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Pence to target Biden on terrorism, hostages in VP debate

Mike Pence's guest list for Wednesday's vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City will include the parents of murdered ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller, two senior administration officials with direct knowledge tell Axios.

Why it matters: The decision sheds light on Pence's strategy to target Joe Biden. Mueller's parents, Carl and Marsha, gave perhaps the most heart-wrenching speech of the Republican National Convention. But their remarks were also politically brutal, with Carl directly blaming the Obama-Biden administration for hiding behind policy and failing to save his daughter's life.


  • The Muellers praised President Trump for authorizing the mission to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — a mission named to honor Kayla — and Carl even went so far as to say he thought "if Donald Trump had been president when Kayla was captured, she would be here today."

The state of play: One of the sources said they "can't think of a more fitting day to tell Kayla's story" than the day news broke of the transportation to the U.S. of two British ISIS prisoners, who comprise half of a terrorist cell known as "the Beatles."

  • They will face federal charges for allegedly torturing and beheading Western hostages.
  • A Justice Department press release said the two men "engaged in a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence" against American hostages, including Mueller and James Foley.

Between the lines: With Kamala Harris set to indict the Trump administration over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Pence will try to move the conversation onto more favorable terrain.

The dangerous instability of school re-openings

Schools across the country have flip-flopped between in-person and remote learning — and that instability is taking a toll on students' ability to learn and their mental health.

The big picture: While companies were able to set long timelines for their return, schools — under immense political and social strain — had to rush to figure out how to reopen. The cobbled-together approach has hurt students, parents and teachers alike.

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Trump doesn't have a second-term economic plan

President Trump has not laid out an economic agenda for his second term, despite the election being just eight days away.

Why it matters: This is unprecedented in modern presidential campaigns, and makes it harder for undecided voters to make an informed choice.

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How Trump’s energy endgame could go

Expect President Trump to redouble his efforts loosening regulations and questioning climate-change science should he win reelection next month.

Driving the news: A second Trump administration would supercharge efforts by certain states, countries and companies to address global warming. But some wildcards could have a greener tinge.

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The swing states where the pandemic is raging

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, The Cook Political Report; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Several states that are likely to decide which party controls Washington next year have exceptionally large coronavirus outbreaks or are seeing cases spike.

Why it matters: Most voters have already made up their minds. But for those few holdouts, the state of the pandemic could ultimately help them make a decision as they head to the polls — and that's not likely to help President Trump.

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Tropical Storm Zeta may strengthen into hurricane before reaching U.S.

The U.S. Gulf Coast and Mexico are bracing for another possible hurricane after Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the Caribbean Sea Sunday.

Of note: Zeta is the 27th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season — equaling a record set in 2005.

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Rockefeller Foundation commits $1 billion for COVID-19 recovery

The Rockefeller Foundation announced on Monday that it will allocate $1 billion over the next three years to address the pandemic and its aftermath.

Why it matters: The mishandled pandemic and the effects of climate change threaten to reverse global progress and push more than 100 million people into poverty around the world. Governments and big NGOs need to ensure that the COVID-19 recovery reaches everyone who needs it.

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How Amy Coney Barrett will make an immediate impact on the Supreme Court

In her first week on the job,Amy Coney Barrett may be deciding which votes to count in the presidential election. By her third week, she’ll be deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Where it stands: The Senate votes on Barrett’s nomination tomorrow. If she’s confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to swear her in at the Supreme Court within hours, an administration official tells Axios.

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Biden team rebuffs Texas Democrats' pleas for more money

The Biden campaign is rebuffing persistent pleas from Texas Democrats to spend at least $10 million in the Lone Star state, several people familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: If Texas — which has 38 electoral votes and is steadily getting more blue, but hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976 — flipped to the Biden column, it would be game over. But the RealClearPolitics polling average stubbornly hovers at +2.6 for Trump — and Team Biden appears more focused on closer targets.

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