Cory Booker would likely smash Twitter records in the Senate

The Senate has its share of hyperactive Twitter users, but no member of the upper chamber approaches the popular social forum with the sheer tenacity of would-be New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

The Newark mayor, the favorite to replace the late-Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) in an October special election, has logged more than 3,000 tweets already this year. That makes him roughly twice as active as the most prolific sitting senator.

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The 44-year-old Booker, a rising star in the national Democratic Party, has tapped the popular online messaging service for tasks as varied as updating his campaign stops, promoting voter registration drives, deflecting romantic entreaties from smitten fans, and broadcasting the philosophical musings of Gautama Buddha, Babe Ruth and, well, himself.

“Grace isn’t just a statement before meals. It’s a way of being. It’s kindness in action, generosity embodied and a soul revealing its light,” he tweeted on Monday.

Every member of the Senate is connected in some manner to a Twitter account.

But none have taken it to the level of Booker, who has nearly 1.4 million followers. Booker had posted 3,285 tweets this year (as of 1 p.m. Friday) — a rate of almost 20 per day. 

By contrast, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the upper chamber’s most productive Twitter user, has tallied just 1,720 tweets over that span, followed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), with 1,445 posts; Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), with 1,181; Patty Murray (D-Wash.), with 1,068; and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), with 1,016. 

Ten senators have tweeted fewer than 100 times all year.

Booker this month was asked, “If you get elected to the Senate, will you still be as active on Twitter?” Booker retweeted the message and responded, “Yes.”

That could rub some of the senior members of the Senate the wrong way because new senators are expected to lay low in their freshman years.

The late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), for example, advised former Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) “to be a workhorse, not a show horse.”

Ross Baker, political scientist at Rutgers University, said Booker’s frequent use of Twitter conveys a sense that the Senate hopeful is both paying attention to voters’ concerns and well-

attuned to the modern world.

“He’s staying in touch,” Baker said Monday by phone. “It sends a message that he’s sort of on the cutting edge of technology, which is not a bad thing to be known for.”

Tobe Berkovitz, a political communications expert at Boston University, agreed that Twitter, at its best, is an effective campaign tool that “can help get volunteers and rally support of the base.” 

“Pundits, reporters and political wise guys follow Twitter feeds and this can send a message viral to broader political constituencies and to a wide group of journalists,” Berkovitz said in an email.

Twitter, of course, has become wildly popular in recent years, with a broad spectrum of users attracted to its terse, 140-character messages, which are delivered efficiently and digested easily.

The format has been particularly appealing to politicians, celebrities, pundits and other public figures — including journalists — who have an inherent interest in self-promotion. 

For Booker, there seem to be few topics unworthy of addressing via Twitter.

On the political front, he’s written messages urging donations, clarifying his position on different policy issues and lending updates on his campaign strategy.

On the personal front, he’s used the forum to boost the morale of his campaign staff, to thank constituents for their support and to tackle any number of random — and often very personal — issues that pop onto his radar.

On Monday, amid early summer heat and humidity in Newark, Booker tweeted: “On this hot day, please also be mindful of our pets. Making sure they are hydrated and cool is imperative also.”

There can be downsides to being on Twitter a lot.

Plenty of users have found themselves in hot water after posting messages that were deemed offensive.

Former-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) resigned from Congress in 2011 after sending sexually explicit tweets to young women who weren’t his wife.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) this year was forced to disclose the existence of a previously secret daughter after mistakenly posting Twitter messages to her on his public account during the State of the Union address.

Experts say there is also the danger that Booker’s followers could become annoyed by the sheer volume of his messages.

“If Booker has sent out 3,000 Tweets, he blasted past annoying 2,830 Tweets ago,” Berkovitz warned. “After a while people want a serial Tweeter to give it a rest.”

Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis said Twitter has allowed Booker a more intimate relationship with his constituents.

“At a time when so many Americans feel estranged from their government in Washington, Mayor Booker has used Twitter to move Newark’s government closer to its residents, making the city more efficient and responsive,” Griffis said in an email.

Public polls suggest that, so far, the strategy isn’t hurting.

A recent Quinnipiac University survey found that 53 percent of voters prefer Booker to the other Democrats in the race, including New Jersey Reps. Rush Holt (10 percent) and Frank Pallone Jr. (9 percent).

In his first campaign ad, Holt alluded to Booker’s fondness for Twitter: “I’ll be the first to admit I’m not Cory Booker. I don’t have a million Twitter followers.”

Holt, who has fewer than 5,000 followers, said Monday, “I tweet with moderation.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has scheduled an Aug. 13 primary election, to be followed by the general on Oct. 16.


Meredith Bentsen, Amrita Khalid and Brina Chu contributed.