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tl;dr, GOP presidential candidate Will Hurd seems to be making AI alignment a key part of his platform. Is it worth trying to help him to get onto the debate stage?

disclaimers: 1. this post is about politics, obviously; 2. although I am a director at Cavendish Labs, everything expressed in this post is done entirely in a personal capacity, and in no way reflects any opinions of Cavendish Labs.

epistemic status: highly uncertain. mostly quick thoughts on my impressions, plus ten minutes of research. written in like 5 minutes.

So I was driving through New Hampshire today (on the way from Boston to Cavendish), when suddenly a thought hit me—aren’t people campaigning for president around here? So I pulled up some GOP events calendar, and indeed, Will Hurd’s event was starting in 20 minutes, a 7 minute drive away. I’d heard of Will Hurd before—but only in the context of him being a candidate polling at 0%. I went on his website, and came out pretty unimpressed; it seemed like a platform of a generic also-ran that might be fun to stumble upon on in 2026 and say “wow, totally forgot about this guy!”. But anyways, the allure of meeting a presidential candidate drew me in, and I pulled up to the St. Anselm’s College Institute of Politics.

There were probably around 15 people there, including his crew, an NBC camerawoman, and a smattering of 65-year-olds who seemed to be experienced political event-goers (two of them had been at a different candidate’s event just last night!) Hurd does the classic politician thing of walking around, shaking everyone’s hands, and flattering people (“you look familiar. have we met before? no? perhaps you’ve starred in a movie?”), and then goes on to start his stump speech. He recounts a few CIA stories, highlights his “Granite State” bona fides, and then—shockingly—starts talking about alignment. He uses the word, and everything. He gives a nice short explanation for the audience, which is basically “the larger AI systems become, the worse we understand what they do, and how to make them do what we want”—and talks about his policy plan, which is basically requiring licenses to train or operate AI models past a certain size or powerfulness.

I talked to him one-on-one for about ten minutes afterwards—he clearly knows his shit, and seems quite talented at finding good people to talk to about AI policy (also, he either currently is, or was, on the board of OpenAI). Anyways, I’m pretty thoroughly impressed; I was not expecting this calibre of reasoning from a “major” GOP presidential candidate.

Some thoughts and questions:

1. so, he has a 0% chance of winning the primary. are there any other serious, potentially highly impactful politicians who seem to care about alignment?

2. would it make any sense to try to get him onto the debate stage? given that i) he brought up alignment in a random 13-person New Hampshire event and ii) people seem to know and care a lot about AI, I’d reckon that he’d likely talk about alignment, and do a much better job of it than most others.

3. He seems to have pretty cool blog posts.

Sounds like he'd be good to have at the debate! But it seems very unlikely he'll make the first one in a few weeks time. There seem to be 3 requirements to qualify for the first debate:

  1. Pledge support for the eventual nominee. Hurd has said he won't do this.
  2. (from 538) "they must earn 1 percent support in three national polls, or in two national polls and two polls from the first four states voting in the GOP primary, each coming from separate states, based on polls recognized by the RNC and conducted in July and August before the debate."
    1. "As of Sunday [July 23rd], he had only one qualifying poll to his name..." 
  3. (from 538) "Meanwhile, a candidate must also attain at least 40,000 unique donors, with at least 200 contributors from 20 or more states and/or territories."
    1. "..and said last week that he was about one-fifth of the way to 40,000 contributors"

It sounds like he needs a big boost from somewhere - maybe if e.g. Elon Musk were to tweet about him and endorse his position on AI that would get him there (and convince him to change his mind re 1, though I'm not sure briefly speaking about AI alignment justifies this)?!  

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