How Rand Paul trolls his rivals – By KATIE GLUECK 2/5/15 5:36 AM EST

Behind the Republican’s effort to be the first true Twitter candidate for the White House.““““`

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., holds his phone while speaking before the Berkeley Forum, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Rand Paul has the most aggressive feed of the 2016 field, an account that emits a steady stream of snark, rapid response and gimmicks. A recent sampling: He’s suggested Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are conspiring, charged that Marco Rubio wants to “build a moat” around Cuba and joked that Bush and Mitt Romney have exchanged friendship and charm bracelets.

Paul doesn’t write the tweets himself: Roughly a half-dozen staffers have access to the account, and they post without getting sign-off from the the senator, according to Doug Stafford, Paul’s senior political adviser. But he is deeply involved with his Twitter feed, driven by the sense that he wants to be a different kind of Republican candidate who reaches out to new constituencies — and he sees social media as key part of that engagement.

It’s all part of a broader strategy to run a tech-savvy, “crowd-sourced” presidential campaign, where online communication is the first messaging priority and edginess is essential to cut through the clutter.

Paul frequently fires off emails to his staff with concepts for tweets and social media pushes, and sometimes offers specifics.

“He and this organization will continue to be engaging, continue to be creative, continue to use digital almost as a first place of communication, because that’s the world we live in,” said Vincent Harris, the chief digital strategist of RANDPAC, Paul’s political arm. The senator “himself believes that content online needs to be unique, needs to be delivered not in long, paragraph form, but in pithy, visual memes and images and games. And if you look at the type of content the senator’s organization has been pushing out over the last two months, you see that’s reflected.”

Paul leads most of his Republican rivals in Twitter followers, with the exception of Sen. Marco Rubio, who started tweeting two years before Paul did. But Paul is the most prolific, delivering daily, sometimes hourly missives. So far this year, he has posted around 250 tweets (including retweets), eclipsing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz Cruz (around 200 each) as well as Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (about 40 tweets each). By that same measure, Hillary Clinton has tweeted only eight times this year — but she has close to 3 million followers, trouncing all of the Republicans.

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