Twitter releases its rules for political ads

Last Friday, Twitter released its new rules banning political advertising on its platform, which go into effect this Friday. There’s a link to the specifics in the show notes, but here is the summary from an article by Nancy Scola in Politico:

“Twitter is banning all ads that mention specific candidates, elections, or legislation. The ban on any advertising applies to campaigns, government officials, PACs and 501(c)(4) groups — that is, nonprofits designated for tax purposes as somehow promoting social welfare, a broad category covering groups spanning from the Sierra Club to Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity.
The total ban on political ads, however, does not extend to so-called issue ads — "cause-based" advertising in Twitter parlance — addressing topics like "economic stewardship" or "economic growth," according to a fact sheet the company supplied to press. While those issue ads will be allowed from any advertisers not otherwise prohibited from buying ads, there are significant new restrictions on their messaging and reach.”

One other key detail has to do with targeting. Now, on the modern internet, the ads you get are not necessarily the ads I get. And Twitter is limiting the ability of advertisers who are running these kinds of issue ads to target those ads to you or me. Reading again from Politico:

“Under the new policy, those ads can't call for political or regulatory outcomes, and anyone placing them won't be able to target them at users with the same pinpoint accuracy afforded to other types of advertising. Issue advertisers won't be able to drill down to narrow geographies — in the case of the U.S., that means they can't geographically target ads more narrowly than the state level — and they won't be allowed to target users by political keywords that come up in their data-driven Twitter marketing profiles, such as "liberal" or conservative."”

This is, at least in part, a dig at Facebook, which DOES allow all of this targeting. But it also highlights the fact that Twitter’s revenue is not likely to be affected by the policy change. Reading from an article by Julia Carrie Wong in The Guardian:

“Micro-targeting on Facebook is significantly more advanced – and more lucrative – than it is on Twitter. Facebook’s vast trove of data about its billions of users has allowed it to offer advertisers an incredibly powerful machine for targeting precise segments of a population with messages tailored to their personal characteristics.
Facebook has faced significant criticism over its political ads policies in recent months, and the idea of placing restrictions on micro-targeting has gained popularity, including with Ellen Weintraub, the chair of the Federal Election Commission. Such rules could have significant implications for Facebook’s business.”

And this is the part of the story where I remind you that the FEC is currently missing several members, so cannot make new rules, but that could always change.

The Trump impeachment stuff in four minutes or less

And now, the impeachment news in four minutes or less…I hope.

Today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified alongside Special Adviser to the Vice President Jennifer Williams. Vindman seemed visibly nervous, and to conclude his opening statement, he took a moment to publicly speak to his family. This was a powerful moment, and it combined elements of his life story, including immigrating to the US, serving in the US military, and remaining close with his family—his twin brother was actually in the room. Vindman noted that IF he were testifying in Russia, it would be dangerous for him and his family. Then Vindman said:

“Dad, my sitting here today, talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”

There was some context added to this by Carol Leonnig, in her reporting for The Washington Post. She summed it up in a tweet.

“Army is ready to relocate L[ieutenant] Col[onel] Alex Vindman and his family to an Army base to protect him. Stepped up patrols of his home and security assessment come after [President Trump] [and] GOP allies have attacked impeachment witness.”

In a later exchange, Vindman emphasized his understanding of issues through his military service and how he sees power differentials at work. I’m going to play a short clip. First, Chairman Adam Schiff speaks, then Vindman responds. Listen in:


Vindman also testified that this whole thing about the call transcript being placed in a super-secure server wasdone intentionally, which seems to contradict former White House National Security aide Tim Morrison’s previous testimony that it was accidental. At the same time, Vindman said he did NOT think putting the transcript on that server was, “anything nefarious."

Meanwhile, Williams was also questioned at length. One key moment was when Schiff began asking about a phone call between Vice President Mike Pence and Ukrainian President Zelensky on September 18th. Before Williams could respond, her lawyer jumped in, saying the Vice President’s office believes the call is classified. When Schiff asked whether Williams would be okay testifying about that call in a classified hearing or just in a classified written report, she said she “would be happy to do so.”

Okay, so here’s where I bail out for now. Today there was also testimony by former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and the aforementioned Tim Morrison. I’ll have to cover that tomorrow because this show went live during that testimony. If you need coverage today, I recommend the NPR Politics Podcast, which is doing TWO EPISODES TODAY in order to cover all this testimony. And I should tell you, they are NOT doing it in four minutes or less.

Biden says he needs more data before fully legalizing marijuana

Next up, let’s talk about former Vice President Joe Biden’s stance on legalizing marijuana. This is notable mainly because his position on this issue is different from that of most other major candidates in the race. Reading from an article by Teo Armus in The Washington Post:

“This disparity on the topic came into full view at a town hall in Las Vegas over the weekend, when Biden drew some groans from the crowd by saying he wants to see more research on marijuana and suggesting that it may be a “gateway drug” that can lead users to harsher substances.
“The truth of the matter is, there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” Biden said. “It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”
Answering an audience question, Biden indicated he is not opposed to the drug entirely. He supports the use of medical marijuana and would decriminalize possession of the drug, he said, adding that he wants individual states to make decisions on recreational use.”

Now, you may ask, okay, what does the overall field of Democratic candidates think about legalizing marijuana nationwide? Fortunately, Wikipedia has a well-documented summary on this issue, among many others. Link to that in the show notes, by the way, and it also has primary source links for EVERY answer on EVERY issue.

