Twitter primary: Where the GOP hopefuls stand

The 2012 Republican presidential field as seen through Twitter.


Grant Robertson


Published Aug 2, 2011   Updated Jun 3, 2021, 3:41 am CDT

Twitter has profoundly changed politics. One might observe that the microblogging tool’s abbreviated format has taken a news cycle already driven by sound bites and reduced it to 140-character quips. Yet that same tool has allowed for politicians and voters to engage far more directly and spread their messages faster, farther, and more frequently than they ever could before. For the wide-open Republican field for the U.S. presidential election next year, Twitter is how they tell their stories to the voting public. And like a 24/7 debate, it’s the medium which reveals their flaws and strengths.

Below are the Dot’s summaries of the candidates’ positions and place in the race. Click on the candidate’s picture or name to see a detailed profile with the most telling tweets. The Daily Dot arranged words from each candidate’s tweet streams in a word cloud, a format which makes their use of language plain to see, and then selected representative tweets from the candidate and from Twitter users mentioning them.

Michele Bachmann

U.S. House, 6th District, Minnesota

A two-term Representative from the state of Minnesota, Bachmann is a darling of the Tea Party. She’s also a magnet for controversy.

From her national spotlight debut on MSNBC’s Hardball — where she demanded an investigation into which members of Congress were anti-American — to her much publicized signing of an anti-same-sex marriage pledge from Iowa’s “Family Leader” political action committee, Bachmann is no lightweight when it comes to attracting a base from the far-right wing of the party. That same strength could be her weakness come Super Tuesday.

Last Updated August 1, 2011, 8:09 p.m.


Herman Cain

CEO (former), Godfather’s Pizza

A lesser-known candidate from outside the Beltway, Cain has sharpened his rhetorical chops over the last few years as a nighttime conservative talk-show host on Atlanta’s WSB Radio. Known for simple answers to complex questions, Cain’s (almost) unapologetic views on Muslims in America have propelled him to the center of a media controversy or two as he’s wound up his bid for the highest office in the land.

Fans of Cain point to his business acumen, and his status as a Washington outsider, as key reasons why he would offer strong opposition to a second Obama term.

Last Updated August 1, 2011, 8:09 p.m.


Newt Gingrich

U.S. House (former), 6th District, Georgia

Once at the center of the Republican campaign to impeach President Clinton for lying under oath about an adulterous affair with Monica Lewinsky, Gingrich’s own personal life and choices have presented significant challenges to his status as a viable candidate.

A former history professor and businessman, Gingrich has made early campaign missteps which may still lead to his undoing.

Last Updated August 1, 2011, 8:09 p.m.


Jon Huntsman, Jr.

Utah Governor (former)

A conservative among a field of very conservative candidates, Huntsman has gained substantial interest from independent voters.

With a long resume encompassing a governorship (Utah), an appointment as a U.S. ambassador to Singapore and a stint as U.S. ambassador to China under the current administration, Huntsman has arguably the most robust qualifications among the field. Can is relatively moderate views hold fast in a field catering to the far reaches of the right? Only time will tell.

Last Updated August 1, 2011, 8:09 p.m.


Ron Paul

U.S. House, 14th District, Texas

With strong support from the Internet and grassroots efforts, Ron Paul’s no-nonsense approach took him far in the 2008 race to be the GOP nominee. His withdrawal from the 2008 race left a vast number of disenfranchised potential Republican voters with little solace.

Spurned by major media in 2008, Paul has managed to craft a strong following once again among strong fiscal conservatives in the party.

Last Updated August 1, 2011, 8:09 p.m.


Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Governor (former)

Pawlenty was at one point the media favorite to be John McCain’s 2008 vice-presidential running mate. A social-conservative and proven money-raiser, Pawlenty was overlooked by the McCain campaign in favor of then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

The hopes of the Republican party which were previously pinned to a Pawlenty candidacy in 2008 have carried him to a respectable position among the GOP primary field.

Last Updated August 1, 2011, 8:09 p.m.


Mitt Romney

Massachusetts Governor (former)

As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney enacted the largest healthcare reform legislation of any state in the union. That triumph may be his undoing in the GOP primary however, as so-called “Romneycare” has become a lightning rod for critics of the current administration’s healthcare efforts.

A businessman and staunch supporter of Reagan-era tax policies, Romney’s relationship with his base is complicated but strong.

Last Updated August 1, 2011, 8:09 p.m.


Rick Santorum

U.S. Senate (former), Pennsylvania

Santorum’s controversial views on gay marriage and his outspoken manner on the subject have drawn praise from the right and criticism from the left. A firmly grounded and unwavering conservative, Santorum continues to hold a spot among the field, although his draw may weaken as the primaries move to less conservative states.

Last Updated August 1, 2011, 8:09 p.m.


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*First Published: Aug 2, 2011, 9:00 am CDT