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#FollowFriday: Twitter Survival Tips From The Romney Campaign Trail

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
June 1, 2012

Note: We’ve asked NPR journalists to share their top five (or so) political Twitter accounts, and we’re featuring the series on #FollowFriday. Here are recommendations from reporter Ari Shapiro (@Ari_Shapiro).

Living on the Romney campaign trail means lots of waiting. Waiting for the press bus to depart, waiting for the candidate to arrive, waiting for the Secret Service sniffer dog to inspect my gear. It’s hard to get actual work done during those lulls. But it’s easy to scan Twitter.

My favorite people to follow are those I think of as news-adjacent. I have enough news in my life. I want Twitter to tell me something I don’t know. Preferably in an amusing way. That’s rarely true of the @BarackObama and @MittRomney Twitter feeds.

But “Mitt’s Body Man” — Garrett Jackson (@dgjackson) — tends to be a bit less rote. Think staffers caught wearing mismatched socks, Romney making one of his beloved peanut butter and honey sandwiches, or backstage photos from the wings of a major speech. Not breaking news, but not the sort of stuff everyone else is tweeting, either.

While many of the Obama and Romney aides stick to tweeting the daily talking points (“Watch Jay Carney struggle to answer a question about Solyndra!”), two who can be more unfettered are @DavidAxelrod in the Obama team and @EricFehrn (Eric Fehrnstrom) from the Romney team.

Never mind that Axelrod is in Chicago and Fehrnstrom is in Boston — these guys prove an old Washington axiom: The more senior you are, the more freely you can speak. The brawlers are at their best when sniping directly at each other like Waldorf and Statler on the balcony of the Muppet Show. This exchange, from April, was a classic:

@EricFehrn: @davidaxelrod says Romney living in #MadMen “time warp.” You mean, when unemployment was lower, and the economy was expanding?

@DavidAxelrod: @EricFehrn No, when Russia was our greatest foe, bosses could dictate on women’s health & Etch-a-Sketch was a toy, not a political strategy.

For perspective on just how ridiculous this whole political circus can be, I love the Twitter feed of former White House speechwriter and current NBC sitcom writer @jonlovett. He used to write jokes for President Obama’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner speeches. Now he’s opining on the absurdity of the dinner.

Here’s one of many Lovett gems from that night, when @GQPolitics handed the reins of its Twitter feed over to him for the weekend: “There are two overwhelming feelings at #WHCD: A) Is this all there is to life? Why are we here? and B) Jason Stackhouse from True Blood!”

Finally, in a sea of journalists tweeting the same observations about the same daily news events, @RyanLizza of The New Yorker proves that someone who consistently breaks new ground in long-format stories can also lead the pack in 140-character tweets. Just this week he noted, “The idea that Obama’s 2008 campaign was strictly positive is ludicrous. OFA ran more negative ads than any presidential campaign in history.” And, regarding Romney’s handling of Donald Trump and birtherism, “Clinton’s Sister Souljah moment was 20 years ago this June. Maybe we need a term for the opposite: refusal to condemn fringe in own party.”

Happy weekend everyone, and may all your Fridays be followful.

Follow our recommendations so far, and get future picks, here: https://twitter.com/#!/nprpolitics/the-npr-twitterati [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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