On Jan. 28, 2010, Trump had 27,500 followers. Today he has more than 68 million.
What this allows is an unusual ability to track Trump’s interests and focal points over the past 10 years. While his use of Twitter recently has been far more robust than it was 10 years ago, we can still get a sense of what Trump has been interested in by comparing his mentions of subjects on Twitter over time.
Take “The Apprentice” as an example. Before he ran for president, mentions of the show were often as much as 5 percent of the words he tweeted in a given month. After he ran for president? A trickle.
Before we go any further, here’s an interactive version of the chart above, allowing you to search for any term your heart desires. Exact matches are in dark red. Looser matches (like “apprentices” for “apprentice”) appear in lighter red.
Now let us look at other interesting examples. (Feel free to try them out for yourselves.)
The regularity with which Trump mentioned his own name in tweets has dropped off since the campaign. Before his decision to run, he would often tweet his own name as part of his branding efforts: visit Trump Hotels, that sort of thing. During the campaign, he would promote his candidacy. Since? Relatively less.
Another good example of how his priorities have shifted over the decade comes in looking at his references to debt or deficit. Trump tweeted far more often about debt or the deficit when Obama was president than he has during his own tenure in the White House.
Once Trump was a candidate, he began tweeting Hillary — usually as a reference to Hillary Clinton — with regularity. Even after the campaign, though, he would tweet Clinton’s first name, an example of his broad disinclination to let the 2016 contest go.
Trump’s campaign was launched with an attack on immigrants from Mexico that quickly became a broad cultural fight, helping boost his candidacy. Before the campaign, he mentioned immigration (or immigrants) relatively infrequently. After, it came up more regularly.
Trump’s mentions of a wall (usually referring to his proposal for one on the border with Mexico) spiked not during the campaign but earlier this year, during the government shutdown. That shutdown, you’ll recall, stemmed from Trump’s opposition to signing a funding bill that didn’t include money for a border barrier.
Much of Trump’s focus on Twitter as president has been the sort of political defense mentioned above. It was after the campaign, for example, when he embraced the term “fake,” generally as a modifier for the word “news.”
He has also been much more likely to use the word “witch," as in “witch hunt.”
Even Russia, the focus of the investigation that Trump spent a great deal of energy describing as a witch hunt, was much more commonly mentioned by Trump after he became president than before.
Ukraine has come up in Trump’s Twitter feed only in the past few months, a function of the impeachment effort.
Perhaps the best example of how Trump increasingly uses Twitter for political fights? The regularity with which he mentions either party.
It’s more than possible that we’ve missed other examples of how Trump’s public rhetoric has shifted over time. (Find something interesting on the tool above? Let us know.) What Twitter reveals, though, is the same change that is obvious from the outside: a wealthy television star who is now engaged in a very different struggle for popularity.