Surprise Democratic Primary winner credits AI for beating Biden


Super Tuesday went about as expected this year as President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump unsurprisingly grabbed huge leads for their respective primaries. However, things did not go as planned for Biden in American Samoa, where the incumbent lost to Jason Palmer, a businessman from Maryland who says artificial intelligence was crucial to his win.

Having tried Palmer’s AI campaign tool ourselves, this claim is eyebrow-raising to say the least.

A tech venture capitalist, Palmer beat Biden by a significant margin — but also by just 11 votes out of 91 cast — to shockingly win the American Samoa presidential caucus. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal on Friday, he credits his generative AI, known as PalmerAI, for helping with outreach in the territory; allowing him to campaign in Samoa with a full-time staff of only five.

Despite never having set foot in the small South Pacific island, Palmer credits his chatbot for helping him campaign virtually in a region he and his staff knew was not the target of much campaign effort from Biden. Palmer opined to the WSJ that people in Samoa felt like he was there, “because I did these virtual meetings, and I engaged with them using AI.” 

The PalmerAI, which cost him $25,000 to create, was built in collaboration with Conversica, a software company based in California. Its CEO told WSJ that the chatbot he helped create for Palmer has reached 44,000 voters across the US.

The AI itself is nothing special. It’s a conversational AI that uses Palmer’s voice and likeness to speak to voters about his campaign stances. There are heavy restrictions and safeguards on the AI, only allowing it to speak on the specific dataset it has been trained on such as “his policies, things he has stated publicly, his professional history, or topics related to his campaign and the presidential election.”

When trying it out for ourselves, we asked the AI questions about Palmer’s stances on hot-button political issues that matter to Americans like Israel/Palestine, reproductive rights, and systemic inequality — which the AI had answers and stances for. However, the AI gave non-answers on topics outside its purview like its stance on sex work, or less serious topics like “waffles or pancakes.”

A photo of a white man with brown hair with text overlaid across his face

Jason Palmer does indeed support reparations.
Credit: Jason Palmer/Conversica

The conversation on what spaces should allow generative AI to be used is a contentious one. Its use in elections is a new phenomenon, especially with concerns about deepfakes and how that could influence presidential races. Earlier in January, the FCC banned AI robocalls after thousands of voters were told by a deepfake of Biden’s voice not to vote in the New Hampshire primary.

If anything, Palmer’s shocking win in American Samoa has less to do with his AI and more to do with voter’s dissatisfaction with President Biden. From his age to his handling of the war in Gaza, voters are making known their displeasure with the president’s policies. For Samoa specifically, since the island is not a state but a territory whose residents can’t vote in federal elections — this is the one time its people’s voices can be heard.





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