Last month FHQ (or @FHQ*) joined the ranks of the Twitter nation in order to track not only how the prospective Republican presidential candidates use the service, but to gauge each person's follower level throughout the invisible primary period.
The pattern in June looks pretty much as it did a month ago. To put it mildly, Newt Gingrich has either a tremendous head start or just a plain ol' lead over the other potential candidates. That advantage continues to dwarf the others to the point that the differences between them is hardly noticeable. [To add in the likely Democratic nominee, President Obama currently have more than 1.5 million followers.] Before I omit Gingrich in order to better examine the other candidates' followings, let me make a couple of caveats.
First, what you're seeing is a division in the data that isn't necessarily something that provides and apples to apples comparison. The blue portion of the bars is the follower level each candidate had from the creation of their Twitter account through the end of May (Well, May 27 to be exact.) while the red segment represents what the candidates gained since the original data was collected last month. No, that's not directly comparable, but as we continue to add in subsequent data in the months ahead, this start-up issue will lessen to some extent.
Secondly, what's to be done with John Ensign and Mark Sanford? I'm going to leave them both in for the time being despite the fact that their White House aspirations have been extinguished. However, if anything, it will be interesting to see how the two scandal-plagued pols, use Twitter in the continuing aftermath of their respective revelations. That's future omissions, but what about additions? I looked for a Mitch Daniels Twitter feed but the Indiana governor has yet to become a convert. Give it time, Hoosiers.
With that out of the way, let's look at the numbers for everyone but Gingrich, who added about 200,000 followers in June. The other three of the GOP "top four" -- Gingrich, Huckabee, Palin and Romney -- are ahead of the curve. [The top four are given that designation simply because they are the most mentioned candidates for 2012 in addition to being the ones consistently included in the admittedly scant polling on the 2012 race. The phenomenon seems to stretch to Twitter as well.] Though Romney lags behind (We'll get to why in a moment), Huckabee and Palin along with Bobby Jindal, there's still enough distance between the former Massachusetts governor and everyone else to include him in the group of candidates on the upper end of the Twitter follower distribution. Huckabee, Jindal and Romney had modest follower gains in June and Sarah Palin, like Newt Gingrich, had about a 60% increase in those following her in that same span.
Of the remaining prospective candidates, no one, at this point, seems to be breaking from the pack to indicate any level of emergence. Ensign and Sanford may see increases, but it is a safe bet that those gains won't be related to folks searching them out because they're interested in the pair's White House chances.
Now, there's one factor that I alluded to last month but didn't delve into that deeply: the idea that a candidate's follower count is a function of how often the candidates are tweeting, not just interest in their presidential ambitions. Mitt Romney, for example, has an impressive list of followers for someone who is tweeting so infrequently. That may tell us something about people's interest in his potential candidacy in 2012. What about the others? Tim Pawlenty, like Romney, likely lags because the Minnesota governor isn't as frequent a tweeter as, say, Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich. The latter two tweet a lot and have a significant number of followers to show for it; each averaging over five tweets per day since they opened their Twitter accounts.
Mike Huckabee is another candidate that tweets with relative regularity, but the former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate is hurt by the fact that he was an early adopter of Twitter (joining last summer). Of the rest, only Mark Sanford clears the one tweet/day barrier. But he's been pretty quiet since his "hike" last weekend.
One to watch? I'd keep an eye on John Thune. No, the support isn't there now, but with Ensign's resignation from the Republican Senate Policy Chair position and Thune's rise to that rank, the South Dakota senator has a higher profile now. Add to that Thune's new web site concerning the Sotomayor confirmation process (something FHQ tweeted), and you have an apparent increased web presence.
But I suppose we'll see in another month.
*And if you're not already following us, click here, sign up and follow. There are often items that are worth a read (and/or beyond the purview of this blog) that get a tweet.
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