Following Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., on Twitter, you’ll see typical Capitol Hill fare: tweets about his policy positions and constituent services.
But then there’s Charlie.
The freshman congressman from central Arizona — @RepDavid as he’s known — loves his wheaten terrier so much that he even started a hashtag about him when he came to visit D.C.: #CharlieTakesDC.
Former Rep. Anthony Weiner may have prematurely ended his career on Twitter, but the New York Democrat’s misuse of the short text messaging service hasn’t dampened his colleagues’ enthusiasm. More than 420 members of Congress now have official Twitter accounts, according to Adam Sharp, Twitter’s manager of government and political partnerships.
On Wednesday, President Obama will participate in the White House’s first-ever Twitter town hall. The questions, about jobs and the economy, will be selected based on popularity, along with additional questions chosen by a group of popular tweeters who have economic experience. It will be moderated by Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and executive chairman.
“What I think is really exciting about Twitter is that it’s one of the first technologies to provide scalable retail politics,” said Sharp, who is not a lobbyist but advises congressional offices and government agencies on using Twitter in the most effective ways.
Some have adapted better than others. Of the hundreds of tweets emanating from Capitol Hill each day, most are notoriously robotic. In the midst of so much stilted fare, Schweikert’s personal touch stands out. Who doesn’t like a cute dog?
Schweikert posted a number of photos of Charlie — at home, in front of the Capitol, and even alongside the congressman while he was appearing on ABCNews.com’s Top Line.
The photos were crowd-pleasers.
“OK #TopLine now has a mascot. It’s bipartisan I think to be in love with @RepDavid Schweikert’s #charlietakesDC,” tweeted the program’s host, Rick Klein.
In addition to the Charlie photos, Schweikert recently tweeted a photo of himself donating blood.
“He loves visuals,” said his spokeswoman, Rachel Semmel.
Schweikert arrived in Washington in January as a Twitter pro. According to Semmel, “he was very fluent already.”
The congressman told National Journal he first saw the power of Twitter during his unsuccessful 2008 campaign for his current House seat.
Staffers for his opponent, then-Rep. Harry Mitchell, used Twitter to share where Schweikert and his wife were. Mitchell’s supporters used the information to organize opposing campaign events.
Schweikert learned an important lesson about the new medium. “You could actually have this relationship with people who were following you,” he said.
Boasting nearly 2,000 followers, and tweeting multiple times each day, Schweikert uses Twitter to engage with constituents, journalists, and other members of Congress. Schweikert also enjoys sharing articles he reads on Twitter. His press secretary says he even appreciates the criticism he gets over the service.
This article appeared in the Wednesday, July 6, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily.