Thursday, November 10, 2005

Campaign 2005 and the Internet

Ever since the political world discovered the Internet back in 1996, each passing year has brought more technological sophistication and a wider online audience to campaigns. Campaign 2005 was no different, although the local and state candidates and parties lag far behind what's happening on the national level.

So how did candidates and parties make use of the net? It depended on the candidate or the organization. Most had websites, especially those in larger towns and cities. Some candidates had individual websites, while others, to save money, were part of a party or slate site.

Designs ranged from professional to disturbing, but they all had one thing in common:

No one could find them using Google.

Go and search the web for "Enfield Democrats" and see if this site comes up. It's #35, after a mess of things about Enfield, England. Actually, up until very, very recently, it was much farther down. The Republican site is, if anything, even harder to find. Enfield is a large town, and both parties marketed their sites reasonably well, and it was still difficult to find them.

I watched my own site stats very carefully on Monday and Tuesday, and I could see some of the searches people were using on Google, Yahoo and other search engines. I ran some of those searches myself, and if these people were frustrated that they couldn't find what they were looking for, I couldn't blame them. People want to find good information about candidates, and in general newspapers have abandoned the field in that area.

So, naturally, people are starting to turn to the web. This is a golden opportunity for candidates to get their message out. Most failed to do so.

Candidate sites almost never turned up on the first four or five pages of a Google search. Most users won't go past the first one, let alone wade all the way down to #76. Admittedly, it's hard to bump yourself up in the ratings, but candidates do need to learn to better market their sites, and state parties have to learn to help. Links from established sites will help search engines find new ones.

The state parties have yet to learn how to do this. Cases in point: the Republican and Democratic state committee websites. There are no links to candidate sites, although the Democrats at least have links to DTC sites (many of which were rarely updated or didn't link to candidate sites). The Republicans have an unhelpful directory feature instead of links. They can both do a lot better.

In general candidates put sites up on the web (because they feel they ought to) and then just sort of let them sit there. A few candidates experimented with blogs, but didn't update or used them just as a rolling events calendar. The information contained on candidate sites tended to be minimal, and there was little to no interactivity. There was little to draw users back for a second visit.

So while candidates had a presence on the web, most web users didn't know about it and candidates aren't taking advantage of it. As national and state political sites evolve and become more interesting, interactive and open, their ideas will start filtering down to this level. This year helped to solidify a local political beachhead on the web. It's now up to future candidates to consolidate their gains and break new ground.

16 comments:

MikeCT said...

There are few all-around exemplary candidate or town committee Web sites, but there are several with stand-out features that win awards in my book (see also large set of Dem & Green local links):

Kelly McCarthy's site for going far beyond the call for a City Councillor candidate from a third party (and she lost by only 139 votes)

Judy Apruzzese-Desroches for demonstrating that a campaign is never too small to create and sustain a blog

Jason Jakubowski for decent site design and offering some substance and vision

Johnny Potts for sheer specificity of issues and positions (and what a name!)

Owen Quinn for a photo gallery with personality, spontaneity and humor

Derek Shapiro for a downloadable, reproducible flier (why doesn't anyone else think of this?)

Mike DeBenedet for the best domain name : ILikeMikeD.com

Craig Henrici for creating an e-mail newsletter

Frank Chiaramonte & Sandra Davis for an original creation from a small town

David Bedelle for his sense of humor

Melody Currey for listing more opportunities to meet her than you could shake a stick at


And some standout Democratic town committee sites:

East Hartford for its informative newsletter and detailed calendar of local meetings and events

Cheshire for its retro-cool original artwork

Weston for the best home page photo

Stratford for its online video

Brooklyn for its small-town effort and achievement

Easton for just plain looking good

Suffield for the funniest political page in the state

Most frequent campaign and town committee site annoyances:
No contact information (can you say "volunteers"?)
No content at all for many, no candidate information for others
No substantive information on the candidates' positions or how they compare to their opponents
Missing dates, times, places and/or meaningful descriptions of committee meetings and other events

Especially embarrassing sites for the cities' size and reputation - New Haven, Waterbury, West Hartford
Embarrassingly conspicuous online absences - Hartford, Bridgeport

Kudos to the CT Greens for being the only state party to acknowledge that it has candidates.

I'm very disappointed that the CT Dems didn't post candidate links on their site - it would seem to be, after all, the purpose of the party to promote candidates. Having said that, they do an impressive job at providing extraordinarily detailed contact information for town committees and info on local elected officials (see right column on home page and select your town). They also have a good calendar of events.

Dave Mooney said...

Mikect -- thanks for the nod on the video. We were pretty excited about that too.

