President Trump used to love tweeting. I mean, he still loves tweeting, obviously, relying on it as an end run on those insistent media jerks who are always trying to contextualize things with “facts.” But he used to love tweeting, knocking out 20 or 30 tweets and retweets a day.
That was the case even once he was a candidate for the presidency. Trump would seize every tool at his disposal to share his thoughts on things, every interview, every camera, every blank little box on Twitter. He tweeted a lot before the primaries, a bit less once voting began and an awful lot once the election grew near.
But then he slowed way down.
That pattern is more clear if you consider the number of tweets he sent or retweeted each month. In July 2015, his first full month as a candidate, he tweeted almost 1,000 times. That was also the month that he took over the lead in primary polling from former Florida governor Jeb Bush (in case you were wondering which of the many Jeb Bushes we were talking about here). Then there’s that spike in October 2016 — after which he quieted down quite a bit. A blip late last summer, but generally less tweeting.
Until this month. As of writing, he’s tweeted 169 times this month — not that much compared with most months as a raw total. But bear in mind that this month is only 15 days old. On a daily basis, he’s tweeting at the fastest clip of his presidency, averaging 11.3 tweets per day. He’s tweeting, if you will, at a late-primary level.
Why the surge now? I have two theories.
Theory 1 is that Trump is feeling chuffed up. His approval numbers are on the rise, he’s back from his historic meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore and the economy’s humming.
Bolstering this theory is that his most enthusiastic tweeting came back when he was most demonstrably seeing political success. Leading up to the primaries, he was steamrolling the competition and proving all of the doubters wrong. Once he won the nomination, though, he trailed his opponent. He stopped bringing up the polls at every opportunity. It was a bit more bleak. Once he got to the White House, rougher still. Low approval ratings, constant tension.
The only problem with this theory is that the data doesn’t entirely support it.
It’s hard to compare two numbers that are only remotely connected, but it’s clear that while the recent increase in tweeting overlaps with improved approval ratings, the one last September and October didn’t really. There was a slight upward movement after Trump’s handling of the hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast, an uptick that coincided with more tweets. (That’s the dashed line.) Generally, though, there’s no correlation.
So we come to my other theory: No one is telling him not to tweet all the time.
We’ve gone through a few phases of the Trump presidency by now. There were those early days, when Trump was new to a daunting job and being guided by staffers who were largely similarly new to the executive branch. Things got messy quickly, and Trump overhauled his team in mid-2017. At that point, John F. Kelly came in as chief of staff. One of his aims was to lock down Trump’s media consumption and, more generally, the West Wing.
Earlier this year, though, Kelly took a stumble in Trump’s estimation for his handling of the resignation of staff secretary Rob Porter. Trump, now a year into the job and confident in his own counsel, reportedly felt emboldened to be his old self once again. And his old self sure did like to tweet.
Trump’s most recent tweet as of writing, incidentally, harked back to those happier days.
I’ll note, though, that his pre-inauguration pace of June 2018 isn’t exactly overwhelming. To set a new single-day record as of 6 p.m. Eastern time on June 15, he will need to tweet 83 more times before midnight. Unlikely.
But, to be honest: Possible.