The self-described Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has solidified himself as the King of Twitter during the Democratic convention.
From trolling Democratic speakers to trying to clean up his own messes, Mr. Trump has been firing from the hip, running his own version of a reality check on his Democratic opponents, the press and particularly Hillary Clinton and President Obama.
He has amassed 10.3 million followers, who also have been treated to the billionaire businessman’s thoughts on everyone from German Chancellor Angela Merkel (“ruining Germany”) to actor Samuel L. Jackson’s golf swing (“not athletic.”)
Twitter has helped Mr. Trump go around the press, and even his own press handlers, siphoning his thoughts directly to Americans who can’t seem to get enough of the unfiltered candidate.
Nikki Usher, professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, said that among politicians, “Donald Trump is the king of Twitter.”
“In short: he’s used to speaking in sound bites, more so than any candidate we’ve ever had,” she said, adding that Twitter’s 140 characters is perfect for him.
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Mr. Trump on Thursday needled Mrs. Clinton and her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, warning the American middle class would be suffer more under a Clinton administration than they have under President Obama.
“A vote for Clinton-Kaine is a vote for TPP, NAFTA, high taxes, radical regulation, and massive influx of refugees,” he tweeted, referring to two trade deals. Mr. Trump later directed people to his Facebook page, where he said Democrats seem oblivious to problems of unemployment, the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and the mess at the nation’s border.
“At Hillary Clinton’s convention this week, Democrats have been speaking about a world that doesn’t exist,” he said.
The real estate mogul launched the same attack against Mr. Obama the previous evening after the Democratic convention hall fawned over the president’s optimistic message and his passing of the party’s torch to Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Trump suggested Mr. Obama might have a screw loose.
“Our country does not feel ‘great already’ to the millions of wonderful people living in poverty, violence and despair,” he said.
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“70% of the people think our country is going in the wrong direction,” he said in another post.
Ms. Usher said Mr. Trump isn’t new to this, having lived for decades in the eye of tabloids.
“As a result he is somebody who is very well acquainted with what it means to be an entertainer and to market yourself in such a way to draw attention to yourself,” she said.
For Mr. Trump, Ms. Usher said “bad publicity is good publicity.”
Mr. Trump, though, stayed silent on Twitter during Mrs. Clinton’s acceptance speech in which the former first lady said the New York billionaire’s Twitter habit is more of a weakness than a strength.
“A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,” Mrs. Clinton said.
Television news networks, newspaper and media websites have run Mr. Trump’s tweets in their coverage on a daily basis — amplifying his message to a much broader audience, and arguably helping him make up for his small campaign operation, and concerns over his fundraising.
“Another way to think about this is: Even if you don’t follow Donald Trump, you only need one person in your network re-tweeting what he’s posting in order for you to be exposed to his messages,” said Pablo Barbera, a professor at University of Southern California’s School of International Relations.
Mr. Barbera said that Twitter has helped bring an end to the “gatekeeper” days of journalism, when reporters filtered the messages that made it into the national discussion.
And the brevity of tweets means Mr. Trump doesn’t have to go into detail.
“Thinking ‘America will be great’ can mean very different things to different people, and when this message is presented in isolation, that will increase its appeal to different cross sections of voters,” Mr. Barbera said.
Mr. Trump has relished his ability to simultaneously circumvent the news media and drive news coverage through social media.
His exuberance comes through in the more than 30 messages he posted with exclamation points. He also dubbed Mrs. Clinton “Crooked Hillary” more than a dozen times, and repeatedly posted the results of polls favorable to himself.
Along the way he’s described Vice President Joseph R. Biden as “not very bright,” former President Clinton as “highly overrated!” and Sen. Tim Kaine, Mrs. Clinton’s running mate, as “a joke!”
He mocked Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s convention speech, saying “Pocahontas bombed last night. Sad to watch.” He also relentlessly went after Bernard Sanders, tweeting that the Vermont senator “caved” by backing Mrs. Clinton.
“He just wants to shut down and go home to bed!” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Clinton’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination.
Mr. Trump also has thanked members of the law enforcement community, lamented an increase in shooting deaths of police officers and called for a stronger response to the threat posed by the Islamic State.
“Somebody said I’m the Ernest Hemmingway [sic] of 140 characters,” he said early on in the campaign. “It’s like owning The New York Times without the losses — it’s tremendous. It gives you a lot of power.”
• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at email@example.com.
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