The Campaign on the Web

Nov. 30 1999 3:00 AM

The Campaign on the Web

By their Web sites ye shall know them. The presidential candidates have staked their places on the Web to raise money, to distribute speeches and position papers, and to show off their cybersavvy. Some sites are better than others. Here's a quick guide.

Democrats

31000_31402_bradley_bill

Bradley pitches himself as a reformer disdainful of big money. The site even offers a copy of his personal financial disclosure statement. However, you'll soon discover that clicking around the site causes an unsolicited "Make a Contribution" box to pop up repeatedly on your screen.

Bottom line: Large, confident, and dull

31000_31404_gore_al

Lest anyone associate Gore with Bill Clinton's sex life, two of the departments you can click to from any page are " The Gore Family" and " Tipper Gore." And while other sites gloss over the legal rules for giving money, this contribution form requires donors to check boxes stating, "I am not a foreign national who lacks permanent resident status in the United States" and "The funds I am contributing are my own personal funds and not those of another."

Bottom line: Cybersprawl

Republicans

31000_31406_bauer_gary

Bauer's site lets you pledge to write a check but, unlike other sites, doesn't let you use your credit card online. There's also an " Online Internship Application," which offers students experience in "correspondence, grassroots organization, volunteer coordination, fundraising, events planning and coordination, and media events." Hurry--the deadline for the fall term is Aug. 6.

Bottom line: Low-tech, high dudgeon

31000_31408_bush_georgew2

This site takes personalization to the next level, asking for information in return for an individualized pitch. An " Issues" page focuses on Bush's favorite topics, such as " Faith-Based Initiatives." The "En Español" section offers several pages in Spanish, including this item, which touts Bush's corazón y visión. An audio message of the day communicates directly to supporters. The " Youth Zone" explains Bush's view of politics--it's just like baseball! The parties are leagues, the primaries are playoffs, and the general election is the World Series.

Bottom line: Prosperity with a surface.

31000_31410_forbes_steve

Calls itself "America's first full-scale Internet campaign" and is by far the most technically sophisticated site, with an array of slide shows, videos, and a " personal control panel" that repackages his position papers, speeches, and press releases as links from an icon symbolic of high-tech, individual empowerment.

Bottom line: The gold standard

36000_36932_hatch_orrin

Orrin Hatch #2:http://www.orrinhatch.org/}}

Uncharacteristically hip in appearance, the home page features Hatch silhouetted against a black background. Supporters are encouraged to stuff virtual ballot boxes by a vote online page, which links to Internet polls. A page of media links invites disciples to write editors and create the illusion of a groundswell for their favorite dark horse. Weekly Hatch Toons attack the senator's opponents: A cartoon of a wayward youth smoking something quotes the parents' impression that their boy is "presidential material. ... If we can just hang on 'til he's 40."

Bottom Line: Spare and strange.

31000_31413_keys_alan

The site is utterly disorganized but lovingly maintained by Keyes' acolytes. Its audio and transcript archive of his speeches and radio shows is amazing.

Bottom line: Grassrootsfire and brimstone

31000_31416_mccain_john

A special page for the Bush campaign exposes Bush's server as the largest single source of visitors to McCain's site and offers 10 reasons why Dubya staffers should browse (Reason No. 1: to contribute). A link to a campaign-finance petition underscores McCain's reformist position. His "Campaign Store" offers "Official Campaign Material" that "may be ordered for a small contribution." A biographical video costs $25. Clicking "John McCain on the Issues" takes you not to his position papers (which requires a further click) but to the "McCain Poll," which invites you to weigh in on a rigged question. Since McCain is presumably too principled to change his mind based on this "poll," it seems to be a participation device for the gullible.

Bottom line: Curious George gets caught

Reform

31000_31407_buchanan_pat_2

When Buchanan switched parties, he also switched his Web site and logo. For a Reform candidate, he's surprisingly upfront about his pro-life plank, though " Cleaning Corruption Out of Government" is (more suitably) his No. 1 issue. His new book, which prompted critics to call him soft on Nazi Germany, is proudly displayed on his home page, so you can judge it for yourself (but first you'll have to buy it). The low-tech site lets Pat's peasant army contribute, join an e-mail list, and browse speeches, press releases, and policy statements.

Bottom line: Peasants with PCs

56000_56315_trump_donald

The home page calls Trump "the experienced, decisive can-do businessman America needs as President." The "How Can I Help Donald?" page claims "you can convince Donald to run" by giving him $25 or more. Every page ends with a prominent link to a donation solicitation. The " People Are Talking About Trump" button takes you to the comments of great thinkers such as Cindy Adams. And check out his bio: "Donald J. Trump is the very definition of the American success story, continually setting the standards of excellence. … He is the archetypal businessman--a deal maker without peer."

Bottom Line: Too autoerotic for underage viewing

Libertarians

32000_32110_browne_harry

When you enter the site, a pot leaf signifying medical marijuana pops up on your screen. If you click the link to join Browne's exploratory committee, you get a form that begins, "Due to the complexity of FEC regulations, we are unable to accept on-line donations at this time." If you click "Join the Libertarian Party," you're required to check a box affirming that you "do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals"--just to make sure you're not Tim McVeigh.

Bottom line: Wild, Wild Web

Unannounced

33000_33869_beatty_warren

A pretty logo with literally nothing behind it.

Bottom line: Inauspicious metaphor

Criticism and Parody

33000_33871_gore_alrushmore

Clever parody site that captures Gore's ticks and shticks. Headline on the "Goretopia" page: "Envisioning a post-present future for the generations that will follow the children of our parent's generation." The "Socialized Medicine" page exults, "New treatments are slowing the development of acne." Gore also vows to "give each child a talking Chihuahua" and "reduce class sizes to 0."

Bottom line: If only Gore had such a light touch

33000_33872_gore_alparody

The graphics bear an uncanny (and possibly actionable) resemblance to Gore's official site, but the content is weak. All jokes, all secondhand. Includes a "Bulletin Bored."

Bottom line: Stiffer than its subject

33000_33873_bush_georgewparody

A serious site, light on graphics but heavy on content, with links to dozens of articles scrutinizing Bush and several plugs for itself from major news organizations. Calls itself "a non-advocacy site" and claims to be the "First George W. Bush Site on the Web."

Bottom line: Opposition research headquarters

33000_33874_bush_georgewstreak

Excellent libertarian-oriented, anti-drug-war site. Its theme is "Hypocrisy with Bravado." A stamp on the home page boasts, "DRUG-FREE SINCE 1974." A mock press release has Bush promising "to raise the age at which minors can be tried as adults ... to age 40." Best joke: Every picture of Bush includes a digitally-added white streak under his nose.

Bottom line: Best parody site of the campaign

Eve Gerber is a Slateeditorial assistant.

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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