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Everyone raves about how microblogging service Twitter has become a source for citizen journalism; users don’t just break news, they inadvertently leak stories, such as Google’s development of offline Gmail. Looks like politicians aren’t immune to Twitter’s rumor-mongering lure either — Virginia House Delegate and State Republican Chairman Jeff Frederick tweeted some good news for his fellow party-members today. But his tweet may have actually stopped that news from coming to pass.
What the heck am I talking about? Earlier today, Frederick sent this message to his Twitter followers: “Big news coming out of Senate: Apparently one dem is either switching or leaving the dem caucus. Negotiations for power sharing underway.” That would have ended the Democrats’ majority in the Senate.
Except, whoops, it turns out the news was premature. State Senator Ralph Northam was planning to switch parties, but during a recess, “Senate Dems proceeded to pile on Northam and he caved,” according to a conservative political blog called Virginia Virtucon. The National Review adds that according to a source, the premature release of the information via Twitter killed the deal.
First of all, I know absolutely nothing about Virginia politics, so I can’t comment on whether Twitter actually played a decisive role today’s events. But this wouldn’t be the first time a politician failed to understand that when you put something on Twitter, the whole world can read it. (For example, Rep. Peter Hoekstra recently tweeted a secret Congressional trip to Iraq — a trip that was secret until Hoekstra let all his followers know about it.) I would also suggest that if the party chairman was tweeting about something, it probably wasn’t a well-kept secret anyway.
Finally, if all it takes for a senator to switch his allegiances is a “pile on,” well, that sure doesn’t say much for his determination. If the news hadn’t leaked prematurely, maybe the deal would have gone through, but hey, maybe Northam would have flipped back to the Democratic side tomorrow.