Heard on the Hill

Rep. Ilhan Omar and ‘squad’ school House Democrats in social competition

The Minnesota Democrat is the first freshman to win ‘Overall MVP’ in the three-week internal contest

Rep. Ilhan Omar won House Democrats’ 2019 Member Online All-Star Competition. The results couldn’t have come as a surprise. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Ilhan Omar stole the social spotlight in House Democrats’ 10th annual Member Online All-Star Competition. The Minnesota Democrat is the first freshman to win the overall popularity contest, cleaning up with nearly 150,000 new followers.

Following oh so closely behind? The rest of Omar’s “squad,” of course: freshman Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who rounded out the top five, along with Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro.

The internal contest, sponsored by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, asks Democrats in Congress to bulk up their followings on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube over a three-week period.

This year, that period — July 1 to July 21 — happened to coincide with a Twitter firestorm set off by Donald Trump. Lashing out at the four women of the squad, the president tweeted that they should “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” The freshman women addressed Trump’s racist attacks in a press conference, and pretty much everyone on social media chimed in.

The squad handily beat out two members on the national stage: 2020 candidate Rep.Tulsi Gabbard and former presidential contender Eric Swalwell, who both made the top 50.

[N.C. crowd chants ‘Send her back’ as Trump criticizes Omar and House ‘squad’]

And Omar also outshone Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who technically earned the No. 2 spot with 112,000 new followers — but bowed out of the running, since according to the rules of this internal competition, members of leadership aren’t eligible to win awards.

All told, House Democrats collectively gained 1.7 million followers in three weeks, which is “over 2.5 times more growth than we’ve ever had,” Hoyer said in a statement.

[Omar’s office facade gets covered with notes of support]

The winning lineup couldn’t have come as a surprise to party leaders, who have both clashed with the progressive newcomers and leaned on their mastery of social platforms and messaging.

If anything, the competition fails to capture the full extent of the squad’s prowess, since it measures only the followers gained on lawmakers’ official House platforms.

On her official House Twitter account, @RepAOC, Ocasio-Cortez has fewer than 200,000 followers, a number dwarfed by the nearly 5 million people who follow the account she set up before her election, @AOC.

[Hello Congress, goodbye Twitter followers]

As for Omar, she may have boosted her official reach, but her House Twitter account still can’t compete with @IlhanMN, followed by 1.4 million people.

The Members’ Congressional Handbook says lawmakers can’t use their official social media accounts for campaigning, grassroots lobbying or endorsing a product or service.

While members can keep updating their personal accounts to their heart’s content, they’re barred from using “official resources” to maintain them. That means no congressional staff time and no office funds.

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