Three tweets. More than 32,000 followers on Twitter. I'm talking about @AnnDRomney, wife of certain Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and, in the last few days, the woman at the center of the target in the Left's weird assault on stay-at-home moms.
Ann Romney sent her first tweet on the evening of April 11, not long after Democratic Party insider and communications strategist Hilary Rosen declared on CNN that Romney, who chose as her career to stay home and raise her and Mitt's five sons, had “never worked a day in her life.”
The backlash against Rosen's denigration of stay-at-home moms was fast and furious, and fueled by social media.
How the Romney campaign turned Rosen's insult into campaign gold, and dominated the news cycle for more than a day, is a lesson in how social media is now the key to winning the campaign message game.
Ann Romney's first tweet, a pointed response to Rosen's insult, spread quickly across the Twittersphere, retweeted countless times.
And as it ricocheted around the web, with countless numbers of conservatives chiming in to take Hilary Rosen to task, and to link her views to the Obama administration's poor record on women's economic issues, two key Obama campaign officials – David Axelrod and Jim Messina – turned to Twitter first as their way to try to stop the gathering firestorm headed their way. They turned first to Twitter, not to a standard press release or a TV appearance or even a conference call with journalists to condemn Rosen's remarks and throw her under Obama's bus.
Of course, their tweets only served to fuel the conservative backlash against Rosen's attack on conservative moms who chose to stay home and raise their children, and gave conservatives additional hooks to point out the Obama administration's record of paying women less than men who work at the White House, and how the worst impacts of the Obama economy have fallen on women.
Conservative tweeters also expanded the discussion to look at other examples of how powerful liberals have attacked stay-at-home moms in the past, and how liberal feminism pretends to honor women's choices, but in fact looks down on women who chose to stay home and raise their children.
The Twitter firestorm was intense and fast-moving. By some measures, Ann Romney was getting more attention on Twitter than Justin Bieber for a while:
Just after two hours the comments were made by Rosen, the number of times Twitter users mentioned her name soared from less than 10 mentions per minute to almost 170 mentions per minute.
Three hours after Ann Romney had sent her first tweet, in response to Rosen's insult, comments mentioning the name of Ms. Romney exceeded 240 mentions per minute.
After Ann Romney went on Fox News Wednesday night to respond to Rosen, mentions jumped to 260 per minute.
As Buzzfeed pointed out, that was more than 1.5 times as many mentions on Twitter during the same period as Justin Bieber, whose Twitter feed counts more than 20 million followers.
Tweets about the Rosen-Romney incident by Axelrod, Messina and others – including the chairman of the Republican National Committee, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and First Lady Michelle Obama – just fueled the fire, as people on both sides of the issue retweeted their tweets, and responded to them.
Within two hours of Rosen's ill-considered remarks, the narrative Democrats had been pushing that Republicans were waging a “war on women” was completely swamped with the new reality – and by the time the TV news programs caught on to the story, the focus was on why liberals don't like stay-at-home moms.
Nearly two full days after Rosen opened her mouth on CNN and shoved her foot in up to her kneecap, the story was still moving in the Republicans' favor as – despite Rosen's apology – other liberal leaders, like the president of the National Organization for Women, have insisted on echoing and reinforcing Rosen's initial insult, saying Ann Romney – a cancer survivor living with multiple sclerosis who raised five sons who are, by all accounts, fine young men – lacks the proper “life experience” to comment on economic issues.
Other liberals, however, have learned the right lesson from the Rosen episode. In Massachusetts, liberal Democrat Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren criticized Rosen's attack on Romney.
Twitter's senior manager of news, government and social innovation, Adam Sharp, has said the rapid response game of political campaigns has been dramatically reshaped by the shift from the 24-hour news cycle to a 140-character one.
And while Democrats tried to distance themselves from Rosen, the clearest winner in the whole incident is not just Ann Romney, who is now more popular than ever and has even the liberal media defending her against Rosen's attack, but the Romney campaign as a whole.
Thanks to Rosen, Ann Romney now been handed a powerful media platform from which she – and, by extension, the Mitt Romney campaign – will be able to rapidly reach thousands of people and influence the media narrative.
Rosen could not have helped Mitt Romney more even if she'd taken out her checkbook and sent him the maximum contribution allowable by law.