Before the vice-presidential debate began, we wrote it was a sure bet that one of the headlines from this debate was likely to come from the Twitter account of one Donald J. Trump. We were right.
How did we know this? Well, for one, Trump tends to have thoughts on and about debate nights:
Even ones he's not officially a part of:
And he had lots of thoughts Tuesday. In just the first hour of the debate — as his running mate made the case that the Clinton campaign represented an “avalanche of insults” — Donald Trump:
1) Inexplicably sniped at a Fox News anchor with whom he's had a feud with:
2) Retweeted accounts calling Democrats' vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), a liar:
3) Retweeted accounts insulting Kaine's appearance:
4) And (see above) retweeted a tweet that included an account that has mentioned “white genocide”:
Here's an example from that aforementioned account mentioning “white genocide”:
Twitter has become a place where an unfiltered Trump feels like he can tell it like it is to his 12 million followers — even if his tweets, often posted in the wee hours, deliver a message his campaign would probably rather they didn't. (See: this and this and all these.)
But the vice presidential debate wasn't 5:30 a.m., and Trump wasn't necessarily unfiltered. His spokesman said there were four aides by his side as he watched the debate in Nevada:
We can see why. The debate was aired in prime time in much of America, and even though Tuesday's first and only meeting of the two 2016 vice-presidential candidates is unlikely to move the needle on the presidential campaign, the stakes were high in the sense that more people were tuned into the presidential campaigns than on a usual Tuesday night (save for election night, of course).
As Trump sat watching, phone in hand, Trump's staff members likely wanted to make sure he doesn't fire off a tweet or retweet something that would have (a) drawn attention away from their typically on-message vice-presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, or (b) start another controversy that will stretch into the days ahead.
This article's existence confirms they've failed on the first goal. And TBD on the second. As of this writing, there's still 40 more minutes of the vice presidential debate, and Trump is still tweeting.
Update: Trump played it safe the rest of the debate, mostly retweeting his campaign's rapid-response news releases attacking the Hillary Clinton ticket.