Lame-duck dynamics are playing out on more than just the House floor — for a view of the upheaval that is the post-midterm transition season, look at political Twitter.
Defeated incumbents' accounts have mostly fallen silent,
while some incoming freshmen are opening a window on new member
orientation. And some leaders are communicating
under titles that, come January, will have to be scrapped along with the 111th
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “@SpeakerPelosi” Twitter handle, for example, will soon be an anachronism. And her replacement, Speaker-designate John Boehner, will be able to trade up (he currently tweets at @JohnBoehner and @GOPLeader).
Their deputies will see a shuffle, too. Presumptive Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Whip Kevin McCarthy currently tweet at @GOPWhip and @ChiefDeputyWhip, respectively. The accounts of outgoing Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Whip Jim Clyburn also bear their soon-to-be-former positions.
The idea of a congressional transition playing out on Twitter was unheard of in 2008, when few lawmakers used the micro-blogging service. Now, those who don't are the anomaly — and the new freshmen, especially the GOPers, know it.
“A few years ago, it might have been a chore to demonstrate the necessity of a strong focus on social media to a few of our members. I don’t see that as being an issue any longer,” said one Republican leadership aide. “Our conference's dominance over Democrats in digital media has been fueled by leadership that leads by example and through ongoing training and collaboration by member and staff organizations like the Republican New Media Caucus.
“House Democrats became complacent and largely abandoned innovation online in the majority, leaving that to the White House, and it came back to haunt them,” the aide said. “This is not a mistake you'll see repeated in the new majority.”
The existing GOP caucus already holds social-media sway in the House, according to most analyses, with its members producing most of Congress's Twitter activity overall. And GOP leaders and key figures — including Boehner, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — consistently rank as the network's most influential politicos.
So the fact that Boehner and others will now be able to
recreate their handles at the expense of the Democratic leadership is lost on
"It's awful early to be discussing this. ... That being said, it is something that is on our radar," emailed one GOP leadership staffer.
Another, emphasizing a January timeline for any changes, added that Boehner’s office is assembling a short-list of possible new handles.
As for Pelosi’s timeline for any switches, a staffer in her office put it simply: "Answer is everything changes the day of the new Congress — that goes for website URLs too. So early January."
Among the defeated incumbent members who will have to retire or change the names of their official accounts are Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), Charles Djou (R-Hawaii), ZackSpace (D-Ohio), Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), John Hall (D-N.Y.), Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.), Tom Perriello (D-Va.) and Joseph Cao (R-La.).