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Suffrage net city

The Web has become key to presidential politics — we rate the candidates on how they’ve put Al Gore’s invention to use
By MIKE MILIARD  |  November 28, 2007

Ron Paul is popular on the internet

Three years ago, when the Red Sox were winning and John Kerry was losing, YouTube hadn’t even been invented. Now it’s used as a medium for presidential debates. MySpace, too, was a baby back then (it had just turned one), and on the slim chance he was a member, it’s a safe bet that Ron Paul had a good deal fewer than 88,476 friends.

In the fall of 2005, I interviewed Boston city councilor John Tobin about his embrace of the then-nascent medium of video blogging. “People are tired of canned speeches,” he said, referring me to his tricked-out Web site, where one could watch clips of him out on the streets of JP and West Roxbury, addressing the concerns of his constituents. “To talk to the camera, unscripted, is a pretty unique way to get your point across.”

He also offered a bold prediction. By the 2008 presidential election, every candidate would be video blogging. “It’s going to be mandatory [for candidates]. People are going to have to do it. Voters won’t accept that they don’t have it.”

Well, here we are. And Tobin’s prophecy was pretty spot-on. John Edwards is a committed video blogger, with nearly 250 clips cross-posted on and YouTube. Millions watched online this summer as the Clintons virally spoofed the final scene of The Sopranos. (Verdict: Bill’s a good actor; Hill, not so much.)

Above and beyond multimedia, every major candidate (to varying degrees) has availed his or herself of all the Web has to offer — YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Frappr, Flickzor,, Digg, Technorati, reddit, Newsvine — to amplify his or her message. Web applications that were unheard of at the time of the last election cycle are suddenly de rigueur.

In 2008, a candidate’s Web site needs to have more than the address of where to send a check, a sporadically updated blog, and a few photos of glad-handing and baby-smooching. Nearly 50 percent of Americans say they seek out more information on the Web in 2008 than they did in the ‘04 cycle. It’s time to judge the candidates not just on their policy and their campaigning skills, but on how they’re using the near-limitless power of the Internet to connect with a tech-savvy electorate.


LOOK FOR Lots and lots of shiny white teeth
LAUGH AT MittMarket, an alliance with that lets you sell your old household junk and give proceeds to the Mittster

Mitt Romney may hate Massachusetts, but he loves Facebook. He was the first Republican candidate to launch a profile there. He’s got a substantial presence on MySpace, as well — visiting his MySpace site allows one to check out the pages of his five freshly scrubbed sons. (Craig, somewhat surprisingly, is an indie-rock fan. More amusing, Ben’s comment section was, until recently, riddled with ring-tone and penis-enlargement spam.) For the Romneys, the Web is a family affair. Along with the treasure trove of interviews, debate performances, and stump speeches on, you’re treated to candid moments with the whole brood when you channel surf the ad spots on MittTV. And at, you can get “an insider’s perspective” of life on the campaign trail from Romney’s high-school-girlfriend-turned-wife. There’s also, of course, the Five Brothers blog. Why anyone particularly cares what Romney’s sons have to say is a mystery, but one must commend their blogging fervor. So eager are they to post and post again, I imagine, that they’re too busy to enlist in the war that they, and their dad, support.

LOOK FOR How many 9/11 references can you spot?
LAUGH AT His request that you “Become a Rudy Season Ticket Holder. Set up your recurring donation today!”

Give Rudy Giuliani credit: he finally had the good sense to get rid of the comb-over. (Doubly bold, since these days he’s probably too embarrassed to hide his chrome dome beneath a Yankees hat.) It appears he’s also keen to keep his Web site as tidy as his hairline. The jingoism — not long ago, the site’s main image was the 9/11 mayor staring into the middle distance with steel resolve as the Stars and Stripes rippled majestically behind him — is to be expected. This is a Republican, after all. But Giuliani’s an atypical Republican. So perhaps it’s not all too surprising to see him embracing multimedia technology more than some in his party, as with his Media Center, replete with streaming radio ads, flash videos (slow to load though they may be), and downloadable widgets to put “Rudy on your blog.” All of it’s presented in a plain-spoken, easy-to-navigate design. But, of course, even in the virtual world, old-world hard currency is a necessity, which is why you can’t miss the big red DONATE button.

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