I thought that Dom Costello's site was pretty bad. (And I don't think it is only because I was on the opposing campaign! :)

Dave Mooney said...

Also note that Jim Miron and Stratford Democrats are well ranked in Google. And it is not an accident. :)

Anonymous said...

Sort of along the internet lines, I just got this email from the Malloy Campaign:

Dear Friend:

We've been kind of amused by the DeStefano campaign's attempt to suggest that DeStefano's mayoral "landslide victory" against three virtually unknown candidates has injected his campaign with rocket-fuel. Nevertheless, in the spirit of being good sports, we figured we'd play along with some fun facts of our own:

The last time New Haven had a Republican mayor, Dwight Eisenhower was President; the last time Stamford had a Republican Mayor, Bill Clinton was president -- and Dan Malloy beat that Republican Mayor in a landslide victory.

The last time Mayor DeStefano made his own Democrats so angry that they waged a primary against him was 2001; the last time that happened to Dan was...never.

The last time Mayor DeStefano drove 22% of voters into the arms of third party virtually unknown candidates was... Tuesday. The last time Dan did that? Never.

Stamford has the second largest Republican Party registration in the State. In fact, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 1.5 to 1, whereas in New Haven, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 14.5 to 1.

On Tuesday, Dan Malloy won with 12,384 votes. Mayor DeStefano received 9,199. In fact, if Mayor DeStefano had gotten the same number of votes in Stamford as he did in New Haven, he would have lost the election.

In Stamford, Dan Malloy pulled 57% of Democrats to the polls. Even if every single vote Mayor DeStefano received was a Democratic vote that would represent only 24% of New Haven Democrats -- not an example of an energized base of support.

Finally, running against the second largest Republican party in the State, and with Governor Rell, Congressman Shays and in-coming Republican State Chair George Gallo (Rowland's former campaign manager) actively campaigning against him, Dan led the Democratic team to a clean sweep. Dan's Democratic team won control of the Board of Finance, put a new Democrat on the Board of Education and added to the Democratic majority on the Board of Representatives. And that is a rare accomplishment in a two party town.

John DeStefano seems to be struggling to make a big deal of his victory over three protest candidates; maybe because he's worried. After all, Dan out-raised him by a significant amount of money in the last filing period and has racked up an impressive list of political endorsements -- and we're just getting started.


Chris Cooney
Campaign Manager
Dan Malloy for Governor
(203) 918-9387

Genghis Conn said...

Boy, are you right about Costello's page. What is that flag thing?

Miron and Stratford are good examples of the right way to do things. The Stratford Republicans, now, are a different story.

Genghis Conn said...

I'm amazed the Malloy campaign responded at all.

BDRubenstein888 said...

Chris Chris Chris..the fact remains that in the Court of Public Opinion Malloy only got 51% in his hometown....As you will soon learn the 4th CD is the worst performing CD in the state.Myself and a few others delivered the delegates to Curry in 2002 ( ask roy,kathy and betsy) and i assure you the endorsed candidate will be DeStefano and he will be the winner of a primary in August. If you care to dispute me...place a bet..say $500. to the winner of the primary and let Gengis hold the money...

Chris..the fact of the matter is this...your candidate is a DLC member and about 30-35% of the delegates at a convention will not be persuaded to go with a moderate/conservative candidate like Malloy...a combination of unions,liberals,moderates and party activists will control a near 40% of the delgates and votes in a primary...trust me...they will not be voting for Dan. Also remember that DeStefano is leading in over all money raised..your candidate got a "bump" last quarter only because the State Prosecutor cleared him of any criminal charges relative to his purchase of the land from George Jepsen's brother and all that "discounted" work on his house while some contractors got no bid and discounted bid work in the city of Stamford.It doesn't shock us now that after buying the land from Jepsen's brother...George has endorsed Malloy..but who cares....If you wish to bet on the primary..put your money where your mouth is...

DeanFan84 said...

BDRubenstein--

Laughing my ass off. Thanks.

I bet $$$$ that Cooney won't still be managing Malloy's campaign by the time 2006 gets here.

BTW, have you run into Malloy's campaign staff? Maybe it's gotten more diverse, but what I remember is a bunch of young suits, all men, (and all white?). Some one should snap a picture.

DeanFan84 said...

Stamford Advocate editorial speculates on whether the GOP could have won it all last Tuesday:

http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/opinion/editorial/scn-sa-editorialnov10,0,4179809.story?coll=stam-editorial-headlines

"Some Republicans say they were thrilled to come so close considering that their candidate, Christopher Munger, was an unknown who was recruited to run against Mr. Malloy three months ago and still won 46 percent of the vote. A slim margin of victory in Stamford also is unlikely to give Mayor Malloy a boost in his quest for the Democratic Party nomination for governor, and some say he has been wounded because of it."

