Which Democrat Will Win the Twitter Primary to Face the Tweeter-in-Chief in 2020?

By Published on February 26, 2019

The 2020 primary is underway on the Democrat side of the aisle with almost every Democrat in America planning or considering launching a bid for the nomination. It will be interesting to watch the cable networks try to fit all of the Democrats onto the same stage for a debate.

We live in a new era in presidential politics thanks to social media and partially to Donald Trump, who used Twitter and other social media to his advantage in 2016.

The traditional way of winning the White House is to knock on doors, kiss babies, and hold campaign rallies in swing states. While these activities are still helpful and necessary, there is another component that is just as important, if not more important in modern politics: winning the social media primary.

Democrats Will Have to Do Better on Twitter

Trump understood that social media was vital to rallying his base and getting his message out to the general public. One Tweet that cost nothing to post provided him hours of free publicity on cable news.

He also spent less money than Hillary Clinton on TV advertisements and still gained exposure on TV almost 24/7 thanks to his Tweets. This line of thinking demonstrates Trump has a keen understanding of the media culture and how to use it to his advantage. His years of experience in the spotlight as a celebrity and public figure really paid off for him during the campaign.

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Currently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the only Democrat that truly understands how to use Twitter and social media effectively. She has been able to grow a base of support on Twitter quickly with over 2.6 million followers. Like Trump, she has been able to gain free media exposure thanks to her Tweets as both the right and left are not able to stop discussing her. She is the closest Twitter competitor to Trump the Democrats currently have. However, she can’t run in 2020 due to her age. Thank you, Founding Fathers.

If the Democrats want to have a chance of facing Trump in the 2020 general election, they are going to have to expand their social media presence and learn how to go viral and gain exposure like Trump and Ocasio-Cortez.

Of the Democrats that have already announced their run for the White House, only four have over a million followers (Cory Booker 4.1 million, Elizabeth Warren 2.2 million, Kamala Harris 2.1 million, and Kirsten Gillibrand 1.3 million). While having a large following is important, what you do with that following is even more important.

Authentic, Relatable Tweets

Simply just Tweeting to be Tweeting isn’t enough even with a large following. It must be quality content. Trump understands this. He Tweets something, and it makes people pay attention and go bonkers on cable news or laugh on talk radio. Plus, it always goes viral online giving his message even more free media exposure.

A great recent example of how not to use social media comes from Elizabeth Warren, who tried too hard to “be cool” in the kitchen. The 2020 candidate wanted to appeal to millennials by grabbing a beer from her kitchen on a Facebook live video. Warren even asked her husband if he wanted a beer too. He wisely passed and left the video. (Smart move. He saved himself some embarrassment.) Instead of coming across as authentic, she was viewed as inauthentic and the video went viral for all the wrong reasons.

Like him or not, you at least know where Trump stands on issues. He shares his stance in 280 characters or less daily.

Today’s voters are more media savvy than those in the past and they can tell when a candidate is trying too hard to be authentic, clever, or relatable. This is another reason why Trump won the White House. People could relate to him. When you saw him on TV or read his Tweets during the election you knew you were getting the real Trump. Like him or not, you at least know where he stands on issues. He shares his stance in 280 characters or less daily.

If the Democrats really want to go toe-to-toe with the Tweeter-in-Chief in 2020 and have a chance at the White House, a nominee will have to understand how to use social media effectively. If not, they may need Elizabeth Warren to pass them a beer from her kitchen on election night.


Chad Whittle holds a Ph.D. in mass communication and is the host of “A Whittle Bit of Commentary.” Subscribe today to his podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn and Google Play. Read his weekly column at ChadWhittle.com and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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