This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 23, 2013 - WASHINGTON – At President Barack Obama’s first inauguration four years ago, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill sent her first Tweet, making fun of a “weird hat” worn by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Since then, the Missouri Democrat has sent out 2,454 more Tweets and amassed 86,659 followers of her personal Twitter account, @clairecmc – making her one of the top Twitterers on Capitol Hill.
To mark the anniversary, McCaskill, D-Mo. – as she waited on the Capitol stage for Obama’s second inaugural address – snapped and sent pics of the new round of Supreme Court caps, including the #ScaliaWeirdHat as well as Justice “Breyer's scaliawannabe hat” and Justice “Kennedy's stocking cap.”
In another Tweet, McCaskill quipped that U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., looked “seriously cool” in her red beret -- that was “gonna give Scalia's hat a run for its money.”
McCaskill may be one of Congress’ Twitter masters, but Missouri’s junior senator, Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has also become a fan of the social media now used by every U.S. senator (with a personal or office account, or both) and 90 percent of U.S. House members.
Blunt’s Senate account (@royblunt ) is just a couple of years old, but he or his staffers already have sent 2,230 Tweets and amassed 21,369 followers. As the vice chairman of the Senate Republican conference, Blunt also has spread the word among his colleagues that they should be using social media to reach more of the public on GOP priorities.
In fact, Blunt – who has said he wants to help “lay the foundation for a Republican Congress” by intensifying its focus on digital media – announced in a Tweet last week that he was “excited to welcome” the Senate’s lone holdout, U.S. Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, to the Twitterverse. “Every GOP senator has a presence on Twitter,” Blunt wrote.
While McCaskill herself writes all the Tweets on her account – which is far more personal than her office account, @McCaskillOffice – Blunt’s account is more official and message-oriented. His office has a “new media” director, who stays in touch with all Senate GOP offices and other new media-focused staffers to help “amplify” the themes or messages of the Republican leadership.
Last month, Blunt’s office – rebutting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s threat to use a Senate rules “nuclear option” to stop debate on controversial bills – launched a new website, “Stop The Nuclear Option," featuring social media tools, videos and other resources to influence public opinion.
Blunt is using Twitter "to reach as many Missourians as possible,” said spokeswoman Amber Marchand. In his GOP leadership role, the senator is “working with his colleagues to help bolster Senate Republicans' visibility and coordination online, including on Facebook and Twitter."
Twitter has become so popular -- despite former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner's 2011 scandal of sending indecent pics that later led him to resign -- that more than a million Tweets were sent during Monday's inaugural ceremonies, leading to temporary delays for some Twitter users.
In a blog posted last week, Twitter said that the number of lawmakers making use of social media had more than doubled over the last couple of years.
“When the 112th Congress convened in 2011, 44 percent of the Senate and 35 percent of the House were active on Twitter. In two years time, that’s grown to 100 percent of the Senate and 90 percent (398 representatives) of the House,” the Twitter blog reported.
“Now there are 29 states with their entire delegation tweeting (both senators and all representatives); every state has at least 70 percent of their delegation tweeting.”
A map indicated that Missouri was one of the laggard states, with only about three-quarters of its U.S. House members on Twitter. A spokesman for one of the lawmakers who doesn't use Twitter, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, said the office uses other social media, such as Facebook.
Of course, there’s plenty of Tweeting going on elsewhere in Washington. For instance, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Twitter account (@Flotus), sent a Tweet on Tuesday afternoon, tipping off followers that she, President Obama and their dog Bo were about to surprise a group on a White House tour: