The Trail

Trump Looms Large on the 2020 Trail

Presidential candidates focused heavily on Trump last week, with other top campaign topics like “climate,” “health” and “immigration” trailing behind.

As the race to November 2020 heats up, democratic presidential hopefuls’ tweets provide insight into their top campaign issues.

But are policy issues taking a backseat to the president himself? Last week, the most mentioned topic, used 186 times, was “Trump.”

“Climate” came in second with 123 mentions, followed by “health” with 89 mentions. And despite the recent uproar against the treatment of migrants at the border, “immigration” came in fourth, with 58 mentions—fewer than half of “Trump” mentions.

Will the 2020 election be a referendum on President Trump? Or, will the democratic candidates’ tweets about policy issues increase? We’ll be watching.

The Dome

Which One of These Is Not Like the Others?

Democratic lawmakers were responsible for all five of Congress’ most-retweeted tweets last week. The tweets focused on key social issues, like immigration and women's rights. But one tweet may surprise you.

Which congressional tweets nabbed the most retweets last week? Those that focused on racism, immigration, women’s rights … and A$AP Rocky.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) had two of the five most-retweeted tweets over the last week. The first – and top tweet of the past week – was a retweet of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) response to President Trump’s tweet about “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.” Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet about Trump administration’s planned ICE raids also made the top five list.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) tweeted a video about the conditions of the migrant detention centers, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) noted the anniversary of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

The fifth most-retweeted Spin Factor tweet is where it gets interesting. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) tweeted his support for Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky, who ran into some real “Problems” when he was detained in Sweden after an altercation.

The Trail

The Debate Winners … on Twitter

What can Twitter tell us about the winners and losers of the first Democratic presidential debates? As of Sunday, Sen. Kamala Harris gained the most followers following the debate (+112,536), while former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro saw the biggest follower percent growth at +42%.

As the country continues to debrief on last week’s first Democratic presidential debates, we looked at Twitter to assess the social media winners. Twenty candidates in total participated in the debates, 10 on Wednesday and 10 on Thursday.

Of all the candidates, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) had gained the most followers – +112,536 – post-debate.

Businessman Andrew Yang came in a close second, with 111,612 new followers, a 29% increase in his follower base. However, Yang’s big jump on Twitter may be less about his debate performance, and more about his contest to provide $1,000 per month for one year to someone who follows and retweets him on Twitter.

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro gained 92,557 new followers, which was notably the highest percent growth – at 42% – among all candidates.

And South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) rounded out the top five candidates by follower growth.

The Trail

Ranking the Presidential Candidates

Last week, as the Democratic debates took over the political Twittersphere, D.C. journalists and pundits discussed some candidates more than others. Taking the lead? Former Vice President Joe Biden.

As the Democratic presidential candidates faced off for the first time in last week’s debates, D.C. journalists and pundits tweeted about some candidates much more than others.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was the most mentioned among the Democratic candidates, with 651 tweets by D.C. journalists and pundits last week. In not-so-close second came Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), with 376 mentions.

Those numbers are still far behind President Trump’s 1,365 media Twitter mentions last week. Even former President Obama nabbed 117 media mentions on Twitter —more than a large number of candidates including U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Also telling was who didn’t make the most-mentioned list: Businessman Andrew Yang—a candidate who had a huge gain in Twitter followers over the past week—as well as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

The Dome

A New Wave of Bipartisanship?

Last week, members of Congress were more bipartisan than usual—on Twitter, at least. Even the word “bipartisan” was tweeted with similar frequency by Republicans and Democrats.

The terms used most frequently by members of Congress are usually skewed towards one party or the other. But last week, in a twist, congressional Twitter accounts’ top terms were almost … bipartisan?

Words like “bill,” “border,” “senate,” and even “bipartisanship” itself were used at similar rates by both Democrats and Republicans, although Democrats used “Trump,” “children” and “people” much more frequently.

Was this week an outlier? Or will Twitter topic popularity continue to cross party lines? We’ll be watching.

The Trail

Twitter Engagement Shows a Lopsided Debate Lineup

The Democratic National Committee held a two-part, random drawing to help ensure the 2020 presidential candidates were split fairly among next week’s two debates. However, an analysis of the 20 candidates’ Twitter engagement over the last week forecasts a lopsided lineup.

What does Twitter engagement tell us going into next week’s Democratic presidential debates?

