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How Trump could pull off another upset

It feels like August of 2016 all over again. Polls show Donald Trump losing big. Pundits proclaim he can't win. Reporters sneer at Trump voters on Twitter and cable. 

Why it matters: There are several signs that should give the Trump-is-toast self-assured pause.


  • He’s doing better in some swing-state polls than he was at this point in 2016. And his floor of support holds strong, regardless of what he says or does. 
  • Not only is the stock market on fire, but a lot of blue-collar workers in building, plumbing and other manual crafts are doing quite well, too.

Trump’s big bet is that there are a lot of working class voters, especially in rural areas, who did not vote in 2016 but will this time.

  • His other bet is that months of dumping on Joe Biden, often with lies or wild hyperbole, will do what he did to Hillary Clinton: Make the Democratic nominee seem slightly more unpalatable than himself. 

The New York Times profiled a swath of Trump's steadfast supporters who "outlined myriad reasons for wanting to re-elect him, ranging from the pragmatic ... to a gut-level attraction to his hard-nosed personality."

  • And the "social desirability" factor in polling — do we tell the blunt truth? — is a huge unknown this year because of the new attention to racial issues.

Behind the scenes: People in Trump’s orbit feel much better about the race than they did in mid-June.

  • These officials feel the operation is becoming more disciplined, and is more centered around a message — that Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris embrace leftist policies, and won’t stand up to the violent excesses of the far left.

A few caveats: Biden has some strengths that Clinton didn’t. He's viewed more favorably — and is stronger among seniors, eating into Trump’s sweet spot.

  • Women and college-educated whites have continued drifting away from Trump.
  • And Trump now has a record to defend, so he doesn’t have the outsider factor that he exploited last time.

Although Biden isn’t as polarizing as Clinton inside or outside the Democratic Party, the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for social justice and progressive changes are tugging Biden to the left.

  • President Obama recently told The New Yorker's Evan Osnos: "If you look at Joe Biden’s goals and Bernie Sanders’s goals, they’re not that different, from a forty-thousand-foot level."

Remember: A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found 13% of voters remain "in play," enough to tip the election.

  • It also found Trump’s standing with Hispanics is as good if not better than 2016 — and had improved his image by 20 points among whites, who are more than 70% of the electorate.

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment, per Bloomberg.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds one of the first significant actions by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Trump agency head who often skips mask tests positive for coronavirus

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of top administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

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COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

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Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.

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Trump pardons Michael Flynn

President Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.

Why it matters: It is the first of multiple pardons expected in the coming weeks, as Axios scooped last night.

This is a breaking story and will be updated with more details.

The emerging cybersecurity headaches awaiting Biden

The incoming administration will face a slew of cybersecurity-related challenges, as Joe Biden takes office under a very different environment than existed when he was last in the White House as vice president.

The big picture: President-elect Biden's top cybersecurity and national security advisers will have to wrestle with the ascendancy of new adversaries and cyberpowers, as well as figure out whether to continue the more aggressive stance the Trump administration has taken in cyberspace.

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Past friction between Biden and Erdoğan foreshadows future tensions

Ankara — The incoming Biden administration's foreign policy priorities and worldview will collide with those of the Turkish government on several issues.

Why it matters: The U.S. needs its NATO ally Turkey for its efforts to contain Russia, counter Iran and deal with other crises in the Middle East. But relations between Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are expected to be strained.

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Tesla's wild rise and European plan

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Tesla's market capitalization blew past $500 billion for the first time Tuesday.

Why it matters: It's just a number, but kind of a wild one. Consider, via CNN: "Tesla is now worth more than the combined market value of most of the world's major automakers: Toyota, Volkswagen, GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and its merger partner PSA Group."

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