NEW YORK —
Twitter is abuzz with presidential candidates this year, though not all in the Twittersphere are equal.
Rick Santorum tweets a lot more than Rick Perry, Herman Cain is the Republican most likely to be retweeted, and their Twitter followers are dwarfed by President Barack Obama's. That's according to an Associated Press analysis of the presidential candidates' use of Twitter that found widely different levels of engagement, despite the site's emergence as a go-to hub for political communication.
The AP analyzed each candidate's Twitter stream beginning the day he or she joined the presidential contest through Monday, Oct. 24. The data, available from Twitter's website, highlights every message posted by candidates, as well as how many times their messages were "retweeted," or reposted, by other users on the site.
No one believes the campaign will be won or lost on Twitter - it's just one slice of an enormous communication effort each campaign wages in cyberspace. But with a well-timed 140 character blast, candidates can make news, respond to charges or reinforce talking points in a matter of seconds.
"Candidates are living in a new media ecology that rewards speed, and there is no faster way to distribute your message intact than over Twitter," said Andrew Rasiej, the founder of Personal Democracy Media which tracks the intersection of media and politics. "If TV ads were the rifles of campaign battles in the past, Twitter is the machine gun used to distribute a message or annihilate an opponent."
And unlike pricy television and Web advertising, tweeting is free. That's one reason some of the financially struggling candidates have relied on Twitter as a way to promote themselves away from the media filter.