Same Fight, Better Photoshop: Bush and Clinton Take to Twitter

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Traditionally, other than poorly-veiled shots at press events, political opponents had to wait until debates in order to discuss the important issues directly. But that seems to be changing–social media tools make it way easier for candidates to directly interact with each other. Case in point, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and Republican contender Jeb Bush directly engaged in an argument via Twitter this Monday about Clinton’s plan to make education more affordable.

Here are the tweets from Bush and Clinton, in sequential order:

Hillary started with a pretty basic tweet promoting her plan to take on student debt.

Then, Bush fired back, attacking Obama’s approach to college debt and suggesting that Hillary will be the same.

Then, Clinton got personal and brought up Bush’s less-than-stellar record on education affordability when he was the governor of Florida.

Finally, Bush fired back with a “redesign” of Clinton’s much-mocked arrow logo, but moved the conversation from student debt to taxes.

The back-and-forth got pretty nasty relatively quickly. While there’s no guarantee that it was Clinton or Bush behind these tweets, and not members of their respective staffs, the fact that both official accounts were willing to play ball is pretty indicative of the important role that social media will have in this race. Currently, Clinton has roughly four million Twitter followers, Bush’s campaign clocks in at just over 250,000. Both are almost certainly looking to grow those followings, particularly as surprise GOP frontrunner Donald Trump approaches the four million followers mark himself.

So, why are our politicians suddenly getting into Twitter spats a la Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift or Drake and Meek Mill? It’s pretty simple–it’s tantamount to free advertising. Although it’s estimated that one billion dollars will be spent on online campaigning in 2016, attracting followers and conversation via silly photoshop jabs is pretty cheap. Given how expensive it is to run a campaign, attracting free press–after all, we’re all writing about the Bush/Clinton Twitter spat now–is a smart idea.

Bush and Clintons’ Twitter back-and-forth also falls directly in line with the kind of animosity that these two candidates have developed. For example, when both candidates appeared at the Urban League Conference on July 31, Clinton spoke first and took the opportunity to slam Bush’s “Right to Rise” campaign slogan, stating:

I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a right to rise and then say you’re for phasing out Medicare, or repealing Obamacare. People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care. They can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on. They can’t rise if their governor makes it harder for them to get a college education. And you can’t seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny the right to vote.

Bush’s camp responded to Clinton’s comments by accusing her of playing politics–a time-old jab that roughly translates to “the other candidate said something mean.” 

Bush hasn’t missed his opportunity to push back, however. Last night, Bush purported that current problems in Iraq stem from the actions of the Obama administration–which Clinton served under as Secretary of State. Bush said Obama and Clinton were too eager to pull troops out of Iraq and stated:

So eager to be the history-makers, they failed to be the peacemakers. Rushing away from danger can be every bit as unwise as rushing into danger, and the costs have been grievous.

Given Clinton’s dominance in the Democratic polls, and Bush’s strong second place standing on the Republican side, it makes sense they’re starting to snipe at each other. Doing so over social media might add a new facet to those interactions, but as this promises to be an incredibly long campaign, we can expect to see shade thrown from all sorts of directions–in person and over social media alike.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.



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