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DeSantis Gets His CNN Moment

CNN held a town hall with Donald Trump in May. Yesterday, it was Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) turn for some free PR. But instead of a town hall, it was in the form of a sit-down interview with CNN's Jake Tapper in the studio. It was DeSantis' first interview with a mainstream media outlet this year. That shows how desperate he really is; normally, he just talks to right-wing media outlets. DeSantis was upbeat about his chances, despite poll after poll showing him way behind Donald Trump. What is slightly ironic is that DeSantis defended Trump, rather than saying that he is a criminal who should be in the Big House, not the White House.

DeSantis kept hammering on how he was the best candidate to rid the country of the scourge of wokeness. When Tapper showed him a poll listing wokeness as #9 among voters' concerns, DeSantis came back with "Not everyone really knows what wokeness is." So apparently DeSantis' first job is to explain what wokeness is, followed by explaining why it is awful, and then explaining why he is the one to purge it. Sounds like a lot of work to us. We're kind of skeptical that this is going to fly. We're more inclined to think: When you're in a hole, stop digging.

DeSantis commented on a new plan the DoD just released for revamping the Department. Tapper pointed out that the DoD was concerned with fighting Russia and fighting China, but not fighting wokeness. DeSantis then explained: "I mean, I've defined it, but a lotta people who rail against wokeness can't even define it." Actually, the only person on the national stage who is railing against wokeness is... Ron DeSantis.

Finally, DeSantis was able to move on. He said he hopes Trump is not charged with starting an insurrection, even though such a charge might be the only thing that can save the Governor's campaign. It is a topsy-turvy world where a candidate is on the record hoping that the one thing that might save his campaign doesn't happen. At least, in contrast to Trump, he believes it is time to put 2020 behind us and look forward.

On foreign policy, DeSantis tried to have it both ways. On the one hand, he called Russia's invasion of Ukraine a "territorial dispute." On the other, he said: "The goal should be a sustainable, enduring peace in Europe, but one that does not reward aggression." So when Tapper asked him if he would continue arming Ukraine as president, he refused to say. It seems like an answer carefully designed to offend both supporters and opponents of the war. Or maybe DeSantis is not prepared to sit behind the desk where the buck stops.

So, foreign policy is not his forte, it would seem. Surely abortion is. So when Tapper asked him if he would sign a bill passed by Congress to ban all abortions nationwide after 6 weeks, DeSantis said: "I'm pro-life. I will be a pro-life president. And we will support pro-life policies. At the same time, I look at what's going on in the Congress, and, you know, I don't see them, you know, making very much headway. I think the danger from Congress is if we lose the election, they're gonna try to nationalize abortion up until the moment of birth." Huh? It is a simple question: If Republicans take over Congress and pass a 6-week ban on abortion, will you sign it, yes or no?

OK, so he's not so good at foreign policy or abortion. How about education? When asked about that, DeSantis said: "Our bread and butter were people like suburban moms. We're leading a big movement for parents' rights, to have the parents be involved in education, school choice, get the indoctrination outta schools." So he is against indoctrination. A truly brave stance. Does he want to cut funding for schools that have books in the library that he doesn't like? Does he want to gag teachers nationally, as he did in Florida? He's not too big on specifics. He would actually be a pretty good fit for the No Labels group, which also isn't much into specifics.

We can't see how DeSantis helped himself at all by making a fool of himself on national television. He didn't want to explain what he wants in any area except fighting the boogeyman of wokeness, which barely registers on voters' list of concerns. And remember, he is running against Donald Trump, who is crystal clear about many, many things, like building a wall on the Mexican border, getting Mexico to pay for it, locking up Hillary Clinton, ending birthright citizenship, and so much more. Of course, none of what Trump wanted is possible, but the base doesn't care about that. They want clear, forceful statements of intent. That doesn't seem to be DeSantis' forte either.

