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CEO Daily: Monday, 26th September

Good morning.

 

Tonight, in front of a prime-time television audience of millions, two fierce, trash-talking, and heavily bruised rivals will hurl themselves at each other in a brutal contest for domination.

 

But for those who don’t plan on watching the Falcons and Saints square off on Monday Night Football, there is another battle worth watching.

 

The first one-on-one debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is finally here—bringing the partisan energy and anxiety felt by untold millions of voters to their seasonal apex. It all comes to a head at 9 p.m. Eastern time, when the Democratic and Republican nominees for president will take the stage at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex at New York’s Hofstra University and a projected “Super Bowl-sized” audience will begin yelling at their televisions.

 

The political media—the scrum of professional TV talkers and perma-panelists—will seize upon every gotcha moment, every zinger, every missed jab as if scoring a prize fight. They’ll replay the one-liners, awkward expressions, and exaggerated exhalations (think of poor Al Gore’s schoolmarm sighs in his presidential debate with George W. Bush in 2000).

 

But what will matter to voters—or at least to the handful who haven’t already, determinedly, settled on one camp—won’t be the sighs, but rather the size of the two candidates. “Size,” that is, as the legendary writer Richard Ben Cramer captured it in his equally legendary chronicle of the 1988 presidential campaign, What It Takes.

 

Size, in this sense, isn’t physical stature, but how their minds and miens measure up to the enormity of the role of commander-in-chief—“the size of a President,” as Cramer put it. Oval Office size, here, isn’t a booming voice (President Reagan’s wasn’t). It isn’t height or hair (Ike had neither). Think of it, rather, as an unflagging, imperturbable spirit, as a confidence—and competence—that instills confidence in others. Somebody you feel deeply comfortable with running the show on a global stage.

 

But voters won’t see that Presidential scale in a candidate if the candidate doesn’t believe it himself or herself. As Cramer wrote, they have “to see in themselves a figure of size to bestride a chunk of history.”

 

Look for that tonight in the two nominees on stage. That’s what it takes.

 

More news below.

 

Clifton Leaf
@CliftonLeaf
Clifton.Leaf@fortune.com

Alan Murray is on vacation this week. Fortune’s Deputy Editor Clifton Leaf is filling in.

Top News

Oil Steady as OPEC Ministers Meet

Ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries descend on Algiers later today for a closely watched conference that could spell the end to a two-year battle for market share by the cartel. The ministers will have a series of ‘informal meetings’ over the next couple of days to see if they can agree on a formula for cutting crude output to lift prices. Saudi Arabia reportedly offered to cut its output from current levels if Iran, its biggest geopolitical rival in OPEC, would agree to freeze its production at the current level of 3.6 million barrels a day, but the offer was widely dismissed as unworkable by the markets. No binding agreement is possible due to the format, but the ministers could give a clear signal about their intentions. Any decision to moderate output would, of course, be a signal that U.S. shale industry has taken OPEC’s best shot and emerged bloodied but very much alive. U.S. Crude futures settled into a holding pattern this morning, inching up to just over $44.50 a barrel. Reuters

Salesforce in for Twitter?

Why would Salesforce bid for Twitter? According to The Wall Street Journal today, it’s because a network of 313 million users generates valuable data that will accelerate the exploitation of machine learning, on which Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is pinning hopes of further growth. It’s also because Twitter is becoming more of an interface with the public for the businesses that are Salesforce’s core client base. But ownership brings many drawbacks such as editorial responsibility, while a 2012 alliance already gives it access to Twitter’s stream of content. The stock market was quite clear on Friday that it didn’t like the idea: while Twitter’s shares rose over 20%, Salesforce’s fell 5.6%, not least because it may be drawn into an auction with other, better-funded rivals like Alphabet. WSJ, subscription required

