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Study: GOP Rules Twitter

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9:02 AM, Jan 14, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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There's growing evidence that now that Republicans are the party out of power, they're finally closing the gap between Republicans and Democrats, when it comes to new technology. Long plagued by the question, "When will the GOP catch up online," necessity has now bred tech-savvy.

The $1.3-million online fundraising day for Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts was just the most recent indicator, causing even Daily Kos proprietor Markos Moulitsas Zuniga to say:

"Scott Brown reminds me of Paul Hackett," Moulitsas said on Twitter, referring to an Ohio special congressional election in 2005. The Democrat Hackett lost, but the way liberal grass roots rallied to Hackett's campaign prepared them for future elections. "Like Hackett, Brown will lose, but grass-roots [conservatives are] learning how to better organize."

Twitter, a micro-blogging tool and social network, was created in 2006, but rose to prominence in 2008 and became ubiquitous in 2009. Contra conventional wisdom, it is the GOP that's learning to use it fastest, according to a new study:

The study, by attorney Mark Senak of D.C.-based public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard, ranked lawmakers’ twittering in several ways: how many tweet; how often they do; how many followers they have; and their “clout,” or how often their posts were reposted elsewhere, or mentioned or cited by others.

The specifics reveal that the GOP lead— in number of followers, volume, and influence— is wide, especially in the House of Representatives:

* There are 132 House lawmakers who use Twitter, 89 Republicans and 43 Democrats. In the Senate there are 25, 14 GOP members and 11 Democrats.

* GOP House members were the most active tweeters, having sent out some 29,162 tweets by Jan. 3, 2010, to the Democrats’ 5,503. Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, was the volume leader with 2,632. The nearest Democrat was Maine’s Chellie Pingree with 492.

The gap between the most-followed Republican and the most-followed Democrat is telling:

* House GOP members also had more followers and clout. House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio had the most followers with 18,799. The top Democrat, Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich, had 8,096. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., led the House in clout.

* Kucinich was the only House Democrat to rank in the House top 10 in terms of followers (he’s 8th). Only two House Democrats — Kucinich and Ohio’s Marcia Fudge — ranked in the top 10 in terms of their clout.

The Senate numbers are a bit closer, which makes sense. The Senate GOP trailed the House GOP in adopting this new tool. It was way back in August 2008 that Rep. John Culberson inspired a Twitter movement (#dontgo) by tweeting live video from the House after Nancy Pelosi and Democrats voted to adjourn before dealing with energy issues, to the GOP's dismay:

* Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., were their chamber’s leading twitters. McCain had the most followers (1,599,399), while DeMint led in clout.

* Otherwise, the Senate tweeter race was neck-and-neck. Democrats had six of the top 10 members with the most followers, while the GOP had six of the top 10 members with the most clout.

* The leading Senate Democratic tweeter was Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, who had 34,989 followers and trailed only DeMint in clout. She also led by number of tweets (1,321). McCain was second with 882.

A Twitter account alone does not an election win, of course, but the GOP's mastery of Twitter is an indicator that it's figuring out how to meld its traditional tactics with new ones to create the kind of bold, comprehensive strategies, as Obama might say, that it needs to win.

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