Jack Shafer, Politico's senior media writer, tore the Tapper interview apart as bad media. He said that for a guy as smart as DeSantis, he's actually pretty stupid. He's not going anywhere in the polls, everyone is writing about his persona as brass knuckles and shrapnel, and people are comparing his wife to Lady Macbeth. His first interview with a mainstream journalist was his chance to introduce the world to Ron v2.0, a guy full of new ideas on many topics. Instead all we got was "I hate woke." That's Ron v1.0 and it's not going to right the ship. Shafer doesn't think there will ever be a Ron v2.0.

Now, Tapper is a serious journalist and DeSantis should have known he wasn't going to get the kind of softball questions he might get from Sean Hannity ("What do you think about wokeness?"). He surely knew that Tapper would ask about Ukraine, abortion, education, immigration, and other current topics. He could have prepared short, forceful answers to each of them. That's what Trump voters like. You don't have to be right, you only have to be sure. For example, on abortion, he could have said: "I signed a 6-week ban on abortion in Florida and if Congress presents me with a 6-week national ban, I'll sign within 10 minutes."

Shafer speculates that DeSantis expected Trump to implode after the last 2 weeks of his presidency and then he could swoop in and be seen as a conquering hero—Trumpism without Trump. But Trump didn't implode. He came back from the dead. DeSantis wasn't prepared for that and wasn't agile enough to deal with it. He could have said: "I'll give you the same policies as Trump but I won't rape women in department store dressing rooms or pay off porn stars. Your kids will be able to look up to me as a role model." But he didn't. He stayed on message, but nobody cares about his message. (V)

Energy Executives Dump Trump

The Republican Party [sic] is in a state of disarray. Donald Trump is probably going to be indicted in D.C. and Georgia before the summer is out and Ron DeSantis is incapable of saying what he is for except slaying the wokeness dragon, which the voters haven't even noticed. All the others make the Seven Dwarfs look like Seven Giants. What's a big donor to do? The recent fundraising filings give at least a partial hint.

Executives in the energy industry seem to have made up their minds that Donald Trump isn't their guy this time. Their donations are spread across his rivals, suggesting that they really don't know what to do except not help Trump, whom they see as a loser. Some of them are hedging their bets by donating to multiple candidates. Oil and gas magnate Harold Hamm has donated to DeSantis and Nikki Haley. Pipeline mogul Kelcy Warren gave to DeSantis. Billionaire energy executive Jeffrey Hildebrand is supporting billionaire Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND). Coal executive Joe Craft (husband of former U.N. ambassador Kelly Craft) is playing the field. He has donated to Mike Pence, Vivek Ramaswamy, and DeSantis, in an anyone-but-Trump play. None of them have donated to Trump.

However, Trump's strength has never been the big donors. It has always been the small donors, but even some of them are starting to have second thoughts about him. An analysis by the Wall Street Journal showed that 5,000 people who donated to Trump in 2020 have donated to someone else this cycle. Still, Trump has many small donors who are sticking with him even if the big ones desert him in droves. (V)

Young Voters Blame SCOTUS and Republicans for Not Having Student Loans Forgiven

Many young people had really hoped that Joe Biden would cancel their crushing student debt, as he promised to do. Now they have heard he is not going to do it so the blame game starts. Will they blame him and not vote next year? A new poll from Generation Lab may give him some hope. The pollster asked whose fault it was that student loans won't be forgiven as promised. Here are the results.

Who gets the blame for not canceling student debt? 47% say SCOTUS, 38% Republicans, 10% say Biden, 5% say Democrats

As you can see, more young voters blame the Supreme Court than anyone else and next comes the Republican Party. Together, 85% blame one or the other. To us, that doesn't sound like "I am furious with Biden for not doing what he promised so I am going to stay home and not vote." With such a large number blaming the Republicans, that might even motivate some of them to get out and vote a straight Democratic ticket.