Deutsche Reels as Merkel Withholds Support

Shares in Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest, fell over 7% to their lowest in over 24 years Monday after a weekend report saying that Chancellor Angela Merkel wouldn’t lobby the U.S. Department of Justice to reduce the $14 billion penalty that it has requested in respect of its mis-selling of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. A bank spokesman told Reuters that it intended “to resolve all its challenges on its own” and didn’t intend to raise capital. Observers had interpreted the DoJ’s initial estimate of Deutsche’s penalty as the opening gambit in a negotiation that would ultimately lead to a much lower figure. The bank already has one of the lowest capital ratios among Europe’s largest and is desperately trying to cut costs to offset the crippling effects of new regulation and ultra-low interest rates. The news has set off a broader bout of stock market weakness across Europe’s banks. Reuters

The Merits of Strong Leadership (an Occasional Series)

Fresh from bombing a UN humanitarian aid convoy, Russian and Syrian air forces bombarded rebel-held areas of the city of Aleppo with a combination of high-powered incendiaries, causing indiscriminate destruction and killing at least 213 civilians. The U.S., U.K. and France all heaped blame on Russia Sunday at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, but were unable to make any progress due to Russia’s veto power on the council. They staged a walkout in protest when Syria’s ambassador Bashar Ja’afari was called on to speak. The brutal escalation of hostilities is likely to invite some caustic commentary from Hillary Clinton on the behavior of her opponent’s favorite foreign ruler during this evening’s debate. Washington Post

 

Around the Water Cooler

Snapchat’s Rose-Tinted Glasses

Messaging service Snapchat—valued at some $18 billion in its last funding round—made a radical departure into the hardware business with the launch of camera-equipped sunglasses that can record brief snippets of video. The aim is to facilitate the sharing of experiences through its fast-growing network, naturally playing to the fact that video is the medium of choice for its 150 million daily users. The company also changed its name officially to Snap Inc., in another sign of moving beyond its instant messaging roots. Time will tell whether the product is proof against the privacy issues it is raising (Google Glass, famously, wasn’t). CEO Evan Spiegel is trying to steer against the (self-generated) hype by playing ‘Spectacles’ down as a ‘toy’, with only limited initial distribution. WSJ, subscription required

Silicon Valley’s Renewables Race

The role of Silicon Valley in promoting and scaling up green energy continues to grow. Amazon announced at the weekend that it will develop its largest wind farm yet—a 253 megawatt facility—in Texas. It expects to commission the scheme in late 2017. A handful of well-resourced technology giants are effectively in an ideological competition to burnish their reputations: Google wants to source all of its energy demand from renewables; Apple said 93% of its energy was green last year; Facebook wants half of its data center power to be green by 2018. Amazon Web Services is lagging a bit, at an estimated 40% by the end of this year. All of them are paying handsomely for their environmental laurels. Somebody has to pay over the odds to make new technologies viable. Far better this way than to force the taxpayer to pick up the tab for the transition to a lower-carbon future. Fortune

Arnold Palmer, Golf (and Marketing) Genius

Golfing legend Arnold Palmer died Sunday, aged 87. Quite apart from his dominance of the sport in the 1960s (before Jack Nicklaus hit the scene), Palmer was the man who– together with agent Mark McCormick–essentially invented the art of sports marketing. The two honed to perfection that symbiotic relationship between athlete, sponsors, equipment and clothing makers, and television companies. Palmer was the client who made McCormick’s IMG into the powerhouse it became. Looking back, it’s easy to say that the explosive growth in the commercial value of sport was inevitable. But it was Palmer and McCormick who accelerated the process and shaped the system. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that every athlete currently earning a living by his or her sport today owes Arnold Palmer a debt of gratitude, at least.  Fortune

Midwest Rains Add To Farmers’ Problems

 

Flooding after days of heavy rain has halted the harvest of corn and soybeans in a broad swathe of the Midwest, as well as disrupting the loading of export-bound barges on the Mississippi. With both corn and soy prices close to multi-year lows, the flooding is a painful blow. The disruption went beyond the farming community at the weekend, with residents of low-lying parts of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, forced to evacuate before floodwaters reached their homes. The National Weather Service has predicted the Cedar River will crest 23 feet in Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city, on Tuesday morning. That would be the worst since the so-called “500-year flood” in 2008, which crested at 31 ft. The floods come little over a month since devastation in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Fortune