In 2016, the game changed for presidential candidates when during his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump used Twitter as a primary means of communication with the public. He used his personal Twitter account, @realdonaldtrump, to share his thoughts, make announcements, and attack his political opponents. His tweets often generated a significant amount of media attention and were often controversial. Trump was known for using Twitter to bypass traditional media outlets and communicate directly with his supporters.
How long did it take your staff of 823 people to think that up–and where are your 33,000 emails that you deleted? https://t.co/gECLNtQizQ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2016
Trump amassed over 80 million followers on Twitter, and was changing the game due to his ability to create catchy slogans and change popular lingo for political dialogue. Terms such as “drain the swamp” largely reverberated around Twitter, and the term “swamp” became largely used to describe elected officials who have served in districts with easy wins that have resulted in politicians serving for entirely too long in office.
In 2020, following the Jan. 6th protest, Donald Trump was banned from Twitter for nearly two years until his account was restated recently. Trump has not yet posted on Twitter since regaining his account with over 80 followers, however, there is speculation that the large following on the popular platform may be too much to pass up on, and for the 2024 presidential election, Trump may or may not return to Twitter.
Now, since Elon Musk purchased Twitter on October 27, 2022, and has been the CEO since, right-wing candidates have a renewed sense of free speech. Along with Twitter now opting to allow more free speech on the platform, Donald Trump has since started his own social media company, Truth Social.
Most candidates and presumptive candidates for the 2024 presidential election have not created a Truth Social account, and this can be due to the smaller user base that Truth Social has in comparison to Twitter, or, it can be a political move that was intentionally done to not align themselves with Donald Trump politically moving forward.
Currently, Donald Trump has 87.8 million followers on Twitter, allowing him to tweet to an extremely large following and create instant viral Tweets. There is currently no other candidates or presumptive candidates that have anywhere near the following of Donald Trump. Currently, President Joe Biden has 28.6 million followers, Mike Pence has 5.8 million, Ron DeSantis has 3.8 million, and Nikki Haley as well as Liz Cheney have yet to gain one million Twitter followers.
While voting is what decides elections and not a large following on Twitter, a larger following on Twitter allows a candidate to be in the driver’s seat of their own campaign, and not have to rely on the media for swaying public opinion about them. Donald Trump greatly frustrated the media, particularly CNN, during his time as President, due to his ability to counter their narratives about him.
Ron DeSantis is the only candidate with even a fraction of the controversy of Donald Trump, and he will need to have a strong year throughout 2023 on Twitter in order to gain notoriety with the average American social media user while attempting to take on the inevitable black-balling from the media.