If Facebook and Twitter are to be believed, the 2016 presidential election will come down to Hillary Clinton versus Ted Cruz.
A Politico analysis of Facebook posts and tweets mentioning potential 2016 candidates shows that the former secretary of state and the Republican senator for Texas are more popular online than just about any other candidates.
Between Aug. 22 and Nov. 22, Facebook users mentioned Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz more than any other two prospective candidates, with each name appearing in 20 percent of Facebook posts related to the 2016 race.
Between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1, Twitter users mentioned @HillaryClinton 2.9 million times (accounting for 18 percent of candidate mentions) and @SenTedCruz 4.6 million times (29 percent).
The fact that Clinton and Cruz are so frequently mentioned cuts both ways: Each is a polarizing figure on the opposite side, and nothing generates more social media activity than discussing polarizing people.
On the right, conservatives are obsessed with Clinton's supposed cover-up of administration wrongdoing in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Despite numerous reports by government agencies and the House Intelligence Committee, the right wing of the Republican Party continues to fixate on Clinton and rumors of behind-the-scenes wickedness.
On the left, Ted Cruz is practically liberalism's greatest enemy in the Senate. The freshman senator has dramatically accelerated the Republican Party's transformation of the Senate from an august body into little more than a smaller, harder-to-enter version of the House. He is widely credited with convincing House Republicans to refuse to pass a budget in Sept. 2013, goading Republicans in the lower chamber to stand firm against Democratic leaders and prompting a stalemate that shut down the government for the first time since 1996.
Both Clinton and Cruz are also immensely popular in their own tents. In recent days, Cruz has been his party's loudest anti-immigration voice, denouncing President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration as a form of "amnesty."Clinton, meanwhile, has maintained a lower profile than Cruz, but her status as her party's undisputed frontrunner, and the potential for her to become the first female president, have combined to produce an aura of both inevitability and excitement wherever she goes.
And for the record, Clinton supports her former boss' immigration action.If Clinton is to become the next president, she'll need to replicate the social media dominance that sent President Obama to the White House in 2008, and helped him win re-election in 2012 over a moderate Republican challenger in a shaky economy. Democrats have traditionally outmaneuvered Republicans online, and their use of data analytics to precisely target voters has borne out this superiority in recent campaigns. Assuming she chooses to run, Clinton will no doubt attempt to snatch up as many of Obama's digital strategists as possible.
Cruz's aides, too, are well aware of the importance of social media, with one senior staffer telling Politico that they try to squeeze every ounce of engagement they can out of these platforms.
"Our main strategy is to be as engaging with our content as possible," said Josh Perry, Cruz's digital director, "whether that’s by thinking of ways to generate comments, likes, or shares—this all helps boost the appearance of our posts in people’s timelines."
Here are the other most popular 2016 presidential candidates on Facebook:
- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) – tied with 2.9 million interactions
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) – tied with 2.1 million interactions
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – 1.7 million interactions
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – 1.5 million interactions
On Twitter, the list looked fairly similar:
- Sen. Paul – 1.9 million mentions
- Gov. Christie – 1.8 million mentions
- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) – 1.4 million mentions
- Gov. Perry – 1.1 million mentions
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