The Thursday, June 27 (“purple group”) debate includes most of the Twitter heavyweights.

The Democratic National Committee held a two-part random drawing to determine how candidates would be split among the two debate nights. According to Vox, “This method was designed to ensure there was no ‘kids’ table’ debates with only the poorly polling candidates.”

However, six of the seven candidates with the highest Twitter engagement over the last week were randomly assigned to the second debate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who averaged 1,533 retweets and 7,448 favorites per tweet last week, is the only top tweeter assigned to the first night.

Among the second debate night, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg tops the list with an average of 1,285 retweets and 11,484 favorites per tweet, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Perhaps even more telling is looking at the average Twitter engagement collectively by group. The “orange group” received an average of 507 retweets and 2,247 favorites last week, while the “purple group” received an average of 842 retweets and 3,929 favorites.

We’ll be keeping an eye on how the lopsided lineups impact the debates … and the candidates.

The Dome

Twitter’s Partisan Divide

Last week on Twitter, even Congress’ hashtags were partisan. Seven out of Congress’ top eight hashtags were used primarily, if not exclusively, by Democrats—including #fathersday.

Last week, Congress’ most-used hashtag was #renew911vcf. The call for a bill permanently renewing the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was tweeted 254 times—244 of which were by Democrats. Three other top hashtags were used exclusively by Democrats: #forthepeople, #netneutrality, and #healthcareweekend.

Meanwhile, the most-used hashtag by Republicans was #flagday, with 60% of uses coming from the right.

It’s worth noting that congressional Democrats use hashtags more frequently than Republicans—but their differences of opinion remain clear.

The Oval

Saturdays Are for the Tweets

President Trump’s weekday Twitter volume was pretty consistent last week, but the president had a big spike in activity on Saturday when he tweeted more than three times the amount he did on Friday.

Last week, President Trump’s Twitter volume was pretty consistent during the weekdays. From Monday to Thursday, the president tweeted between 18 and 20 times each day, dipping slightly to 12 tweets on Friday.

But on Saturday, Trump had one of his patented Twitter flurries, tweeting 44 times – nearly 30 percent of his total tweet count for the week (149 total tweets).

Trump’s Twitter activity on Saturday included attacks on the news media, criticism of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and hyping his 2020 campaign.

Trump’s followers seemed to respond to the spike in Twitter activity. His weekday tweets received an average of 16,562 retweets, while his Saturday tweets nabbed an average of 17,450 retweets.

The Oval

Quit Till You’re Ahead: Trump’s Mueller Strategy

President Trump didn’t mention Special Counsel Robert Mueller by name on Twitter for more than six months after his May 2017 appointment. But as the investigation progressed, Trump began to talk about the special counsel with increasing frequency.

The Mueller investigation has unfolded with several twists and turns over the last two years, providing many opportunities for the president to weigh in. But for the most part, President Trump seemed to hold his Twitter fire until he was assured of the results.

From May 2017, when Special Counselor Robert Mueller was appointed, to the end of 2017, Trump only mentioned him once, and that was in a retweet. During that time, Mueller expanded his investigation to include obstruction of justice and Trump’s campaign manager and business partner were indicted for making false statements.

But it wasn’t until April of this year that Trump’s mentions of Mueller by name really ramped up—after the report was released to Attorney General William Barr and the results were made public.

Trump mentioned Mueller more times in April and May (90 tweets) than the 22 months prior (87 total tweets from May 2017 to March 2019).

Seems like Trump waited until he had a winning hand before fully diving in.

The Dome

Cruzing to Bipartisanship

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ted Cruz found common ground on Twitter about banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists. Spoiler alert: The Twitterverse loved it.

A rare moment in Spin Factor Twitter unity occurred on May 30: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) agreed on something. First, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, to which Cruz replied with his agreement. Then, to top off the interaction, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Let’s make a deal.”

So, how did the Twitterverse respond to these new strange bedfellows? Over the last week, Ocasio-Cortez’s four tweets with a Cruz mention received an average of 10,969 retweets—more than double her average retweet rate for tweets (69 total) without a Cruz mention. Meanwhile, Cruz’s tweets with an Ocasio-Cortez mention (seven total) received an average of 1,557 retweets—nearly double his average retweet rate for tweets (83 total) without an Ocasio-Cortez mention.

The takeaway? Bipartisanship boosts engagement.