Bush Embraces Net with Revamped Site

With a nod to the far-reaching power of the Internet, Texas Governor George W. Bush Wednesday made a full-day event out of relaunching his presidential campaign Web site.

The likely Republican nominee held a press conference to tout the site’s user-friendly design and unveil a new TV commercial that focuses solely on bringing people to his site.

Bells and Whistles

The new Web site, GeorgeWBush.com, features several cosmetic and substantive changes aimed at portraying the candidate as more tech-savvy. The Bush camp dropped the patriotic red, white and blue color scheme used by nearly every political Web site, and adopted a bold black and gold presentation. The site also has updated graphics and uses less formal language.

Most notable, however, are new multimedia functions and other features that are clearly intended to make the site a fun place to visit and interact with, rather than an informative online brochure or information repository.

For example, the new Bush site features a “My George W” customization function for visitors who want to return frequently. Providing further evidence of the Bush campaign’s strategy to draw in the Web-wise are an assortment of downloadable items, such as the official GWB logo for posting on other Web sites, GWB wallpaper for customizing computer desktops, and a GWB Windows screen saver.

The site also touts a new online video channel, GwB TV, that allows visitors to select and view footage of Bush’s speeches and commercials. The site also links to a twice-weekly Internet radio program that the Bush campaign will use to push the governor’s election agenda. Both the TV and radio channels are hosted by the Yahoo! Broadcast.com site.

Candidates in Cyberspace

Bush’s chief rival, likely Democratic nominee and U.S. Vice President Al Gore, also has a Web site to spread the word about his positions and political records. Though it lacks the multimedia functions of Bush’s Web site, Gore’s site earns a tip of the hat from two special interest groups not targeted by Bush’s new site.

Gore’s site boasts a “Bobby Approved” seal, verifying the Web page design is disability friendly, issued by Center for Applied Special Technology. Gore’s site also features a page for kids, who are otherwise known in the political arena as “future voters.”

Tech Insight, Tech Dollars

Bush, however, has the ear of a powerful set of current voters — a few hundred executives in the Internet arena — through a technology advisory council he formed last fall.

The group, chaired by Dell Computer Corp. Chairman Michael Dell, includes representatives of Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Oracle and more than 300 other tech companies.

According to the Bush campaign, the high-tech council played “a key role” in the redesign of Bush’s Web site.

Addressing Issues

Bush met privately with a handful of the technology group’s members Wednesday to discuss Internet privacy, cybercrime and the so-called “digital divide” between minority and low-income households and their wealthier counterparts. A federal government study released last summer showed that while Internet access and use is growing in suburban, middle-class homes, it is stagnating in poorer urban and rural areas due to the lack of PCs and affordable access.

The Bush campaign is hoping contact with the advisory group will keep the candidate up to date on key technology issues and generate support for him in the tech sector. The candidate’s new TV commercial is also designed to bring in the tech sector, by directing viewers’ attention to the Web site as a prime example of how “with it” Bush is.

“The ad is the first of its kind in the political world,” the Bush campaign boasts. “While many political advertisements mention or display a candidate’s Web site as an afterthought, by only showing it at the end of a commercial, this ad’s primary purpose is to drive voters to the Web site for more information.”

Soft Sell, Hard Sell

Both sites offer online shopping. The Bush site has an store and the Gore site links to three separate official Gore 2000 e-commerce sites — Goregear.com, Goregoods.com and Gorealltheway — solely devoted to selling campaign merchandise online.

Last but not least, both the Bush and the Gore site feature the inevitable pop-up windows seeking campaign contributions. Of course, both candidates’ have a version of the Web’s most politically correct feature — the privacy policy.

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