Mike Pence said Wednesday that Twitter doesn't "matter a hill of beans" in shaping voters' preferences for the presidential candidates, even as the man for whom he's campaigning has used the social media utility to dictate news cycles—often to his detriment—since entering the race last year.
The running mate of Donald Trump told rally goers in Henderson, Nevada that word of mouth remains far more influential among the electorate, and that all forms of media have relatively less sway.
"I will tell you that all the cable TV shows in the world, all the front pages of newspapers in the world, all the editorials, all the tweets in the world don't matter a hill of beans when somebody you know walks up to you and says, 'Let me tell you why I'm voting for Donald Trump,'" Pence said. He stopped speaking for several moments after uttering the word "tweets", which elicited light laughter from the audience.
"Everywhere I go in this country … I'm just telling people, go tell somebody," Pence continued. "Because the sheer weight of you taking time to find somebody at work, at worship, outside the drug store, and just saying, put that great make America hat [sic] on again, and just walk up to them and say, 'For real, you know me, let me tell you why I'm so passionate about this.' Because word of mouth is still the most powerful media in America, and it always will be."
Trump, whose 11 million Twitter followers are the most of any 2016 presidential candidate by a significant margin, has constantly used Twitter to communicate his message. His heavy use of the platform has often manifested in adversarial comments toward the press, defensive remarks about ongoing controversies, and seeming blunders—take his infamous "taco bowl" tweet to commemorate Cinco de Mayo—that have commanded media attention.
His frequent retweets of positive feedback have, incidentally, attracted negative feedback on multiple occasions. He retweeted someone questioning the mental health of Iowa voters in October, when Ben Carson led the polls there. (He blamed the matter on an intern, though Trump himself wondered aloud at one point if Iowa voters were "stupid" for supporting Carson in such numbers.) He has retweeted apparent white supremacists complimenting him and slamming his rivals, including the account of a user with the handle @WhiteGenocideTM. His retweet of a side-by-side photo of his wife Melania and his opponent's wife Heidi Cruz captioned "the images are worth a thousand words" helped escalate a feud between him and Ted Cruz that ultimately led to the latter unloading on Trump ahead of the Indiana primary.
This is only a fractional list of the times Trump has made news—huge news—with his use of Twitter. And the GOP nominee has bragged about how he has "mastered" the messaging app, describing it to the New York Times:
In an interview at his office — interrupted repeatedly by Mr. Trump's picking up his Samsung Galaxy cellphone, loading new tweets with his index finger and marveling at his nonstop mentions ("Watch this!" he implored) — the candidate compared his Twitter feed to a newspaper with a single, glorious voice: his own. "The Ernest Hemingway of a hundred and forty characters," he said, quoting a fan. In the past, Mr. Trump said, when dealing with a dishonest rival "there was nothing you can do other than sue." "Which I've done," he added. "But it's a long process." Now, he simply tweets. Caustically, colorfully and repeatedly.
Given that "Trump will be Trump" from now until November, we can doubtlessly expect more of the same.