Below is a graphic showing the number of borrowers of student loans by amount and age:

Student debt by age and amount

The largest single category, with 4.6 million borrowers, is people 25 to 34 with under $10,000 in debt. In total, 14.7 million borrowers have under $10,000 in debt. For most of them, Biden's plan would have wiped out all of their debt. There are another 9.5 million who would have seen a substantial fraction of their debt wiped out, depending on their income and whether they had a Pell Grant. All in all, about 33 million people under 34 might have gotten some relief from Biden's plan. If most of them vote based on this issue, it could help him substantially.

Biden is going to use a different law to cancel the student debt of former students who are up to date on payments for more than 20 years, but that will affect only 800,000 former students of the 45 million who have student loans. Still, if the other 44.2 million are annoyed enough, this might motivate them to vote even more than if Biden had succeeded in canceling some debt because being angry is often a better motivator than being happy. (V)

2024 Will Not Be a Rerun of 2016

Democratic pollster and amateur demographer Celinda Lake and filmmaker Mac Heller wrote an interesting op-ed for The Washington Post explaining why the 2024 election will not be a repeat of 2016 or 2020. It's not the economy, stupid. It's the electorate.

Every year, 4 million Americans turn 18 and gain the right to vote. Between 2016 and 2024, 32 million people have become eligible to vote who weren't in 2016. These people skew Democratic. Also, every year 2½ million older Americans die. In 8 years, that is 20 million. These people, R.I.P., skew (slightly) Republican. This means the 2024 electorate will be quite different from the 2016 electorate. However, this is not the whole story. Turnout rates among young voters are low and voter-suppression laws are much stronger and more numerous than they were in 2016. Still, if the Democrats can address the young voters on their own terms, it could make a difference. Here is a graph of turnout rates of young voters. It is increasing, but still below that of older voters. Across all voters, the turnout rate in 2020 was 67%; among seniors it was 72%:

Turnout of young voters 1998-2002; it used to be in the low 40s for presidential 
elections but has trended upward to the low 50s; it used to be in the low 20s for non-presidential elections but has trended upward to the mid-30s

When Lake polled young voters, she discovered that Donald Trump did not play much of a role in their political views. Neither did party identification. They are far more policy-driven than millennials, boomers, or other generations. Gen Z consists of people born from 1997 to 2012, a period of 15 years. In 2024, two-thirds of them will be eligible to vote. These zoomers have been studied intensively. They care about issues like abortion, gender fluidity, and climate change. They are also the least religious generation in history. About 48% identify as a person of color. These are all characteristics that lead them to favor the Democrats. This is why Vivek Ramaswamy and some other Republicans want to raise the voting age to 25 and also require young voters to pass a civics test before being allowed to vote. Of course, this would require repealing the Twenty-Sixth Amendment.

Both parties should be paying special attention to zoomers and young voters generally. The aggressiveness of things like "Where woke goes to die" is a huge turnoff to these people. These voters don't watch cable news (or television at all) so you have to communicate with them on social media, especially TikTok. Messages should be funny, sarcastic, and earnest all at once. Also short. The focus should be on issues, not on candidates and never on parties.

Third parties are intriguing to them. They have never heard of Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, or Jill Stein, and are open to new ideas from outside the mainstream parties. They think of themselves as ignored and marginalized in favor of big money and shouting boomers. They are winnable, but only with the right approach. Telling them that older straight white Christian men have a God-given mandate to rule is not a winning strategy. The party that figures this out first could have the zoomers carry them to victory. (V)

Eeeny Meeny Miny Mo, Who Shall We Impeach for Show?

It's tough having the House majority. After all, the House can impeach any non-legislative government official, but it is so hard to decide which one. On Jan. 21, 2021, the day after Joe Biden was inaugurated, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) filed an article of impeachment to remove him from office. She alleged abuse of power while he was vice president. More recently, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) also filed an article of impeachment against Biden.

