During the 2008 election, 74 percent of Americans who use the Internet did so to get political news or to take part in a campaign [source: Lenhart]. Therefore, it's not surprising that Twitter became a political forum for millions of people or that the rapidly expanding micro-blogging service had so many troubles.
After the first 2008 presidential debate, usage jumped 18.5 percent and new users increased 23 percent in a single week [source: Snyder]. And that was just the first debate. The constant influx of new traffic caused plenty of Fail Whale sightings throughout the year, and many people assumed the service was doomed on election night.
However, despite extensive delays during Obama's acceptance speech, Twitter persevered but may not have had the race had been closer. Anything approaching the controversy and tension surrounding the 2000 election would surely have crashed the service. After all, Obama's acceptance speech occurred in the middle of the night; Twitter was out intermittently throughout Inauguration Day.
Judging from the dramatic increase in Internet usage each election cycle sees, it's fair to assume that millions more will hit the net by 2012. By that point, Twitter's servers should be well-equipped to handle the increase in traffic, but what if it's not a normal election? The contentious race in 2000 sure got people talking, and if Twitter had existed back then, it would undoubtedly have been down for quite some time. In fact, it's highly probable that one or more of the potentially heated battles in the 2010 House and Senate elections may bring the service to its knees.