They categorize legalizing marijuana as a criminal justice issue, and on this one, every candidate for whom there is any data is a yes, except Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and former Representative John Delaney. Those three have more nuanced positions, but they aren’t quite a “no” per se.

For what it’s worth, Biden’s stance on this issue has changed somewhat over time. Even consideringlegalization is a change for Biden. Reading again from the Post:

“Throughout most of his legislative career, Biden championed tough criminal penalties for possession, including in the 1994 crime bill, which many critics have since linked to a rapid rise in mass incarceration and mass policing. Biden, who oversaw the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, was one of the bill’s key authors, so much so that he later took to calling it the “1994 Biden Crime Bill.””

I am curious whether this will come up in Wednesday’s debate. It IS an area where candidates disagree, and you’ll have two candidates onstage who don’t support blanket legalization. It’s also an issue that can be viewed through the lens of criminal justice, as well as public health. So watch for that and we’ll see if Biden and Klobuchar get into a marijuana-related tussle in Atlanta.

Another candidate qualifies for the December DNC debate

Yesterday, Quinnipiac University released a poll of South Carolina that DID move the needle on qualification for the December DNC debate. In that poll, Tom Steyer got 5% and Andrew Yang got 4%. That’s enough polling for Steyer to qualify for the December debates, though he still needs some more donors. According to a quick report on Twitter, his campaign says it is on track to get those donors by the deadline in December.

In that same poll, Yang picked up his third qualifying result. He needs one more qualifying poll, and already has the donors he needs. Gabbard still needs one more poll as well.

Incidentally, this poll did include former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick as an option. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.8%, and Patrick got 0% in this poll. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was NOT listed as a possible option in primary polling, because he has not yet announced his candidacy. But the poll did ask voters about both of them in other ways. Reading from the Quinnipiac release, which is quoting Polling Analyst Mary Snow:

"Newly announced Democratic presidential candidate Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor, has his work cut out for him in introducing himself to voters. Nearly 8 in 10 likely voters say they haven't heard enough about Patrick to form an opinion of him. More likely voters are familiar with Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor contemplating a run, as roughly 5 in 10 haven't heard enough - but voters that have an opinion view him more unfavorably than favorably."

And the last detail in this poll was actually the headline result, which is consistent with lots of polling throughout the race. The headline is, “Biden Dominates South Carolina Dem[ocratic] Primary, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Undecided Is In Second Place.” And that’s actually a pretty reasonable way to put it, that’s not a clickbait headline. Biden got 33% of the vote in this poll, and the next candidate was 20 points behind—that was Warren at just 13%.

The point here is that South Carolina is looking great for Biden, especially among black voters, and nobody else in the Democratic field has yet broken through in that state.

Abrams continues to keep her Vice Presidential options open

Last up today, I want to remind y’all that Stacey Abrams is still a real factor in the upcoming election, even though she is definitely not running for president. I’ve covered Abrams many times, including a brief mention yesterday—she was at that event where former President Obama made a bunch of comments about moderate policies.

So, right now, Abrams is working to fight voter suppression. This is important work, and frankly, it’s part of the overall Democratic strategy to try to win the 2020 election. But of course, this is not just not about Democrats. If we can make sure voters are able to register and in fact vote, that is a net positive for the country. So Abrams is devoted to that work, and repeatedly says, no way, not running for president, and also not running for either of the Senate seats in Georgia. She’s very clear on that.

However, in an event earlier this month in Iowa, a different government job came up. Reading from an article by Vanessa Williams in The Washington Post:

“Abrams was there to talk about voting rights. But, as often happens at her public appearances, a question came up: Would she be willing to serve as vice president?
“I’m happy to do so,” she said, to applause and cheers from the crowd.”

Abrams is very popular in Georgia, and it’s possible that Georgia could go blue if she were on the ticket. That’s obviously not a guarantee, but it’s not out the question, given how close she was to winning the governor’s race there, and her current efforts around voting. Her organization actually worked on the Kentucky governor’s election, and we know that election was decided by around 5,000 votes. So even a small change in turnout in some key states can make a big difference.

Reading once more from the Post:

“[Joel K. Goldstein, a professor at St. Louis University School of Law who studies the vice presidency] said Abrams is the rare political figure that answers honestly, and enthusiastically, that she is interested in being considered for vice president. “I think being as open about it as she is is a way of keeping herself in the conversation,” Goldstein said. He also noted that she is seen as an “impressive” political leader. Along with being a black woman and a Southerner, that could make her an attractive running mate, especially for an older white man.”

Personally, I want to offer an observation here. I think Abrams would be a solid running-mate for anybody. I don’t care about their age, or gender, or race. But in the unstated hypothetical that Goldstein suggests, you could imagine a Biden/Abrams ticket. If that were the case, it’s likely that Biden could flip Pennsylvania and Abrams could flip Georgia. If you take the 2016 election map and flip those two states, you need any other state, and that’s a win for Democrats. So any Democrat thinking about a presidential run should be thinking about Abrams as a potential pick for VP.

Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Another day, another attempt to cover things that pertain to the election other than impeachment. I am quite confident that by the time you hear this, some more impeachment stuff has happened, and, you know, we’ll have to wait to talk about that for a bit. So, quick reminder, tomorrow’s show will have some debate prep. We do have Debate Bingo cards—link in the show notes at the top, or just go to RideHome dot info slash BINGO. Remember to print those single-sided, if you’re gonna print them. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.