However, not all Republicans agree with that, so for the moment no action has been taken on impeaching Biden. To fill the gap, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), filed House Res. 582. It says: "This resolution impeaches Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas for high crimes and misdemeanors related to his actions regarding border security and immigration." That also doesn't seem to be making much progress, so the target keeps changing.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) introduced a resolution to impeach Secretary of State Tony Blinken for the way the withdrawal from Afghanistan happened, even though: (1) the withdrawal happened due to a deal then-president Donald Trump made with the Taliban and (2) Blinken wasn't involved in the withdrawal much. That was done by the DoD.

The current discussion is about impeaching AG Merrick Garland. The charge would be about not hanging Hunter Biden from the highest tree, or something like that. In reality, Garland intentionally stayed completely away from the Hunter Biden investigation, leaving it in the hands of U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss. But look, when somebody has to be impeached, you can't leave any stone unturned.

Clearly the House Republican Conference believes that since the Democrats impeached one of their guys—twice—they are also entitled to two impeachments to even the score. Only they can't agree on who to impeach and for what. The idea of impeaching Garland seems to be falling flat, as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), not exactly the Democrats' biggest friend in the GOP Conference, said "I don't know of a chargeable crime." He noted that impeaching someone, anyone, is very popular in the hinterlands, but if someone in the Executive Branch is carrying out the president's directives, that isn't really an impeachable offense.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) doesn't really want to impeach anyone because the Democrats would have a field day in 2024 showing how bats**t crazy the Republicans are. The impeachee, whoever it was, would be found not guilty by the Senate within a day and the Republicans would lose their House majority in 2024. That's not what he is looking for. But his members want blood, and he has to put up with them. (V)

Senate Committee May Pass Bill Requiring Supreme Court to Adopt Ethics Standard

The Senate Judiciary Committee is going to vote today on a bill to require the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics. It would also require the Court to have standards for recusal. The bill leaves it to the Court to devise the code and standards, but at least it would have something, however weak. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), said: "Today, in the court that dark money built, the honor system has flagrantly failed. We need to legislate, we need to investigate and we need to fix this mess for the American people."

The ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), didn't see the whole point of it. He said: "It's up to them. They're a separate branch. Let them fix it." The Democrats have a majority, so the bill will be voted out of committee with a recommendation to pass, but when it is brought up for a vote, the Republicans will filibuster it. Still, that will give Democrats ammo next year to say: "The Court is Supremely corrupt and Republicans want to keep it that way." Given Democrats' unhappiness about Supreme Court decisions on abortion, student loans, affirmative action, and other things, this just piles it on and makes Republicans complicit. Running against an activist Supreme Court out of control might drive Democratic turnout next year.

There is no chance whatsoever a bill that got through the Senate could pass the House. Kevin McCarthy said last week: "I think the Supreme Court, with three separate branches of government, has the ability to oversee themselves." Forget the bill, at least for now. It is not going to happen before Jan. 3, 2025 at the earliest. (V)

Can the Democrats Pick Up Any Senate Seats in 2024?

As we have written many times, the Democrats are playing defense in the Senate in 2024, with 23 seats up, including three vulnerable incumbents, in Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia, all deep red states. But are there any races where, under the right circumstances, they could be playing offense?

Maybe ask Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who said: "If you're a Democrat, after Donald Trump, there's no Republican in the country you want to beat more than me." For once, Cruz nailed it. Not only is he the senator Democrats despise most, but he is also the senator his Republican colleagues despise the most. But only one of them, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), gets to vote in Texas elections and although he would probably vote against Cruz in a primary, in a general election, he would probably prefer Cruz to a Democrat in order to get a majority.

Cruz is also the easiest target of the sitting Republican senators running for reelection. Beto O'Rourke came within 3 points of beating him in 2018 and the Democrats have an equally strong candidate in Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) this time. Allred brought in more cash in Q2 than Cruz did. Also, expect to hear about the huge winter storm in Feb. 2021 when the power went out in parts of Texas and people were freezing—except for Cruz and his family because they were off in sunny Cancún.

