© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What All Those Pre-Dawn Tweets Say About Campaign Strategy

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with supporters after speaking at a rally about national service Sept. 30 in Fort Pierce, Fla.
Brendan Smialowski
AFP/Getty Images
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with supporters after speaking at a rally about national service Sept. 30 in Fort Pierce, Fla.

The most popular time to tweet in the last couple days, if you're a presidential candidate, has been before the sun rises.

On Saturday, Hillary Clinton unleashed a pre-dawn tweetstorm in response to Donald Trump's now-infamous early-morning tweets the previous day.

Contrasting tweetstorms

In her 3 a.m. tweets, Clinton focused on policy — specifically on national service, which was the focus on a speech she gave Friday.

Clinton's tweets were reminiscent of and likely a response to a flurry of tweets Trump sent out in the early hours of Friday morning that attacked both Clinton and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. Trump, who used to own the Miss Universe organization, called Machado "disgusting" and a "con."

He said Clinton was "duped" by the beauty contestant, referring to Clinton's use of Machado during the first presidential debate to criticize Trump's treatment of women.

The Clinton campaign's Saturday tweets echoed Trump's, referring to "judgment" and using all caps and exclamation points, but stood in contrast to the mogul's storm by issuing a high-minded call to public service. It spoke to a "they go low, we go high" campaign strategy.

At least, that's what it looked like on the surface.


On one level, the tweets were meant to boost a message Clinton delivered Friday that received comparatively less national attention.

The day's news was dominated by Trump's allegation, via his early-morning Twitter rant, that Machado had a "sex tape." The video he referred is actually grainy, night-vision footage from a Spanish-language reality TV show.

While all eyes were on Machado and Trump, Clinton gave a speech in Florida where she outlined plans to create a National Service Reserve, similar to the Armed Forces Reserve. She set a goal of enlisting five million Americans into the program and said she would focus on millennials.

In her overnight tweets, she called for an increase in AmeriCorps opportunities to address a glut in applications. She also bemoaned the fact that student loan obligations keep qualified volunteers from joining the Peace Corps.

High, low, or both?

Sticking to policy doesn't necessarily mean Clinton is taking the high road. Her very timing served to remind her audience of Trump's online tirade. Call it high-minded trolling.

On top of that, her campaign directly responded to Trump's sex tape comments in kind, just hours before her high-minded tweets.

"There's been a lot of talk about sex tapes today, and in a strange turn of events, only one adult film has emerged today, and its star is Donald Trump," Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill told a group of reporters in Florida late Friday, according to the Washington Post.

Merrill was referring to a video that Buzzfeed unearthed. In the video, which was filmed for Playboy in 2000, Trump makes a brief cameo opening a bottle of champagne.

He is seen pouring the bottle over the Playboy logo on the side of a limousine. Other parts of the video, where Trump does not appear, were explicit.

In the clip, Trump says, "Beauty is beauty, and let's see what happens with New York."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Meg Anderson is an editor on NPR's Investigations team, where she shapes the team's groundbreaking work for radio, digital and social platforms. She served as a producer on the Peabody Award-winning series Lost Mothers, which investigated the high rate of maternal mortality in the United States. She also does her own original reporting for the team, including the series Heat and Health in American Cities, which won multiple awards, and the story of a COVID-19 outbreak in a Black community and the systemic factors at play. She also completed a fellowship as a local reporter for WAMU, the public radio station for Washington, D.C. Before joining the Investigations team, she worked on NPR's politics desk, education desk and on Morning Edition. Her roots are in the Midwest, where she graduated with a Master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!