A perplexing truth was one big reason for President Trump's early success: The Ivy League-educated billionaire from New York had a style that won over much of the working white middle class in America's flyover country. One of the most cited reason for the demographic's support for Trump is that he gets them, from their values to their communication style, and his Twitter feed reflects the Trump you see on the rally stage and on camera.
A new report in the Boston Globe says that it's Trump's staff sending many of the tweets from @RealDonald Trump. As many political staffers do, they've adopted the style, including the tics, of their boss's own tweets to make them appear authentically from Trump. Here, according to the Globe, there's an even more overt method to the madness geared at connecting with the people who sent Trump to Washington:
It’s not always Trump tapping out a Tweet, even when it sounds like his voice. West Wing employees who draft proposed tweets intentionally employ suspect grammar and staccato syntax in order to mimic the president’s style, according to two people familiar with the process.They overuse the exclamation point! They Capitalize random words for emphasis. Fragments. Loosely connected ideas. All part of a process that is not as spontaneous as Trump’s Twitter feed often appears.Presidential speechwriters have always sought to channel their bosses’ style and cadence, but Trump’s team is blazing new ground with its approach to his favorite means of instant communication. Some staff members even relish the scoldings Trump gets from elites shocked by the Trumpian language they strive to imitate, believing that debates over presidential typos fortify the belief within his base that he has the common touch."
It's not surprising to hear that White House aides think that Trump's tweets keep him connected to Americans. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters last year that “For the people to hear directly from their president, no matter what format that is in — whether it's through social-media platforms, whether it's through speeches, whether it's through interviews — that's always a positive. And I think most people agree.”
But polling says they don't.
Most Americans don't have Twitter and only 15 percent of Republicans follow Trump on Twitter, according to a Gallup estimate. So the president may not be directly reaching as much of his base as he thinks. It's likely that many of his supporters — prominent groups include white evangelicals, older people and rural people — are learning about the content of the tweets through media coverage of him.
Which brings up a few questions about the strategy:
Does Team Trump care how his supporters outside his base feel about his tweets? For as much focus is put on it, not all of those who voted for Trump are in his base. Trump won white college-educated voters, men, white Americans, baby boomers and some other groups, according to exit polls. Many in these groups probably don't interpret Trump's typos and grammar errors as proof that he is relatable. And nearly half — 45 percent — of Republicans said in April's Quinnipiac poll that Trump should stop tweeting from his personal account.
Does Trump's tweeting move people not already supporting him? Trump uses Twitter to attack the media, those in his own party and generally anyone who doesn't see the world the way that he does. Historically, one of the goals of officeholders is to expand the base. There's no proof that Twitter typos and grammar errors help that.
At the end of the day, is it all worth it? Nearly 7 in 10 (67 percent) voters say that Trump should stop tweeting from his personal account, according to the April Quinnipiac poll. And even most Republicans — 2 to 1 — said that Trump's tweeting does more to hurt his presidency than to help it, according to a January Washington Post-ABC poll. Regardless of whether the base loves it, Trump's tweeting be hurting his presidency.
It seems likely that Trump is going to keep tweeting. His 140-character analysis of global politics is arguably one of the things that helped get him on the political stage. But one wonders how much higher his approval ratings might be if he and his team cared less about convincing the base that he's a common man and more about convincing all Americans that he was up early working and not opining on the day's news on his Twitter account.