Jul 20, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🌡️ Happy baking Saturday! Today's Smart Brevity count: 781 words ... 3 minutes.

  • Coming later today ... A Deep Dive, "Factory Moon."
1 big thing: TikTok is China's next big weapon

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chinese social media is mostly impenetrable in the West — just check out their memes. But Sino tech giants have their eye on owning the U.S. market, evidenced by the rise of TikTok, writes Shane Savitsky, weekday editor of Axios AM.

  • Why it matters: While the video-based app seems like a benign platform for Gen Zers to make and share funny memes, it could become a Chinese vacuum for coveted American data.
  • It has made its top creators into bona fide celebrities, as evidenced by a look at YouTube's annual VidCon by The Atlantic's Taylor Lorenz.

Between the lines: TikTok's "parent company, ByteDance, recently valued at more than $75 billion, bills itself first as an artificial intelligence company, not a creator of mission-driven social platforms," per the N.Y. Times.

  • Its secret sauce: "Apparently you just … show [users] things, and let a powerful artificial intelligence take notes."
  • ByteDance spent $1 billion advertising TikTok in the U.S. in 2018, growing its audience by buying ads on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, Axios' Sara Fischer reported.

The big picture: The murkiness of TikTok's structure could preview a trend as Chinese companies eye the U.S. and its troves of data.

  • The Chinese company that purchased the gay dating app Grindr earlier this year was forced to sell the company by 2020, and had restrictions placed on its access and use of data by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) due to national security concerns, per Bloomberg.

The bottom line: While the Big Tech behemoths of the U.S. are barred from making inroads in China, the inverse doesn't apply.

2. How higher turnout could HELP Trump
President Trump walks out of the White House before departing for New Jersey yesterday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

I know! That contradicts one of my basic rants about 2020. But the N.Y. Times' Nate Cohn lays out a fascinating case on today's front page.

  • Catnip headline: "Trump’s Electoral College Edge Could Grow in 2020, Rewarding Polarizing Campaign."
  • Most memorable sentence: "It is even possible that Mr. Trump could win while losing the national vote by as much as five percentage points."

But here's the buried treasure — why huge turnout won't necessarily benefit Dems:

  • "[T]he major Democratic opportunity — to mobilize nonwhite and young voters ... — would disproportionately help Democrats in diverse, often noncompetitive states."
  • "The major Republican opportunity — to mobilize less educated white voters ... — would disproportionately help them in white, working-class areas overrepresented in the Northern battleground states."

Why it matters: "If everyone who was eligible to vote turned up at the polls, the gap between the Sun Belt and Rust Belt would close."

  • "Texas ... would emerge as the tipping-point state."
  • "Wisconsin and Pennsylvania ... would barely budge."

The bottom line: "[H]igher turnout could widen the gap between the Electoral College and the popular vote."

3. Biden compares Trump to George Wallace
George Wallace addresses a rally in 1968. Photo: Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images

Joe Biden compared President Trump yesterday to the late Alabama Gov. George Wallace, one of the most prominent supporters of segregation.

  • Biden, on a campaign swing in California, said Trump is “more George Wallace than George Washington," Reuters' Tim Reid reports.

P.S. One day after saying he was "not happy" about supporters' "Send her back!" chant, Trump said in the Oval Office: "Those people in North Carolina — that stadium was packed. It was a record crowd. And I could’ve filled it 10 times, as you know. Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots."

  • Why it matters, from WashPost: "Trump’s shift ... was reminiscent of how he responded to the deadly clash between white nationalists and protesters in Charlottesville ... He initially denounced the bigotry."
4. Pic du jour: Iran widens conflict with West
Iran's semi-official Tasnim News Agency via AP

The British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, was photographed today in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

5. Still true!

WashPost, top of column 1 today: "President Trump has instructed aides to prepare for sweeping budget cuts if he wins a second term in the White House."

  • Axios' Jonathan Swan, May 12: "Some senior administration officials envision a newly re-elected Trump liberated to slash spending. They view 2021 as the year to have that fight."
6. 🌕 50 years ago today

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Douglas Brinkley, the presidential historian at Rice, and author of "American Moonshot," a new book on JFK and the space race:

  • "The problem is it’s easy to say, 'Let’s go back to the moon and Mars,' but as they used to say in NASA — 'No bucks, no Buck Rogers."
NASA via Reuters

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. made this footprint on the moon.

Below, Aldrin — the lunar module pilot — prepares to deploy the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP) during his extravehicular activity (EVA).

  • In his left hand: the Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP).
  • In his right hand: the Laser Ranging Retroreflector (LR3).
  • The photo was taken by Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong with a 70mm lunar surface camera.
Space Frontiers via Getty Images

My Grandma Powers would love these ... New stamps issued yesterday at Kennedy Space Center, Fla.:

Mike Allen

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