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TOP OF THE TICKET

Republicans make Twitter their own

Also, Joe Lieberman says he'd welcome a challenge from actor Alec Baldwin; and President Obama's summer reading list.

August 30, 2009|Johanna Neuman | Neuman writes for The Times.

The White House announced with some fanfare this month that its Twitter account had passed the 1-million mark.

"A million followers -- nice," the White House tweeted last Sunday. "What would you like to see more of from this feed? Photos? Quotes? Cowbell? Tell us @whitehouse."

Big deal.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican who lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 election, passed the 1-million mark six weeks ago.

He declared tweeting "a phenomenal way of communicating."

Like most things that come out of Silicon Valley, Twitter was assumed to be in the purview of the left, another tool for tech-savvy liberal netroots to use as they besieged the political system in the name of progressive change, in 140-character bites.

But the left has usually used Twitter to promote ideas, according to Alan Rosenblatt of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

"We have a lot of amazing progressives on Twitter," he told the Exception, an online magazine.

But, he added, there had been "nothing that brings everyone together."

By contrast, he said, the right has been using Twitter to create new pressure points in politics. Conservatives have a website, Top Conservatives on Twitter, that ranks various right-wing tweeters (former House Speaker Newt Gingrich currently rides on top), and offers pointers on how to organize.

Liberals are fighting back -- Rosenblatt has created a rival website, TopProg.org -- but it's in its infancy.

Meanwhile, conservatives seem to be having more fun with Twitter.

When Republicans staged a protest last summer and refused to leave for summer recess, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi simply adjourned the session and turned out the lights, in effect turning off the C-SPAN cameras.

So several GOP stalwarts started tweeting an account of what was going on from the House floor.

They developed a following and prompted conservative commentator Michelle Malkin to call Twitter "the new gathering place for conservative activism."

Lieberman to actor: Bring it on

Actor Alec Baldwin, he of "30 Rock" fame, told Playboy magazine recently that he was so fed up with independent Sen. Joe Lieberman's moderate politics that he was thinking of moving to Connecticut to run against him. Though he plays a shamelessly greedy Republican on the show, Baldwin is a passionate Democrat who once accused former Vice President Dick Cheney of being a terrorist.

"I'd love to run against Joe Lieberman," he told Playboy. "I have no use for him."

On his own blog, Baldwin had second thoughts: "No I am not moving to Connecticut to run against Joe Lieberman. As much as I think Lieberman is an enormous letdown to the party that gave him their nomination for vice president, I am sure that Democratic Party leaders in that state will take care of themselves."

But Lieberman, who's up for reelection in 2012, said he would welcome the actor's challenge. "You know, I mean, I must say that I respect Alec Baldwin as an actor and as a comedian, and if he wants to run, that's his right," Lieberman said Aug. 23 on CNN's "State of the Union."

Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats, also shared his assessment of the politics of the thing: "Make my day."

Obama's summer reading list

The list of books a president reads during vacation is often parsed for meaning.

And ever since President Clinton put mystery writer Walter Mosley in the big leagues, many authors have dreamed of having a president board Air Force One carrying a copy of his or her book tucked under his arm.

Last week, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton volunteered -- even before anyone could ask him -- that President Obama had brought along a pile of books on his vacation to Martha's Vineyard:

* "The Way Home," George Pelecanos.

* "Hot, Flat and Crowded," Tom Friedman.

* "Lush Life," Richard Price.

* "Plainsong," Kent Haruf.

* "John Adams," David McCullough.

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Top of the Ticket, The Times' blog on national politics ( www.latimes.com/ticket "> www.latimes.com/ticket ), is a blend of commentary, analysis and news. These are selections from the last week.

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