Next easiest is Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). Scott's Achilles heel is the platform he drew up for his brief imaginary presidential run, which never got off the ground. Among other points it would have terminated Social Security and Medicare (along with all other federal laws) unless Congress specifically renewed them every 5 years. Turns out there are a lot of seniors in Florida who might not be so keen on that. Those are the voters Democrats will target. Like Cruz, Scott is widely disliked by the other Republican senators. He tried (unsuccessfully) to topple Mitch McConnell in 2021. McConnell didn't appreciate that and neither did his friends. Unlike Cruz and Scott, McConnell is a team player and the other Republican senators respect him for that.

The third, and least likely target, of the top three, is Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO). He is arrogant and cowardly at the same time. The video of him running away on Jan. 6 makes good campaign material for the Democrats. The problem is that Missouri is quite red and he will be very tough to unseat, but other states (Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, etc.) are even worse when it comes to Democrats winning elections. (V)

State of the Senate Fundraising

Yesterday we had an item about Q2 fundraising. That gives an idea of who has momentum and who doesn't. Also important, however, is how much each candidate has in the bank now. After all, if you raised $5 million but it cost you $4 million to raise it and your opponent raised only $3 million but did that for $1 million, then your opponent is in better shape than you are.

Here is the cash in hand for each of the incumbent senators and their major challengers, where that is known. Incumbents are marked with an asterisk. The table is sorted by how much the candidates have in the bank.

State Name Raised 2Q Self-funded Spent Cash
California Adam Schiff (D) $8,170,000 $0 $3,287,000 $29,801,000
West Virginia Joe Manchin* (D) $1,158,000 $0 $159,000 $10,790,000
Arizona Kyrsten Sinema* (I) $1,617,000 $0 $808,000 $10,756,000
Montana Jon Tester* (D) $5,006,000 $0 $1,539,000 $10,503,000
California Katie Porter (D) $3,117,000 $0 $2,216,000 $10,384,000
Vermont Bernie Sanders* (I) $643,000 $0 $657,000 $9,733,000
Ohio Sherrod Brown* (D) $4,939,000 $0 $2,069,000 $8,708,000
New Jersey Bob Menendez* (D) $1,527,000 $0 $276,000 $7,838,000
New York Kirsten Gillibrand* (D) $1,468,000 $0 $269,000 $7,461,000
Nevada Jacky Rosen* (D) $2,630,000 $0 $1,209,000 $7,457,000
Connecticut Chris Murphy* (D) $2,040,000 $0 $1,191,000 $6,738,000
Virginia Tim Kaine* (D) $1,997,000 $0 $516,000 $6,318,000
Pennsylvania Bob Casey* (D) $3,953,000 $0 $1,282,000 $5,907,000
Wyoming John Barrasso* (R) $1,005,000 $0 $204,000 $5,845,000