"Republicans have to be kicking themselves. A different strategy might have allowed the GOP to take back the Mayor's Office, derail one of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell's biggest opponents and become heroes within the state party -- all in one night."

"If an unknown came so close to winning in Stamford, what would the outcome have been if an experienced Republican had run for mayor?....."

".......with a different strategy and a bit more work, you have to wonder whether the GOP could have had it all."

Genghis Conn said...

Great story in the always excellent CT News Junkie today about the Courant abandoning local news. A must-read if you want to understand why people are turning to the net for local political information.

Julian said...

DeanShill84,

In another thread after someone corrected another of your outlandish posts, you said they "ought not to impugn your integrity." Just what integrity would that be. You forfeit your integrity everytime you libel a fellow Democrat who has the best interest of Connecticut at heart.

It is one thing to promote the virtues or supposed virtues of your preferred candidate, but it is a whole other thing to tear down a competing candidate with distorted facts, bold faced lies, and red herring arguments that speak to nothing other than your own bias and ignorance.

Are you 100% percent sure of the ethno-racial and gender makeup, and style of dress of Dan Malloy's staff? You mentioned that someone should take a picture. Why don't you produce that picture as evidence to back up your claim? Otherwise don't make the claim.

If your past record of accuracy is a guide, then I suspect those claims are false and that Malloy, coming from a diverse city such as Stamford, would have a diverse staff.

It's also apparent that you were hoping for a Malloy loss. It's unforunate that you would wish for the fall of a fellow Democrat. But again, that's expected from you.

DeanFan84 said...

Julian--

Truth be told, I will never recognize any DLC'er as a fellow Democrat. Instead, I view them as convenient brokers of the People's Party, (i.e sell-outs), and not true representatives. Your idol, Dan Malloy, chooses to affiliate himself with the DLC. Those of us who disagree with Joe Lieberman, the DLC Neo-Cons, and the Iraq Debacle, will still insist on being heard. Throughout 2006.

But no, I never hoped for a Malloy loss. Up until Tuesday, I would have thought such an outcome unimaginable. For a 10 year incumbent, en route to a possible governorship, not to have the endorsement of his hometown, well who could have anticipated that?

In terms of Malloy's staff, I have run into them on several occasions. Accordingly, I will maintain my doubts about their diversity,-- unless you can prove me wrong. Are you 100% sure that it isn't a group of white peoples? If it makes you feel better, I will also state that I noticed the same about Congressman Larson's contingency.

In a Blue state it's easy to call yourself a member of the Majority. It's another thing to devote yourself to the welfare of working families. Farrell has it, (God Bless her), -- Malloy doesn't. And that's not my fault.

DeanFan84 said...

Julian--

You are potentially right. And I'm not sleeping so well.

Come Monday AM, I'm going to call the Malloy campaign and ask them for a break-down of the race and gender of their staffers. And just maybe I'll have to drive down to Stamford for a damn photo, in order to satisfy everyone.

However, please note, that in a sense of fair play, if I'm completely wrong about what I've suggested in my postings, I'll donate $250 to the Congressional challenger of your choice. (Democrat, that is.)

On the other hand, if I'm right, and the Malloy campaign turns out to be a bunch of white people in suits, will you send $250 to either Courtney or Murphy? This is, after all, about getting rid of the Radical Right, and restoring balance to America!

Brothers in arms,

DeanFan84

P.S. Exactly what "distorted facts, bold faced lies, and red herring arguments" are you referring to? Please be specific so I can respond appropriately.

Aldon Hynes said...

I'm interested in the discussion about campaign websites. I sure hope that 2006 we see a lot more and a lot better websites, particularly in the State Rep races.

In terms of the Governor's race, try this:

Type 'Connecticut Governor 2006' in Google and hit 'I'm feeling lucky'.

Blue in CD2 said...

Any updates on the racial/gender makeup of Malloy's staff?

Im interested to find out.

Julian said...

DeanFan84,

The burden of proof is on the accusor. You made the claim, it is your responsibility to show evidence. We're all waiting. Your credibility is on the line.

When you're wrong you can keep the $250. You'll need it to buy yourself a clue. How about you just think before you blog, that's all I ask.

That means no more unsubstantiated claims, okay. By the way, Malloy is not my idol, though Destefano is clearly yours. I've never been a groupie and I'm sure I'll never be one.

Unlike you, and like most voters, I'm not affiliated with any candidate yet. As for any future affiliation I will say that the kind of vitriol coming from Destefano staff and supporters is not likely to win my support. I know others that post on here have expressed similar sentiments.