Slate, the Industry Standard, and washingtonpost.com join forces to examine the effect of the Internet on Campaign 2000.
After raising—and spending—huge amounts of venture capital, struggling through a shaky IPO (initial primary offering), and surviving the inevitable dot-pol shakedown, the George W. Bush campaign last week unveiled its new Web site, the killer app it hopes will choke off algore2000.com's air supply. Here's a review.
When you first log on to the new Bush site, a pop-up window featuring "this week's ACTION items" greets you. This is a step beyond the usual pitch for campaign funds that greets users at most campaign sites. "Donate" is still an option, but users are invited to get involved in other ways as well, such as by taking part in a "Nationwide Literature Drop Off." Here you can print out a piece of campaign literature (this week's is a poster advertising the site itself) and distribute it to friends and neighbors. Other options invite you to send a letter to the editor or to participate in a trivia contest (today's prize: a Bush cap!).
The site argues that the literature drop-off and "Send a Letter to Your Editor" options are "easy as 1, 2, 3," but they're actually fairly time- and labor-intensive (Step 2: "Write your own letter to the editor"). They ask you to move from the online world into the offline one—an unlikely proposition for the average user. More intriguing are the opportunities for online activism presented by the site. These provide quick and easy ways for supporters to spread the Bush message. Who needs yard signs when you can download Bush logos for your Web site, wallpaper for your desktop, or a screen saver for your monitor? You can participate in an online chat with a campaign official (today's was with campaign chairman Donald Evans), send e-mail to a friend, or send a Bush e-card.
If that isn't enough, the true Bush devotee can visit Bush's online store, which sells everything from Bush baby bibs to a Bush director's chair to Bush bottled water ("Prepare to experience a watershed moment in American history").
The site's audio and video offerings are extensive as well. The campaign has a broadcast.com radio show and "GwBTV," which contains an archive of Bush campaign commercials and speeches. The GwBTV viewer does more than simply show video on demand—it also provides a text summary of the ad, and it contains links to "Contribute" and "Volunteer," in case you're inspired by the content.