Jul 19, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🌞 Happy summer Friday! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,506 words ... 5½ minutes.

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1 big thing: Trump's tune on Facebook
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Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive; Table: Harry Stevens/Axios

President Trump, whose Facebook spending far exceeds all of his Democratic rivals combined, has spent four times as much talking about immigration as the economy, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer reports.

  • From March 30 through July 6, Trump outspent the entire 2020 Democratic field by 3.45 to 1 on Facebook advertising around immigration issues, according to data from Bully Pulpit Interactive.
  • Why it matters: Trump's Facebook targeting reflects his focus on two groups: older, white voters and Hispanic voters.

While many of Trump's Facebook ads focus on fear-mongering around immigration, others try to actually lure minority voters.

  • One active ad campaign on his Facebook page, paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, urges supporters to sign a petition to "terminate chain migration": "Many of these chain migrants are not thoroughly vetted. This policy is a shameless Washington BETRAYAL of regular Americans whose safety is put at risk."
  • But another campaign from the same Facebook page is running hundreds of "LATINOS FOR TRUMP" ads. The ads urge voters to text "VAMOS" to a code number to get involved. "¡APOYA AL PRESIDENTE TRUMP!" many ads read. 

Both advertising campaigns appear to mostly target older populations. Axios has previously reported that many of Trump's Facebook ads use nativist language and target seniors.

  • Digital ad campaigns, especially on Facebook, are often used this early in the cycle to build lists and to raise small-dollar fundraising.
2. America in two photos
Photo: Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP

Rep. Ilhan Omar is engulfed by a cheering crowd yesterday after she goes back to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

  • "We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us," she said. "We are not deterred. We are not frightened."
WSET-TV via AP

A sign of the times, from Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox, Va.

  • Pastor E. W. Lucas told WSET-TV, the ABC station in Lynchburg, Va.: ""I thought I was going to make some remarks regarding the situation in Washington ... Preachers, by and large, today, are afraid they’re gonna hurt somebody’s feelings, and when I get in the pulpit, I’m afraid I won't hurt somebody’s feelings."

"Trump’s cleanup attempt" ... "Nervous Republicans, from senior members of Congress to his own daughter Ivanka, urged President Trump ... to repudiate the 'send her back' chant, ... amid widespread fears that the rally had veered into territory that could hurt their party in 2020," the N.Y. Times reports:

  • "Trump disavowed the behavior of his own supporters in comments to reporters at the White House and claimed that he had tried to contain it, an assertion clearly contradicted by video of the event."
3. Deepfake threat to business

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Criminals are starting to use deepfakes — starting with AI-generated audio — to impersonate CEOs and steal millions from companies, which are largely unprepared, Axios' Kaveh Waddell and Jennifer Kingson report.

  • Why it matters: Nightmare scenarios abound. As deepfakes grow more sophisticated, a convincing forgery could send a company's stock plummeting (or soaring), to extract money or to ruin its reputation in a viral instant.
  • Imagine a convincing fake clip of Elon Musk, say, disclosing a massive defect the day before a big Tesla launch — the share price could crumple.

For all the talk about fake videos, it's deepfake audio that has emerged as the first real threat to the private sector.

  • Symantec, a major cybersecurity company, says it has seen three successful audio attacks on private companies. In each, a company's "CEO" called a senior financial officer to request an urgent money transfer.
  • Scammers were mimicking the CEOs' voices with an AI program that had been trained on hours of their speech — culled from earnings calls, YouTube videos, TED talks and the like.
  • Millions of dollars were stolen from each company, whose names were not revealed. The attacks were first reported by the BBC.

The bottom line: Businesses are largely defenseless for now, leaving an opening for a well-timed deepfake to drop like a bomb.

4. Superpowers, billionaires race for Moon
Courtesy The Economist

"Falling costs, new technologies, Chinese and Indian ambitions, and a new generation of entrepreneurs promise a bold era of space development," The Economist writes.

  • "It will almost certainly involve tourism for the rich and better communications networks for all; in the long run it might involve mineral exploitation and even mass transportation."
  • Why it matters: "At a time when Earth faces grim news on climate change, slow growth and fraught politics, space might seem to offer a surprising reason for optimism."
Courtesy TIME
5. Situational awareness

President Trump intends to nominate as labor secretary Gene Scalia, 55, a son of the late Justice Antonin Scalia — and partner at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher — who is a favorite of the conservative legal community. (WSJ)

6. It's still the economy, stupid

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some swing voters in Warren, Mich., tell Axios' Alexi McCammond that although they hate President Trump's behavior, they'll place more importance on the economy — and their personal financial situations — when deciding how to vote in 2020.

