Sixty-five-year-old Congressman Bob Brady — competing with other House Dems to see who can build the largest following on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — is up to about 400 followers, and has tweeted as much as 17 times in a day. “To be honest, it was pretty tough to figure out,” says Brady, who nevertheless does most of his own tweeting. “But my 13-year-old granddaughter was able to walk me right through it.”
Would-be senator Joe Sestak (who has more than 3,500 followers on each of his two Twitter accounts) likes to remind folks about his work ethic: “After long night marking up America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, starting back up at 9:15am.” His Republican rival Pat Toomey (about 5,100 followers) bolsters his TV commercials: “Joe Sestak: Wrong on cap-and-trade, wrong for PA.”
Politicians have always hearted sound bites. But who, exactly, is reading all these 140 — character dispatches the pols are writing? “Twitter is more useful for rallying core supporters than for bringing in new voters,” says Marc Meredith, a political science prof at Penn. “I don’t believe that people who are unsure of who they’ll vote for are following these candidates.” So doesn’t that make the tweets just so much extra noise?
Thirty-five-year-old Democratic Congressional candidate Manan Trivedi (420 followers), who hopes to unseat Republican Jim Gerlach (1,230 followers) in the Sixth District, thinks not. He often tweets about his newborn daughter. “A lot of people find those tweets so much more interesting and engaging than the political stuff,” says Trivedi, who thinks of Twitter as a “real connection to who you are, as opposed to a polished press release.”