The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Biden White House gets feisty on Twitter

This administration’s tweets, long bland, have become punchy and even viral as the president has shown more willingness to go after Republicans

The White House in early August. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

The White House Twitter account under President Biden has not been the most exciting corner of the internet. After four years of unpredictable, headline-grabbing tweets from @realDonaldTrump, the White House account has been quiet and unassuming, largely regurgitating press releases and explaining Biden’s policies.

Not anymore.

Sure, there are still the tweets touting Biden’s policies and how they’ll help people. But the White House account this week decided to hit back in uncharacteristically feisty — and personal — fashion after a number of Republicans hammered Biden’s decision to wipe out up to $20,000 in student debt for many borrowers.

When Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) criticized the loan forgiveness, the White House tweeted a clip of Greene slamming the decision and added, “Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had $183,504 in PPP loans forgiven,” referring to the covid-era Paycheck Protection Program, which made loans to businesses.

It didn’t stop there. In a series of five more tweets, the White House targeted other Republicans who had criticized the decision with the same template: reminding Americans those same lawmakers had hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars worth of loans forgiven under the Paycheck Protection Program, while attaching video clips or tweets from the lawmakers.

Republicans say the PPP program always included a forgiveness provision for those who met certain criteria, while those taking out student loans were expected to fully repay them.

But the White House tweets have succeeded in changing the conversation, and they did not go unnoticed. Democrats responded with enthusiasm, with nearly 200,000 people retweeting the thread and more than 700,000 liking it as of Friday afternoon, making it one of the White House’s highest engagement tweets ever. The White House account gained more than 49,000 followers Thursday and more than 71,000 on Friday, far more than the couple thousand it generally gains per day, according to data from Social Blade.

“Hey, WH staff, just so you know, if you’re going to continue to drag these hypocrites with clear and hard-hitting messaging, you run a serious risk of surging enthusiasm, electoral success, and continued improvements to the lives of millions of Americans,” author Scott Lynch wrote in response to the tweet.

“You don’t have to agree with student-loan forgiveness to agree this is a pretty impressive response from The White House,” wrote Miles Taylor, a former Trump official who has since left the Republican Party.

“I am so here for these @WhiteHouse tweets,” wrote Monica Lewinsky.

The GOP has also sought to adopt punchy one-liners that can fare so well on social media. The Republican National Committee recently tweeted, “Someone needs to tell Joe Biden he can’t always be on vacation,” along with a photo of Biden on a bike ride and a “Time Off Request Form” with “Denied” stamped in red letters.

But for the White House, the newly punchy tone seems to be part of a revamped strategy leading up to November’s midterm elections, with Biden increasingly attacking Republicans directly and sometimes by name. On Thursday, Biden accused the GOP of “semi-fascism” and said he could not work with “MAGA Republicans.”

White House officials acknowledge privately they are trying to unleash more zingers, but they also said Biden has called out Republicans in the past and pointed to earlier tweets by the president. In one, Biden called out Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, all Florida Republicans, for their opposition to an assault weapons ban.

“We’ve never hesitated to call out hypocrisy, and we’re not going to stop now,” said White House spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna.

Still, the new strategy seems to reflect growing optimism within the administration as polls have shown rising approval ratings for Biden and growing enthusiasm among Democrats, with many becoming more engaged after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this summer.

The White House also recently hired Megan Coyne as deputy director of platforms in its Office of Digital Strategy. Coyne garnered widespread attention among Democrats for bringing humor and punchiness to a New Jersey state-run account with tweets that went viral.

It was unclear whether she was behind Thursday’s tweets, but on her Twitter account Thursday she shared a screenshot showing “The White House” was a top trending topic on Twitter with a smiley face.

Biden has lagged behind other Democrats who have shown more creativity with their social media in a way that has excited supporters.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, for instance, released an ad in Florida last month targeting DeSantis and warning state residents that freedom was under attack in their state. Florida Republicans hit back, but many Democrats praised the move.

And Pennsylvania’s Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running against Republican Mehmet Oz for a U.S. Senate seat, has used memes about Oz’s wealth and the number of houses he owns to such effect that the hard-fought race has drifted in Fetterman’s favor. Fetterman’s team has also shown proficiency with social media trends.

In one particularly popular tweet, Fetterman employed Snooki, the “Jersey Shore” star, to troll Oz about purportedly having more ties to New Jersey than Pennsylvania, a frequent theme of the Fetterman campaign.

Democratic strategists said they welcomed the fiery new approach to the White House’s Twitter account.

“For a really long time now, so many activists within the Democratic Party have wanted to see Democrats — and obviously the president — in terms of just tone and directness, start fighting fire with fire,” said Kurt Bardella, a former Republican who now consults for Democrats.

The White House account, Bardella added, “is showing a certain personality that we haven’t seen yet from this administration, and it was incredibly effective. We saw it had a very galvanizing impact in terms of how the Democratic apparatus responded to it. There was an enthusiasm there that also matches the moment that we’re in right now.”

Drew Harwell contributed to this report.

Loading...