When Mitt Romney's digital team wanted to send out a tweet during the 2012 campaign, it wasn't easy for them. A new paper by Daniel Kreiss, an assistant professor at UNC Chapel Hill (and flagged by Brendan Nyhan on Twitter), finds that, late in the campaign, as many as 22 people had to sign off on the language of each tweet from the @MittRomney feed. That's according to Romney's digital integration director Caitlin Checkett, who said:
CHECKETT: "So whether it was a tweet, Facebook post, blog post, photo — anything you could imagine — it had to be sent around to everyone for approval. Towards the end of the campaign that was 22 individuals who had to approve it. ... The digital team unfortunately did not have the opportunity to think of things on their own and post them."
Romney's digital director Zac Moffatt concurred, telling Kreiss the campaign had "the best tweets ever written by 17 people ... It was the best they all could agree on every single time."
In contrast, Kreiss finds that Obama's digital team had "more autonomy," which made it easier for staffers "to respond to political events in the moment and in a communicative style that accords with the norms and expectations of networked publics on Twitter." He cites a humorous tweet from the @BarackObama feed responding to Clint Eastwood's "empty chair" Republican convention speech earlier that night.
Politicians and their staffers are generally very cautious with official tweets, and that's understandable. There's little upside from most campaign tweets, and potentially a lot of downside from a Twitter blunder dominating the headlines. Still, having 17 to 22 people vet each tweet seems like a bit of an overcorrection, and makes one wonder what Romney's management style would have been like in the White House.