“Greed, fraud, dishonesty, arrogance. These are just some of the adjectives we use to describe Wall Street,” the Bernie Sanders campaign tweeted on Monday.

Within minutes, social media users used the grammar error to take aim at the candidate’s policies, with some suggesting that the substitution of “adjectives” for “nouns” highlighted a more significant gap in Sanders’s intelligence. “One of the primary qualifications to be president of the United States is to know basic English,” one conservative blogger quipped.

Marketers might be turning away from Twitter towards trendier social channels, but the platform has become mandatory for presidential candidates. In 2012, the Romney campaign averaged one tweet per day. Today, even though primary season isn’t yet over, the top candidates post at least three times more frequently.

However, succeeding on Twitter as a politician is trickier than it might appear. Candidates are supposed to seem genuine and spontaneous, yet also expected to be free from mistakes; they are judged not only by their reactions to current events but even by whom they follow. Politicians can even be mocked for acting too much like politicians: before the Iowa caucuses on February 1, Carly Fiorina drew criticism for pandering to local voters with the tweet “Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today.”

In contrast to Fiorina’s calculated message, Donald Trump’s Twitter presence is defined by unapologetic, seemingly spontaneous bluntness, a tone that has helped the candidate gain more than six million followers. He continues to trump other candidates in popularity, despite a continuing series of controversial gaffes: appearing to place Paris in Germany, retweeting a speculation that Iowan voters had “issues in the brain,” posting a graphic in which a stock photo of Nazi re-enactors took the place of American soldiers. Yet the candidate has not apologized for those incidents, instead blaming the mistakes on “a young intern.”

For many candidates, Twitter success remains permanently elusive. Jeb Bush recently spawned a meme when he tweeted a gun with the caption “America,” an indelible image to end the campaign of a candidate who has never been very good at social media.


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