Donald Trump & The Democratic Debate on Twitter

By Angela Hart

During the Democratic Debate, I live-tweeted for eM&P.com. When I started, Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) had 4.5 million followers. By the end of the first hour, at 9:45 p.m., he reached 4.52 million followers. Later, when I checked his page at 9:57 p.m., he had 4.53 million followers. At the end of night, at 11:04 p.m., Trump had 4.55 million followers. Unlike Bernie Sanders’s tweets, which commented on the subject matter being discussed or overlooked during the Republican Debates, Donald Trump had a different approach. He stopped tweeting about the debate itself very early on. He went negative instead. Trump tried to tweet about his own value and importance, the debate’s “boring” content, and the candidates not being comparable to himself.

Nearly three minutes into the debate Trump tweeted, “My TV is off, Twitter is up, waiting for the real show, starring @realDonaldTrump #CNNSocialistDebate #DemDebate.” This one tweet is noteworthy on many levels. Not only is he promoting himself, his entertainment value, and political knowledge, but also drawing negative attention to the Democratic Debate using the hashtag #CNNSocialistDebate, trying to invoke a negative connotation in voters. He is trying to say it is not a show without him, thus the public needs him.

By referring to the Democratic Debate as “one of the most dysfunctional debates I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Trump is trying to reiterate that it was not a presidential debate without him. Then, not using the Democratic candidates’ names “Who is winning the debate so far (just last name)?” is dehumanizing the opposing party and his potential opposition.

Even though he was not there, Donald Trump considered himself a better debater and candidate tweeting, “@Achilarre: I couldn't even imagine the bloodbath that would ensue if the @realDonaldTrump debated any one of these five jabronis" and “"@TS01171980: @FoxNews @realDonaldTrump isn't on the stage, turning this garbage off.” He also referred to the debate’s potential lackluster ratings, due to his lack of presence, writing that his daughter’s interview on CNN would “have better ratings.”

The comparison continued with him trying to imply that he is the only candidate that can intimidate Putin. His tweets included “Putin is not feeling too nervous or scared” and “Imagine Chaffee standing up to Putin.” Apparently, Trump thinks that he can intimidate Putin and no other candidates can.

Trump also commented about the entertainment value of the content. “If you got rid of the commercials you would have nothing worth watching.” He went so far as to call the Democratic candidates “used car salesmen,” “cats,” and “clowns.” Trump tried to turn his twitter account into a platform to praise himself, while putting the other candidates down. Similarly, Donald Trump tried to ingrain in his Twitter followers was that the debate itself was boring. “If I have the #DemDebate on CNN, but pay attention more to my phone, does it still count as me watching it?” He followed this tweet up referring to it as a “snooze fest.” An hour later, one of his tweets included a sleepy emoji symbol. In a similar manner, about thirty minutes after the sleeping face, Trump said he was “yawning.”

Numerous tweets accused the candidates of being too rehearsed. He referred to them as “scripted” more than once. Thus, the reader should consider him unscripted and more genuine in comparison. By the Democratic candidates having clear talking points and taking time to rehearse, they are different from himself. This reiterates the notion that he has been doing well due to his lack of rehearsal; his spontaneity is considered an asset.

He also took credit for people joining Twitter exclusively to follow his tweets, “I joined Twitter tonight just to hear Mr. Trump tweet about this silly debate.” Trump then tweeted "@XGDesignsNYC: Yada yada...It's a bore fest... Best part of this is Trumps tweets! @realDonaldTrump #DemDebate" Thanks.” He wanted people to think of him in a better light when reading his Twitter profile.

The first and only issue Trump tweeted about occurred at 10:34 p.m. with only twenty-six minutes left in the debate. “Notice that illegal immigrants will be given ObamaCare and free college tuition but nothing has been mentioned about our VETERANS #DemDebate.” The main reason he tweeted about this, however, was that it went against his own perspective. Trump has been very open about his immigration policies and admiration for Veterans.

Trump’s use of Twitter demonstrated that new media can be utilized in distinctive manners. He gained followers by being negative and derogatory to a certain degree. His tweets were not centered on political content or issue-related ideas, but the lack of intimidation he felt from the Democrats.

Trump’s Republican competitors did not utilize Twitter in the same manner. Rand Paul tweeted minimally, six times, referencing his negative hashtag and website to oppose Hillary Clinton, #libertynotHillary. Marco Rubio did not tweet the debate at all, but offered a bingo board for viewers. Once a person clicked on the website url, they were also offered the chance to donate to his campaign. 

democrat bingo - rubio.png

Other GOP Candidates, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, did not tweet the debate.

There were only a few Republican candidates that did get involved online. Jeb Bush tweeted four times during the debate, none of which were negative to Trump’s degree. Three referenced Hillary Clinton and one cited Obama. Mike Huckabee tweeted during the debate. He cited Bernie Sander’s hairstyle, climate change, and the second amendment.

Huckabee responded to the content being spoken about and stated his position and thoughts, trying to garner more attention and favor among voters. He used the #ImWithHuck hashtag when tweeting about his stance on the second amendment. Unlike Trump, who received thousands of retweets and favorites, Huckabee had retweets and favorites in the low hundreds. This makes sense due to the fact he only has 414,000 followers compared to Trumps nearly five million Twitter followers.