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Twitter feels the Bern

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds up his mobile phone while while speaking August 16, 2015 in Clinton, Iowa.
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U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds up his mobile phone while while speaking August 16, 2015 in Clinton, Iowa.

The age of Twitter has amplified politicians' public outreach efforts to an incredible degree.

It's given presidential hopefuls a low-cost method of disseminating their messages and interacting with potential voters. It's also opened up a direct path for critics to attack.

The candidates this elections season have approached the medium of social media with varying strategies. Some tweet a lot and don't get much reception from their followers while some update sparingly and receive tremendous support when they do.

Across both parties, Donald Trump blows away the field. He tweets the most and has the highest engagement, averaging over 1,000 retweets and 2,000 favorites per tweet. He'll even be live-tweeting Tuesday night's debate between the Democrats. There's even a possibility he'll generate more news by himself.

The only two candidates who can come anywhere close to that type of traction will be the two big stars in the Democratic debate: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Clinton has 4.4 million followers, just slightly more than Trump — the only candidate who can say that.

The Big Crunch took a look at the major Democrat candidates' Twitter presence in advance of their debut. There's only five Dems appearing at the CNN/Facebook stage in Las Vegas, so we included some Republicans to round out the figures and add some context for later-stage political battles.

This is the first Democratic debate of the season, so we don't know how the candidates' will tweet on Tuesday night. Sanders live tweeted the last GOP debate but called it quits before the event was over.

Despite Clinton having seven times as many followers as Sanders, they both have identical engagement — about 800 retweets and 1,200 favorites per tweet. Sanders isn't just packing a room, he's packing a digital punch as well.

But at least they are selective in how often they tweet.

Martin O'Malley on the other hand tweets more than any other candidate besides Trump — far more than any Democrat. But the former Maryland governor has only 85,000 followers, which limits his ability to compete on engagement with Sanders and Clinton.

Jim Webb is the most likely to favorite somebody else's tweets. Webb also follows over 6,000 other people, more than any other Dem.

Yet that's less than half the 14,000 accounts that Ted Cruz follows. If you want a senator in your follower list, he's your best bet.

And if you're looking for a direct reply from a candidate — tweet at Marco Rubio. He's the only major candidate sending out direct replies.

The Democratic debate contestants will be looking to increase their presence in the race and in the social media world. And why not? The Donald himself will be live-tweeting the debate.

Either through Trump's judgment or pundits' analytics, Twitter will be a good early indication for who wins the debate. In last month's GOP contest, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson added 22,000 each, tops among all. Which led directly to a spike in the polls.