Why is Hillary Clinton turning to Twitter? In a word, distraction (+video)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has has effectively used her Twitter presence in recent months to bolster her likely campaign for president.
Lately, it seems every time Hillary Rodham Clinton sneezes – er, tweets – it is a news event.
Take Monday, for instance. The likely 2016 Democratic nominee took to Twitter, admonishing congressional Republicans for delaying the nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general, calling it part of a "trifecta against women."
Ms. Lynch has been waiting for Senate confirmation for 128 days. Her confirmation is being held up by a bipartisan human trafficking bill stalled over an abortion provision that Democrats do not like, which Clinton alluded to in her second tweet. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has said that Lynch’s nomination would not be considered until the legislation moves forward.
At a Monday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the delay “unconscionable” and “a bunch of political obstructions” set up by Republicans.
Mr. Earnest's comments didn't get much coverage. Hillary's tweets did. Why?
For starters, he's not running for president. She likely is.
And her not-yet-campaign has done a masterful job leveraging Twitter and using it to their candidate's advantage, as the National Journal pointed out.
"[A]s she continues to map out a presidential campaign while rarely dipping into daily political or policy debates—or speaking with the media outside of last week's conference—her Twitter account has become a potent tool. The (presumably) carefully tailored, deliberate, short blasts have taken the place of news releases, and have been used for everything from spreading information about her personal initiatives to responding to controversy," it said.
Consider this: Between Jan. 25 and Feb. 21 of this year, Clinton sent only three tweets, but averaged 14,099 retweets per tweet, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
"If retweets were votes, Hillary Clinton would win a 2016 Twitter election in a blowout," the Post reported in a piece titled, "Hillary Clinton has the biggest and most effective Twitter reach of any potential 2016 candidate. It’s not even close."
By comparison, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a likely presidential hopeful and the owner of the second-best retweet-per-tweet average, sent out 52 tweets over the same time period, but averaged just 260 retweets per tweet.
Like most everything she does (with the possible exception of setting up a "homebrewed" e-mail server), Clinton chooses her tweets carefully.
So why is she launching a Twitter offensive against congressional Republicans?
In a word, distraction.
Clinton is eager to change the subject from her private e-mail account to women's rights, which she has long been an advocate for. And she's doing it via Twitter.
For good reason. Recent polls suggest Clinton's image was damaged by the e-mail controversy.
A CNN/ORC poll found that Clinton's favorability rating has dropped six points since November and now stands at 53 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable. What's more, the share who see her as "honest and trustworthy" has declined in the last year. Half (50 percent) say they see her as honest and trustworthy, down six points since last March.
Overall, some 51 percent called Clinton's use of a personal e-mail system rather than a government-provided one a very or somewhat serious problem, and 48 percent say it's not too serious an issue or no problem at all.
Clinton appears to be turning to Twitter to turn those numbers around, but if she's serious about running for president, she may need to communicate with voters with more than the occasional 140-character tweet.