Nov 23, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🏈 🌊 Good morning from T-Town ... Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where I'm headed to the Crimson Tide seniors last home game (Western Carolina).

  • The tailgate pavilions were already set up when we got here last night. The fraternity houses are decked for Santa.

By coincidence, I'm on the players' floor of a hotel where the team stays the night before, with hallway monitors all night to make sure no one comes or goes. (Nothing untoward, as my Grandma Powers would say.)

  • ⏰ Starting at 6:30 a.m. (for 11 o'clock kickoff), dudes with master keycards banged on the players' doors and then barged in, followed by a coach who hurled Starbursts at the guys as he boomed: "Wake up! It's GAME DAY! Yessir! We ROLLING TODAY!"
  • An hour later, they were rolling in coats and ties.
1 big thing: Political ads become Big Tech headache

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Political ads have become a flashpoint ahead of the 2020 election, in part because new technologies make it nearly impossible to apply a universal definition of them to all advertising channels, media trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: Without a commonly accepted definition of a political ad, efforts to regulate them fail. Experts worry that without smart regulation of political ads, free speech — a tenet of democracy — can be gamed.

By the numbers: More pressure on people and companies to take a public position on politics and issues means that more political ads are being bought now than ever before.

  • About $10 billion is expected to be spent on all political and issue ads in the 2020 campaign cycle, according to CMAG, the political research arm of the advertising research company Kantar.

Between the lines: Political ads have become a hot topic now that most campaigns are buying lots of ads online instead of on TV and radio. Campaign finance laws haven't been modernized to address how political advertising should be regulated online.

  • The FEC set up guidelines for political ads in the 1970s that were easy to adhere to in print, radio and broadcast. But those rules haven't been updated by the commission to address the digital era.
  • Some states have their own campaign finance laws that draw clearer distinctions. In Washington state, for example, Facebook and Google have struggled to enforce political ad bans that they've established in response to strict campaign finance laws.

Enforcement is all over the map:

  • There have been disputes over whether a political ad should be fact-checked or even allowed to run if it disputes a commonly understood fact or makes misleading claims. In 2015, a Turkish-backed group took out an ad in the Wall Street Journal that denied the existence of the Armenian Genocide. The Washington Post opted not to run the ad.
  • Doctored imagery, like an ad with a Pinocchio nose superimposed onto a candidate, is an easier call.

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2. Breaking: Pence's turkey surprise
Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Vice President Pence made an unannounced visit to Iraq today, the highest-level American trip since President Trump ordered a pullback of U.S. forces in Syria two months ago, AP's Zeke Miller reports from Erbil.

  • Flying in a C-17 military cargo jet to preserve the secrecy of the visit to the conflict zone, Pence landed in Erbil to meet with Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani.
  • Why it matters: The visit was meant to reassure the U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State, after Syrian Kurds suffered under a bloody Turkish assault last month following the Trump-ordered withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Pence was joined on the trip by his wife, Karen, and greeted U.S. troops ahead of Thanksgiving, serving turkey to hundreds of troops at two locations.

3. Tale of the tape from Dem debate

Our friends at Hamilton Place Strategies shared these two illuminating data slices from Wednesday's Democratic debate in Atlanta:

Number of times a candidate was named-checked by another:

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Data: Hamilton Place Strategies. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Number of words spoken:

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Data: Hamilton Place Strategies. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
4. ⚖️ Impeachment ratings dropped with each hearing
Screenshot: MSNBC

TV ratings steadily declined over the course of the public hearings, per Nielsen data reported by Neal Rothschild:

  • The first day of testimony pulled in 13.8 million viewers ... Day 2: 12.7 million ... Days 3 and 4: 11.4 million viewers ... Day 5: 11.3 million.

The most viral witness, from Axios PM.

Screenshot: CNN
5. 🇮🇱 Israel may face third election in 11 months

Thursday's indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compounded the political chaos gripping Israel, which has been without a government for months, and raised the prospect of another election, AFP reports.

  • Why it matters: The corruption charges appear to have dashed already slim hopes for a unity government following September’s elections. That may mean a repeat vote in March — the third in less than a year. (AP)

AP points out these parallels between Bibi and his friend President Trump:

Graphic: AP
6. 1 big mistake
Screenshot: GQ

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Mike Allen

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