  • Why it matters: These conversations highlight the challenge for Democrats who relish the opportunity to label Trump as "lawless" or a "divider-in-chief."
  • Every incumbent president since FDR has won if he avoided a recession in the lead-up to an election year.

The group of swing voters Axios spoke with last week at an Engagious/FPG focus group included nine people who voted for President Obama and then Trump, and three who flipped from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.

  • While this is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about the 2020 election in crucial counties.

What they're saying: "His antics, mannerisms, and personality I could do without," said Anthony I. But he added: "Our economy would have to really crash for me to vote against him."

  • These voters really like Trump's tariffs, mostly because they're hoping they will bring more jobs to the U.S. "We're able to get more car lines and truck lines back from foreign countries after he started doing that," Kathy R. said.

Reality check: U.S. manufacturing is in a recession. A growing number of businesses are citing "greater risk aversion," largely because of the tariffs, as a reason for not making more purchases or investments.

  • By the numbers: In a July poll from The Economist/YouGov, 33% of people said the economy is getting better overall, and 49% said they approve "somewhat" or "strongly" of Trump's handling of the economy.
7. Scoop: John Delaney aides ask him to drop out
John Delaney speaks at the Iowa State Fair last August. Photo: Rachel Mummey for The Washington Post via Getty Images

721 days after he started running for president, with Iowa trips before there was even a pack, John Delaney's senior team sat him down and told him to drop out of the presidential race by mid-August, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Why it matters: The Maryland businessman has spent nearly $19 million as a 2020 candidate since 2017. He's loaned over $11 million of his own money to his campaign this year.
  • He's visited all of Iowa's 99 counties already, including at least 14 stops in Carroll Country alone. And it's all been for nothing.

The backdrop: Sources close to Delaney see no chance he makes the September debates, which have a harder qualification threshold than the first two.

  • They thought he flopped at the first debate in Miami.
  • "Every other day he would have a different position," whether on economic policies or racial issues. That's a common refrain that came up in conversations with three sources close to the campaign, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
  • One source argued Delaney would be better positioned to run for Maryland governor or get a Cabinet position if he drops out before September.

One source familiar with the meeting said Delaney seemed open to the idea of dropping out later this summer, but that he'd still debate in Detroit on July 30.

  • FWIW: Delaney has been polling between 0% and 1% since 2017.
8. CNN reveals debate slots with live draw
Screenshot viaCNN

The second set of summer Democratic debates, in Detroit on July 30 and 31, will feature a rematch on Night 2 between Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, AP's Bill Barrow reports.

  • On Night 1, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren lead the lineup, allowing the two progressive icons to compete directly.
  • A generational split will be on display: Pete Buttigieg, 37, and Beto O'Rourke, 46, each have called for the party to pass the torch. Sanders, at 77, is more than twice the young mayor's age. Warren recently turned 70.

What's next: The DNC is doubling the polling and fundraising requirements to make the stage in September in Houston, and October in a city to be announced.

  • The higher standards mean many of the 20 candidates on stage in Detroit are unlikely to have a place in Houston.
9. Tanker war

"The U.S. is struggling to win its allies’ support for an initiative to heighten surveillance of vital Middle East oil shipping lanes because of fears it will increase tension with Iran," reports Reuters.

  • Why it matters: "Failure to secure support for the maritime initiative would be a blow to efforts by [the U.S.], and its Sunni Muslim allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to isolate Shi’ite Muslim Iran and Iran-backed forces in the Middle East."

The state of play: The report comes the day after the U.S. said it had downed an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran denied knowledge of, and an Iranian announcement that it had seized a small international tanker in the strait.

10. 1 film thing

Photo via YouTube

"Tom Cruise made a surprise appearance at San Diego Comic-Con ... to hype the forthcoming 'Top Gun: Maverick'" and release its first official trailer, per Variety.

  • "There’s plenty of high-flying in fancy new jets, glimpses of Cruise’s iconic bomber jacket and Ray-Ban sunglasses — and even a new generation of shirtless volleyball players, led by actor Glen Powell."
Mike Allen

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