Thursday, August 5, 2004

All About Kerry

With months to go before a critical national election, the presidential campaign dialogue is, more than ever before, being communicated online. The prestige of party and candidate websites’s look, feel, accessibly, and message has increased dramatically in this presidential season. Unfortunately, the dialogue the official party websites provide is particularly stilted.

The official GOP website ( has devoted most of the home page and much of the navigation to bashing Democratic candidate John Kerry – at the expense of promoting George W. Bush. And while the GOP website discusses how awful John Kerry is – how he can never make up his mind and how liberal his record is – the official DNC website ( is dedicated to advertising their candidate and his plans – or, at the very least, his campaign promises.

The net result is that you now have two party web sites devoted to John Kerry – one in support, one in defiance.

The only picture of President Bush on the GOP website homepage is at the bottom of the page, right above a larger picture of Ronald Reagan. This tactic effectively renders the promotional value of the GOP site moot. Indeed, the superficial value of the site becomes aggressive and derogatory. Instead of wasting word and homepage real estate on defaming John Kerry, the GOP should be touting the presidential accomplishments and experience of George W. Bush – what he has done and how far we have come. The DNC should be left to take the pot shots at the incumbent president, not the other way around. The GOP site almost totally ignores their current leadership equity. Instead of posturing like a champion prizefighter, they feign to be the under dog. It doesn’t work in boxing and it won’t sell in politics, either.

The GOP has not necessarily done a bad job. Visitors can quickly and easily find the platform issues and George W. Bush’s plans to address them. The site is replete with examples of policy and leadership successes from Bush’s first term It is precisely because of this Bush-promotional content that site Kerry-based homepage is so shockingly misplaced. During our audit of the site, we counted John Kerry’s name 17 times on the GOP home page – including several instances which link to a Kerry movie and five instances featured in the primary website navigation! How about Bush? His name only appeared on the GOP home page 4 times, none of which were in the navigation.

This all works out for John Kerry – he now has two websites talking about him. The GOP website strategy is preaching to the choir – legions of Bushophites already committed to the Republican cause – while ignoring the promotional marketing undecided voters are looking for. This website amounts to an online attack website, adding little material value to the online political dialogue.

And if you’re not convinced that political websites make a difference, take a look at what Howard Dean did with his ("How to Raise $200 Million Online," issue 2003.11). Not only did Howard Dean’s website focus on promoting its candidate, it drove consistent interest and participation. One can only hope that future campaigns follow this lead instead of the GOP’s example.

While wrapping up the research for this article, Cloudjammer’s J.D. Jordan walked up to me and looked over my shoulder. Seeing John Kerry prominently on screen, he started to point out the ways the DNC could improve their website. The problem? He was mistakenly critiquing the GOP website. fb

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