Opinion

BEDFORD: The Wall Street Journal is so wrong about Ted Cruz and Mike Lee

How overdone has The Wall Street Journal’s campaign against Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz been these last few weeks? Seriously, read it. To quote a friend, “It’s a bit much.” But while they’ve been wrong about a lot of things, there actually are some lessons to learn from the defund fight.

The Wall Street Journal is a good newspaper. One of the best, if not the best. So please hold the “#war” and the “#RINO” and all the other Twitter tropes. But, for one minute, also consider just how much they’re missing the point, with exhibit A: deputy editorial director Daniel Henninger’s Thursday column, “Obama Romneyizes the Republicans: The president is doing the same thing to Ted Cruz and the tea party that he did to the 1%.”

The crux of the story is that Messrs. Cruz, Lee and the rest don’t understand social media, and though “the GOP promised that it would duplicate the incredible modern messaging machine the Obama team created across every available new-information platform,” that hasn’t happened.

The only problem is that the defund Republicans used social media masterfully.

How Sens. Cruz and Lee used Twitter to fight:

“Want a look at how a pro is spinning the Washington mess?,” Mr. Henninger challenges. “Punch into Twitter.com and type ‘Barack Obama’ into the search window. Click on ‘Barack Obama,’ next to the ‘End This Now’ logo. The Obama tweets the past week have been fairly amazing.”

Our guide then leads us through Mr. Obama’s “fairly amazing” tweets. The people love them! But come now. Did our guide not take a look at the loyal opposition’s Twitter account?

Let’s do a little Twitter experiment. On the afternoon of Oct. 16 — 16 days into the shutdown — Mr. Obama’s account wrote:

As of publication, that little ditty was the subject of 3,800 retweets — a way someone can spread the message — and 436 “favorites” — a way someone can say they agree.

Three hours later, Mr. Cruz sent out a message. Oh, and this one had a picture — a portrait, which the experts tell us tweeters like:

As of publication, that little ditty was the subject of 3,587 retweets and 707 favorites.

OK, so that’s 213 — or 5.6 percent — fewer retweets than the president of the United States, but let’s take this a step further and look at engagement.

The most powerful man in the world boasts 38,446,040 Twitter followers — “that’s nearly 30 percent of the total popular vote in 2012 … unless some of these are fake,” Mr. Henninger points out. So that means .01 percent of the president’s followers retweeted, showing some kind of engagement with the president’s message. (RELATED: 55 percent of Obama’s Twitter followers are fake)

The senator from Texas, on the other hand, can only boast 196,802 Twitter followers. So that means 1.82 percent of the senator’s followers retweeted, showing some kind of engagement with the senator’s message.

And although he has a more limited — though growing — Twitter following than either of them, a similar experiment on a similar tweet finds that .88 percent* of Mr. Lee’s Twitter audience was engaged by his messaging.

And before anyone goes off and explains the differences between this and that, just shut up. The point here is clear, and it’s that Mr. Henninger has no point. And as one senior wacko bird staffer told TheDC, the paragraph quoted above would be better written if “Mr. Cruz” was substituted for “Obama”:

Want a look at how a pro is spinning the Washington mess? Punch into Twitter.com and type “Ted Cruz” into the search window. Click on “Ted Cruz,” next to the “MakeDCListen” logo. The Cruz tweets the past week have been fairly amazing.”