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Biden's centrist mirage

Joe Biden spent a career cultivating the image of a deal-making centrist — and is making this a key selling point for swing voters in 2020. But the modern Biden has been pushed left by his party's insurgent progressives.

Why it matters: Biden has moved to the left to accommodate party activists on crime, climate, education, immigration and health care. His central challenge with many swing voters: Prove he didn't move too far, too fast. 


Between the lines: Biden wants many suburban voters to associate him with his persona as a white, firehouse Democrat — over a more woke 2020 Democratic primary candidate who navigated through his rivals to win his party’s nomination.

  • Biden has to confront the nation's new dynamics by addressing police violence head on. At the same time, he subtly courted western Pennsylvania by saying his call in March for “no new fracking” only applied to public lands.

What's happening: Biden’s moves to the left drew relatively little notice in the big primary field. This fall, Biden will try to use that to his advantage, hoping swing voters forget how he got here.

  • “Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters?” Biden asked in Pittsburgh this week.
  • Matt Bennett, a founder of Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, said Biden "has shown the ability to move in the direction that the party is heading without lurching."

Flashback: Biden's platforms and record shows how he has changed.

Crime: Leading up to his signature 1994 Crime Bill, Biden called criminals violent thugs and talked of “predators on our streets.”

  • This June he repudiated some of his 90s impulses: “We shouldn’t be building any more prisons.”
  • Biden's shift reflects a fundamental change in the Democratic party, away from incarceration and towards rehabilitation — a move that has only accelerated in the last two months with move evidence of racial disparities in policing.

Climate: As Barack Obama's vice president, Biden touted the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas. 

  • Today, that's more controversial in the Democratic Party, and Biden's praise for natural gas is almost non-existent, according to Axios' Amy Harder.
  • The Biden campaign has a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, far more aggressive than Obama and Biden's 2016 plan to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

Immigration: As vice president, Biden supported Obama’s effort to deport 3 million undocumented migrants. In February, he called that support a “big mistake.”

  • “I saw the pain in the eyes of so many people who saw their families being deported," Biden to confessed to Univision's Jorge Ramos.
  • But Biden hasn't gone as far as many in his party and does not support decriminalizing border crossings.

Health care: VP Biden triumphantly called the passage of the Affordable Care Act a “Big f—cking deal,” on a hot mic.

  • Now he wants to add a public option that would allow many Americans to buy into a Medicare-like program — an idea that was too far to the left to pass the Senate in 2009, when the Democrats held 60 seats.
  • He also wants to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 — a move to appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters who wanted Medicare for All.

Education: On supporting free college tuition, Biden has heralded his policy changes as proof positive that he’s evolved with his party.

  • “One of the things I’ve changed my mind on,” he said in April. “I’ve proposed to forgive debt for low-income and middle class individuals for community college.”

The bottom line: Voters are choosing between a composite of Biden that spans 48 years — or the undiluted Trump of the past four.

Pac-12 will play this fall despite ongoing pandemic

The Pac-12, which includes universities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington state, will play football starting Nov. 6, reversing its earlier decision to postpone the season because of the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN's Kyle Bonagura and Heather Dinich report.

Why it matters: The conference's about-face follows a similar move by the Big Ten last week and comes as President Trump has publicly pressured sports to resume despite the ongoing pandemic. The Pac-12 will play a seven-game conference football season, according to ESPN.

COVAX vaccine initiative involves most of the world, but U.S. or China

Data: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A global initiative to ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines now includes most of the world — but not the U.S., China or Russia.

Why it matters: Assuming one or more vaccines ultimately gain approval, there will be a period of months or even years in which supply lags far behind global demand. The COVAX initiative is an attempt to ensure doses go where they're most needed, rather than simply to countries that can produce or buy them at scale.

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Podcast: The child care tax on America's economy

Child care in the U.S. is in crisis, which makes it much harder for the American economy to recover — as providers struggle to stay in business and parents wrestle with work.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the problems and what can be done to solve them, with Vox senior reporter Anna North.

Scientists are trying to figure out how much the amount of coronavirus in your body matters

How sick a person gets from a virus can depend onhow much of the pathogen that person was exposed to and how much virus is replicating in their body — questionsthat are still open for the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: As people try to balance resuming parts of their daily lives with controlling their risk of COVID-19, understanding the role of viral load could help tailor public health measures and patient care.

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China's vow to achieve "carbon neutrality" before 2060 sends shockwaves through the climate world

A new insta-analysis of China's vow to achieve "carbon neutrality" before 2060 helps to underscore why Tuesday's announcement sent shockwaves through the climate and energy world.

Why it matters: Per the Climate Action Tracker, a research group, following through would lower projected global warming 0.2 to 0.3°C. That's a lot!

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Kayleigh McEnany: Trump will accept "free and fair" election, no answer on if he loses

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that President Trump will "accept the results of a free and fair election," but did not specify whether he will commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses to Joe Biden.

Why it matters: Trump refused to say on Wednesday whether he would commit to a peaceful transition of power, instead remarking: "we're going to have to see what happens."

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Sanders: "This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy"

In an urgent appeal on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said President Trump presented "unique threats to our democracy" and detailed a plan to ensure the election results will be honored and that voters can cast their ballots safely.

Driving the news: When asked yesterday whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, Trump would not, and said: "We're going to have to see what happens."

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Why money laundering persists

2 million suspicious activity reports,or SARs, are filed by banks every year. Those reports are sent to the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which has the job of determining whether the reports are evidence of criminal activity, and whether that activity should be investigated and punished.

The catch: FinCEN only has 270 employees, which means that FinCEN is dealing with a ratio of roughly 150 reports per employee per week. So it comes as little surprise to learn that most of the reports go unread, and the activity in them unpunished.

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