Texas Colin Allred (D) $8,627,000 $0 $2,491,000 $5,732,000
Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin* (D) $3,226,000 $0 $1,606,000 $5,544,000
Tennessee Marsha Blackburn* (R) $1,022,000 $0 $361,000 $5,468,000
Maryland David Trone (D) $105,000 $9,725,000 $4,729,000 $5,263,000
Texas Ted Cruz* (R) $3,348,000 $0 $1,866,000 $4,799,000
Missouri Josh Hawley* (R) $1,531,000 $0 $1,092,000 $4,503,000
Mississippi Roger Wicker* (R) $1,167,000 $0 $419,000 $4,203,000
Ohio Matt Dolan (R) $301,000 $1,000 $721,000 $3,896,000
Arizona Ruben Gallego (D) $3,056,000 $0 $2,000,000 $3,784,000
Michigan Elissa Slotkin (D) $2,751,000 $0 $1,330,000 $3,721,000
Minnesota Amy Klobuchar* (D) $1,893,000 $0 $682,000 $3,450,000
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren* (D) $1,186,000 $0 $679,000 $3,314,000
Washington Maria Cantwell* (D) $2,007,000 $0 $486,000 $3,088,000
Florida Rick Scott* (R) $1,531,000 $144,000 $1,540,000 $2,914,000
New Mexico Martin Heinrich* (D) $1,533,000 $0 $579,000 $2,863,000
Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse* (D) $841,000 $0 $183,000 $2,551,000
Indiana Jim Banks (R) $971,000 $0 $709,000 $2,526,000
Utah Brad Wilson (R) $1,019,000 $1,200 $78,000 $2,140,000
Nebraska Regular Deb Fischer* (R) $612,000 $0 $231,000 $2,131,000
North Dakota Kevin Cramer* (R) $945,000 $0 $192,000 $1,689,000
Utah Mitt Romney* (R) $348,000 $0 $98,000 $1,568,000
West Virginia Alex Mooney (R) $411,000 $0 $251,000 $1,537,000
Delaware Lisa Rochester (D) $1,805,000 $0 $83,000 $1,530,000
Ohio Bernie Moreno (R) $2,259,000 $0 $743,000 $1,516,000
California Barbara Lee (D) $1,062,000 $0 $817,000 $1,401,000
Hawaii Mazie Hirono* (D) $402,000 $0 $176,000 $1,355,000
Maryland Angela Alsobrooks (D) $1,726,000 $0 $392,000 $1,334,000
Missouri Lucas Kunce (D) $1,216,000 $0 $719,000 $1,192,000
Nebraska Special Pete Ricketts* (R) $804,000 $0 $156,000 $1,016,000
Maine Angus King* (I) $591,000 $0 $161,000 $865,000
West Virginia Jim Justice (R) $935,000 $0 $126,000 $809,000
California Lexi Reese (D) $814,000 $284,000 $473,000 $625,000
Arizona Mark Lamb (R) $603,000 $5,000 $272,000 $335,000
Virginia Scott Parkinson (R) $352,000 $7,000 $25,000 $335,000
Maryland Will Jawando (D) $518,000 $1,000,000 $200,000 $314,000
Utah Trent Staggs (R) $171,000 $50,000 $11,000 $209,000
Florida Keith Gross (R) $9,000 $661,000 $505,000 $164,000
Missouri Wesley Bell (D) $161,000 $0 $26,000 $135,000
Michigan Nasser Beydoun (D) $150,000 $0 $20,000 $130,000
Michigan Nikki Snyder (R) $81,000 $5,000 $29,000 $113,000
California Eric Early (R) $195,000 $31,000 $146,000 $80,000
Nevada Jim Marchant (R) $110,000 $0 $66,000 $43,000
Michigan Pamela Pugh (D) $35,000 $5,000 $22,000 $18,000
Michigan Leslie Love (D) $6,000 $5,000 $0 $11,000

