Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

President’s Trump’s M.O. is to project confidence in every setting: Even in small groups, he's loath to reveal even a tincture of self doubt. On North Korea, though, there have been private moments when his breezy talking of "winning" has evaporated and confidants found him almost awestruck by the enormity of what he’s confronting.

Why it matters: This isn’t just a big real estate deal or even a blustery trade standoff. The stakes are infinitely beyond anything he’s dealt with, and Trump knows it. The closest the president has come to being privately rattled has been when the rhetoric with North Korea got hot last year, and the world braced for the worst.

A lot of the other potential crises Trump faces — turmoil in the Middle East and a trade war with China — seem abstract and distant to him, sources close to tell Jonathan Swan and me.

  • But the way he's discussed North Korea and the threat of nuclear war suggests to sources who've discussed the subject with him that this threat is more vivid and real to him.
  • Nobody has given us a convincing theory why — perhaps it's him growing up as a child of the 1950s. But he registers the North Korean threat viscerally in a way he doesn't seem to register any other threat. 

Why it matters: Now, Trump is trying to defuse one of the world’s greatest risks, with a partner — “Little Rocket Man” — who looked ready to deal, but now suddenly sounds like he's returning to brinksmanship.

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Cleanup on aisle Biden

Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

After two gaffes and a low blow from President Trump questioning his faith, Joe Biden spent Thursday evening off his own message — clarifying comments and responding to attacks.

Why it matters: Biden’s responses reflect what we could see a lot more of in the next few months — cringeworthy comments and Trump smears, smacking into each other and pulling the Democrat off course.

2020 election strategy: Hire all the lawyers

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus has sent overall U.S. unemployment into the double digits — but it's a sort of full-employment act for election law attorneys.

The big picture: The prospect of extended court fights over COVID-19-related voting changes, an absentee ballot avalanche, foreign interference and contested presidential results has prompted a hire-all-the-lawyers binge by candidates and campaigns — not just in swing states but around the country.

Right-wing media defanged by dissolving anti-Biden storylines

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The three biggest anti-Joe Biden storylines in right-wing media over the last year have either fizzled or are getting less online traction than they used to, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: This dynamic has rendered a formidable media ecosystem less effective in boosting President Trump as we move into the heart of the 2020 campaign.