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Grading 2008 Internet Campaigns – First Assignment

For readers who don’t know, I ran Internet strategy in ’03 for Gary Hart’s ’04 exploratory campaign. Since then (and a little bit before), I’ve been working with various political clients as well as nonprofits advising them on their Internet campaigns. I don’t have a site for that business right now – it’s under construction – but I do like to blog about my thoughts on the topic from time to time.

In yesterday’s post, I have a list of announced (pseudo)candidates for the 2008 U.S. President. I spent half of last night reviewing their web sites and I decided to give grades for their first assignment: garnering initial support.

John Edwards (D)A-
His site’s crisp and clean, but it lacks slightly in the design department. His OneCorps has been gathering all sorts of attention, however, and his blog impressed me. He also has links to social networking sites like myspace and flickr. This is smart. He had a fairly solid online campaign in ’04, but he’s taken it up a notch this time.

Hillary Clinton (D)B+
She has a site full of useful propaganda and she says she wants a “conversation” yet it’s mostly one-way traffic so far. The blog is at this point just a contest. The site gets a B because it has a good design, is easy to navigate and has a lot of decent features. The plus is for announcing online in a flash video.

Chris Dodd (D)B
I like the “Dodd Pod” – the Senator’s playlist you can download. Cool. Social networking links get prime real estate as well. I don’t like the nav bar but otherwise it’s not bad.

Dennis Kucinich (D)B-
Where would a campaign be without Kucinich? OK, so don’t answer that. Seriously though, I’ve never seen such a long nav bar going across the top in such small text. I’m impressed on a technical level that they pulled that one off. He’s got good features and a pleasing UI.

Bill Richardson (D)C+
Trying waaaaay too hard to emulate Howard Dean here. What are they putting in that cool-aid at the DNC? All netroots, too much white space and oh yeah, an ad for his book. Also, can I put in a pitch to end these long americaforthisguyhasalongurlbutwewanttoelecthimreallywedo.org URLs pretty please?

Joe Biden (D)C
His site has no new features since 2004 but at least it has real content.

Tom Vilsack (D)C-
You can tell this guy’s from Iowa – land of caucuses and corn. ‘Nuff said.

Barack Obama (D)D+
If you’re going to announce online, give us a reason to come back to your site. He’s clearly trying to get some attention here, but placing ads in Google and putting up a bio, a fancy letter and a “donate” link aren’t going to cut it (although I like what there is of a logo and design so far.)

Rudy Giuliani (R)D
Rudy’s site isn’t much different from Obama’s content-wise and he’s also got the Google ads going, but that’s about it. He needs more flattering front page photos too.

Mitt Romney (R)D-
Cookie cutter site circa 2000. If you put this one next to Bradley’s web site, Bradley’s would fare better. It doesn’t flunk only because it has news and a blog.

John McCain (R)F+
His photographer clearly spent too much time on Dean’s site in ’04. There’s this huge photo of him with his mouth wide open. Not only that, but the site’s in black and white which might have been cool if the web were around when he went off to college and color TV was introduced but not any more.

Sam Brownback (R)F
Sam, we’re not in Kansas any more… (he started with the Dorothy analogy, not me.) Get a web site that looks newer than your tie. My 93 year-old grandmother lives in Topeka too and she could build a better site.

James Gilmore (R)F-
This one shouldn’t even be scored. We’re talking 10th percentile here… pitiful, truly.

Tommy Thompson (R) – F–
I couldn’t even find this guy’s web site. Does it exist?

(Disclaimer: I graded these solely on the basis of their online campaigns – I only realized after the fact that all of the Dems came out ahead of the Republicans. At one point there was one Dem behind a couple of Republicans but after a final review, it ended up like this. In general, the consensus out there is that Republicans don’t get the Internet the way Democrats do. This particular exercise seems to confirm that.)


  1. >Loved it! Thanks for looking these up and putting them all in one place.

  2. >I found another one – Tom Tancredo – Colorado Republican. He’s in the race but doesn’t seem to have a site either.

  3. >Chuck found more…”Check out wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2008There are a few candidates that you missed.Former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska (D)John H. Cox of Illinois (R)Michael Charles Smith of Oregon (R)And they have a link to Tommy Thompson’s site.”

  4. >I would score Brownback a bit higher, Richardson a lot lower and wouldn’t score the Gilmore one since it isn’t connected to his campaign.

  5. >I spoke too soon (same commentor as above) on Richardson. That isn’t an official campaign site either.

  6. >Thanks – I wasn’t clear when I saw that Gilmore site but didn’t have time to investigate further. Good to know that’s not Richardson’s also. I wish these guys would do a better job getting their campaign sites searchable. I’m sure given a few more months it’ll be easier.I also didn’t review their email campaigns since I didn’t feel like getting on a bunch of lists, but I’ll do a more thorough job of reviewing all the candidates’ online efforts as the campaign moves forward.Looking at the FEC page, Biden hasn’t filed, nor has Cox or Smith. Duncan Hunter has. (That’s one I hadn’t seen yet.) Oddly enough, Dodd & Gilmore don’t have party affiliations listed.