Looking at the cash on hand gives more perspective than just Q2 fundraising. For example, both Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) had multimillion-dollar hauls. Not bad. Does that mean they are running about even? Not exactly. Schiff has almost $30 million in the bank to Porter's $10 million. In California, it is not possible for candidates to meet each voter personally three times, as it is in New Hampshire. Money matters, and Schiff has a whole bunch more than Porter.

Also, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) raised only a bit over $1 million. Does that mean he is not running? Hardly. He has over $10 million in his campaign account. If he were to run for reelection or for governor, that is a massive amount in a cheap state like West Virginia. Similarly, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) has $10.5 million in the bank, plenty for Montana, especially against a poor fundraiser like Matt Rosendale (R) if he jumps in and wins the nomination. Ohio is a more expensive state than Montana, but the $8.7 million Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has stashed away is a pretty good start. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) is somewhat endangered, but she has a healthy $7.5 million on hand.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) took in $3 million to the $1.6 million Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) took in. So he's ahead? No. She has $10.8 million in the bank and he has only $3.8 million. He might catch up later, but that is not sure since undoubtedly some big Republican donors will toss a few megabucks into her super PAC's account, as needed.

In a few cases, the cash on hand is absurdly much. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) does not need $5.8 million to be elected in Wyoming. All he needs is the $750 filing fee. Once he files, it's over. He doesn't have to bother campaigning. He can spend the entire campaign hunting and fishing in Wyoming and still win in a landslide. But what he can do is dole out money to other Republicans running against incumbent Democrats. If they win, he will have some new friends who will be very grateful. (V)

Sununu Won't Run for Reelection

Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) has now formally announced that he will not run for a fifth 2-year term in 2024. He had hinted at this before, but now it is official. Earlier he said something about needing to go earn some real money to put his three children through college. Sununu is not your standard-issue Republican. He has an S.B. degree from M.I.T. in civil and environmental engineering and worked for 10 years cleaning up hazardous waste sites around the country before getting into politics.

Sununu's decision could set off a free-for-all. New Hampshire is a bluish swing state. It voted for the Democratic candidate in the past five presidential elections. Both senators (both of whom are former governors) are Democrats. But Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature. Both parties have plenty of potential gubernatorial candidates and the race for governor is probably a toss-up given the swingish nature of the state. Two Democrats, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, are already in. More could follow now that Sununu is out. One Republican, former senator Kelly Ayotte, just said that she will have big news in a few days, so she is almost certainly in, but there could be others as well. Ayotte is better known than either Democrat, but in a presidential election year, more Democrats might turn out to vote than Republicans. (V)

Typos May Have Endangered U.S. National Security

This isn't exactly about politics, but it is sort of politics-adjacent. Back in the old days, a memo from one U.S. general to another was unlikely to end up in an authoritarian country in West Africa. But now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it is not only possible, but common. How can that be? Military email addresses end with ".mil" but if the sender mistypes that as ".ml", it goes to the West African country of Mali, whose domain names end in ".ml," just one letter away from ".mil."

A study by Dutch Internet entrepreneur Johannes Zuurbier shows that this is not just a theoretical possibility. It has happened millions of times over the past decade. Information on simple things, like where personnel will be staying when they are traveling, could lead to targeted attacks. Zuurbier raised the issue with U.S. officials earlier this year when he discovered it, so they are aware of the issue.

Mali is an unstable country. There was a rebellion in 2012, a civil war in 2015, a coup in 2021, and another coup in 2021. The current authoritarian government is somewhat pro-Russian. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Mali on Feb. 7, 2023. On Feb. 23, 2023, Mali was one of the seven countries in the U.N. to vote against the motion calling for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. Coincidences happen. It is not the kind of place where sensitive communications intended for anyone with a .mil address should be landing, especially given the friendliness between Mali and Russia. Of course, there has to be an e-mail address with the same username as the valid one (e.g., ""), but the Russians would have no trouble making sure that such addresses exist in Mali. In any event, all email ending in ".ml" first gets sent to the Mali gateway. There a check is made to see if the user exists, but the gateway could be programmed to save all incoming mail, even for nonexistent users. The hoard could easily be turned over to the Russians, even in real time. Mali is a very poor country and would probably be willing to do the Russians a favor in return for some number of rubles. (V)

More Fake News

Hopefully you took a look at the AI-generated images in our survey posted Monday. If you missed that, the item and quiz link are still available, but it is too late now to be counted in our statistics. If you are just looking for the images without the quiz part, they are here.

Here are the correct answers. The image numbers are in the lower right-hand corner.

AI-generated: 02 04 05 06 07 09 11 12 14 16 18 19 20
Actual photographs: 01 03 08 10 13 15 17

We got 4,795 responses. Let's run down the collective results. To start, here is the AI-generated image that fooled the largest number of people:

Indian woman in sari

An ominous 66.6% of respondents incorrectly identified that as being real.

