deals in a second term

Meir Ben-Shabbat, head of Israel's National Security Council, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin disembark at Bahrain International Airport today. Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Pool via Getty Images

If President Trump gets a second term, he'll press for more breakthroughs to normalize Israel's relationships with the Arab world, Axios' Barak Ravid reports from Manama, Bahrain, after arriving on a historic flight with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Driving the news: Mnuchin and the White House's Avi Berkowitz led a joint U.S.-Israeli delegation to Bahrain to sign an interim agreement allowing Israel and Bahrain to open embassies in each other's countries.

  • They flew EL AL Flight No. 973 (the international calling code for Bahrain) — the first ever such flight from Israel to Bahrain.
  • The atmosphere aboard was festive, with “Abraham Accords” memorabilia to mark the occasion. Passengers got face masks with U.S., Israel and Bahrain flags from the Israeli prime minister’s office.
  • U.S. officials wanted an agreement signed before the Nov. 3 election, saying that would lock in diplomatic progress, regardless of who wins.

The big picture: Trump has touted the peace treaty between Israel and the UAE and the agreement on diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain as signature accomplishments.

  • Officials on the flight believe if Trump is re-elected it can convince other Arab states to follow.

What they're saying: Mnuchin predicted that the Trump-brokered deals with Israel would be perceived as being even more important than the 1978 Camp David Accords. “People will see in 10 years that this has changed the whole region," Mnuchin told reporters at the back of the plane.

5. What early voting can — and can't — tell us
Adapted from TargetSmart. (Battleground states include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.) Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Democratic strategists think the early numbers show a 2020 electorate that's bigger, younger and more diverse than in 2016 — and not just shifting forward votes that would have otherwise arrived on Election Day, Axios' Stef Kight and I report.

The big picture: Early voting data signals strong Democratic enthusiasm in key battleground states. But strategists in both parties say Republicans could still overtake that advantage with a surge of in-person turnout on Election day.

Details: So far, first-time and infrequent Democratic voters are outpacing registered Republicans with larger margins than in 2016, according to data from TargetSmart, a Democratic firm.

  • “In North Carolina, nearly 1 in 5 ballots cast so far come from those who didn’t vote in 2016," said Greg Speed, president of America Votes.
  • 24.9 million ballots have already been cast. In key states like Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Iowa, more than a quarter of the total number of ballots that were cast in 2016 have already been received.
  • More than six times as many Democrats have cast ballots than at the same point in 2016 — and Republican early voting has nearly quadrupled.

Pennsylvania and Florida are key to watch.

  • 59% of first-time voters who already cast ballots in Pennsylvania are registered Democrats, compared to the just 15% who are registered Republicans. Democratic first-time voters were just barely outvoting Republicans (40% to 38%) at this point in 2016.
  • In Florida, registered Democrats' lead over registered Republicans among first-time voters has grown by nearly 10 percentage points compared to 2016.
6. Sneak Peek diary

Demonstrators opposing the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Washington, D.C., Oct. 17. Photo: John Lamparski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The House is on recess through the election.

  • Negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on a coronavirus stimulus deal are ongoing, though chances of relief legislation before Nov. 3 look grim, Alayna reports.
  • Pelosi told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday that a deal must come together in the next 48 hours in order to get it done before the election.

The Senate will vote on a $500 billion targeted COVID-19 relief bill this week.

  • On Tuesday, they'll vote on an extension of the small business Paycheck Protection Program.
  • On Wednesday, they’ll vote on the remainder of the package, which includes increased funding for testing and schools, as well as enhanced unemployment benefits.
  • It's not expected to pass. It's seen as a political maneuver for Senate Republicans, who are largely out of the negotiations between House Democrats and the White House, to argue they're trying to address economic strife.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is standing firm that his conference won't support a bill in line with the $1.8 trillion–$2.2 trillion price tag being discussed.

On Thursday: The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to send Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination for the Supreme Court to the Senate floor. Go deeper.

President Trump’s schedule:

  • Monday, Trump will deliver remarks at rallies in Prescott and Tucson, Arizona.
  • Tuesday, Trump will deliver remarks at a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania.
  • Wednesday, Trump will deliver remarks at a rally in Gastonia, North Carolina.
  • Thursday, Trump will participate in the presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee.