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Murkowski vs. Miller: battle of the Twitters

According to Twitter, Sarah Palin is keeping her fingers crossed, powder dry, prayers upward, and cliches loaded as the results continue rolling in from the Murkowski-Miller showdown in Alaska.

I’m waiting with bated breath -- it’s the only kind you can wait with -- for the results to roll in, but not for the reasons most people are. Forget Palin and Tea Parties. What Senate GOP primary challenger Joe Miller and incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski represent for me are two very different Twitter philosophies. It’ll be telling to see who wins.

Miller has been getting quite the play lately for his “What's a 'Beltway traffic jam'? Is that when a caribou herd crosses a road? #TeaParty #tcot #Alaska #AK” tweet. (A: No.) But with more and more precincts reporting, these 140 Washington-bound characters are looking increasingly like the definitive word.

So what does this mean for Twitter?

Miller’s twitter page is rife with enough hashtags to dazzle someone who is dazzled by lots of hashtags. It boasts a picture of him wearing a brown jacket and looming in front of a mountain that looks as though it got lost on the way to a model call for desktop backgrounds. Since opening his account, he’s left a trail of more than 1000 tweets -- 1189, to be precise -- and dozens, if not hundreds, of them are simply lists thanking people for “#FFs and RTs.” His followers -- 2,295 of them -- barely exceed those he follows -- 2014! He is all about the networking side of social networking, the back-scratching, I-follow-you-you-follow-me approach to Twitter.

Not so Murkowski. She follows a scant 270 -- and has 4012 followers. Her Twitter states that it’s run by her staff, and she’s only amassed 311 tweets. They’re mostly links. This, according to some users, is anathema. Whoever runs her Twitter feed clearly subscribes to the view that Twitter is a tool for getting your messages out there, messages such as: “Murkowski Thanks Second Session Summer Interns. http://bit.ly/cNnmnL” and “Sen. Murkowski is speaking LIVE from the Senate Floor on the Elena Kagan nomination. Stream it LIVE on CSpan's website or on TV on CSpan2.”

So who wins? Is it the network? Or the message?

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Update, 6:24 p.m.: An alert reader has brought the @Lisa4Senate campaign Twitter account to my attention. It has many of the hallmarks of @JoeWMiller's twitter account -- quite a few hashtags, the same background graphic mountain (although it might be the mountain's cousin) -- with several notable exceptions: only 234 followers, only 153 tweets and just two tweets with thanks and handles, including one that thanked people for "the follows." Of the scant 153 tweets, most of the recent ones provide links to things.

To summarize the differences, here's how each account would render the "To Be or Not to Be" speech.

@JoeWMiller: Thanks for the #ff, @Hamlet, @Gertrude, @Claudius! #tobeornottobe #that #isthequestion #AK
@Lisa4Senate: Here is a link to an interesting monologue that touches on some issues! #golisa
@lisamurkowski: Yesterday, the Senate passed a referendum on being vs. not being. Here's a link.

The campaign account does not alter my belief that this boils down to a referendum on whether people prefer their politicians' Twitter accounts to link them to things or to thank them individually for following.

By Alexandra Petri  | August 25, 2010; 4:12 PM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
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