Here's how people did on the rest of the fake images, from most accurate guesses to least (you can click on any image to view the larger version we put on the quiz):

A couple dressed in white Incorrect responses: 10.4%


A woman in the foreground with four people in the background Incorrect responses: 12.3%


A man gives a speech with his hand raised Incorrect responses: 29.9%

A women gives a speech Incorrect responses: 20.2%


An elderly couple Incorrect responses: 32.6%


A log cabin Incorrect responses: 33.7%

Two white rabbits Incorrect responses: 36.1%


A couple, her in black, him in white Incorrect responses: 42.8%


A surgeon Incorrect responses: 47.3%

A city block viewed from above Incorrect responses: 47.9%        A woman with a remote control Incorrect responses: 49.1%        Oranges Incorrect responses: 64.9%

Among the seven real photographs, this is the one that was least believed:

A modernist-style house

A sizable majority, 60.9% of respondents, incorrectly deemed that a fake.

Here are the results for the rest of the real images, from most accurate to least (again, click on an image to view the larger version we put on the quiz):

A crowd in a small town or village Incorrect responses: 10.4%


A brown rabbit Incorrect responses: 12.3%


Apples Incorrect responses: 29.9%

The ocean shore Incorrect responses: 30.2%        A couple embracing Incorrect responses: 32.6%        A gray cat Incorrect responses: 43.7%

Only seven people (0.14%) got them all right. If you are one of those seven, congratulations. However, remember you were warned that some were AI-generated so probably you looked at all the details very carefully. If a person who has not been clued in to how good AI is these days saw the fakes on Facebook, we suspect that person might accept them all as real.

Some other numbers, in case you are interested. The average number of correct answers was 12.2, the median score was 12, and the mode was 13. This means that the typical person got 7 or 8 out of 20 (35-40%) wrong—even knowing there were fakes in the mix. In addition to the seven perfectos there were 29 people who got 19 right. On the other end, the worst score for someone who answered all the questions was 4 out of 20; there were three such basement-dwellers. We did not ask for any identifying information, so the only things we know about individual users is what city their IP address is in, and what platform they used to take the quiz. The seven people who got them all right were using MacOS (5 people), Linux (1) and Android (1). The three people who got only 4 right were all using Windows. Take from that what you will.

Now a word about how we did this. We used Adobe Photoshop beta. If you are a subscriber to Adobe Cloud (or to just Photoshop), download the beta and draw a rectangle with the marquee tool. A box will appear asking for what you want the image to be (e.g., a Black woman watching television). Just fill it in and wait a minute. Once the image appears, it will be loaded as a normal Photoshop image in its own layer. This means all the normal Photoshop editing tools are available to fix up minor bugs. Consequently, images that are almost perfect can often be made perfect with a bit of work.

Adobe understands what it is letting loose on the world here. It has rules about what you can and cannot ask for. No nudity or porn. Also, no known people, so you can't get Donald Trump in jail or in bed with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The rules are pretty strict. Adobe also puts some metadata in the images. It doesn't say "Generated by Photoshop" but someone with sufficient knowledge can extract the metadata and see that it was generated by AI. Most people won't have the raw image to work with. Also, the metadata can be removed by converting to some image format that does not support metadata and then converting back to jpg.

Photoshop is not the only text-to-image program out there. There is a whole slew of them. See, for example, this list. Some of the companies also have rules about what you can get, but as more and more companies get into this business, there are bound to be a few sleazy ones that have no rules. If you want Ron DeSantis in bed with Melania Trump, a live boy, a dead girl, and a drag queen in Mickey Mouse ears, sure, why not? The possibilities for blackmail, especially for politicians, would be endless. You want to make your opponent look really bad, that will be $10 for the first 10 generated images, please.

Making fake images with Photoshop is possible now, but to make a really good one, you need a lot of experience and skill with the program. Most people running for a state Senate, or even the U.S. House, don't have that kind of expertise or (probably) the money to hire someone with no scruples (people like that tend to be more expensive than regular Photoshop experts). This new technology allows summer interns to do it in a few minutes. Viewer beware. We are entering scary times.

The fact that it is quite easy to fool people with AI is not widely known. If you want to help spread the word, you could post a link to this item to social media sites, send it to your friends, etc. Click on the "More Fake News" headline above to go to a page with only the last item and copy the address bar or copy and paste this URL:

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