Bush Web Site Rated Highest Despite Fundraising Shortfall

Despite failing to generate a significant amount of campaign contributions, the Web site of Republican presidential candidate and Texas governor George W. Bush has been rated the best among the remaining candidates by a Forrester Research study.

The survey analyzed the sites of Bush, former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley, Arizona Senator John McCain and Vice President Al Gore. Gore and Bradley placed second and third respectively, with McCain bringing up the rear.

Earlier this week, the E-Commerce Times reported that Bush was dead last in online fund-raising, with a paltry $340,000 (US$). McCain was in first place with $2.5 million raised online, while Bradley had raised $1.6 million and Gore $1.1 million.

Much of McCain’s Internet fund-raising has come as a result of his recent stunning upset victory in the New Hampshire primary.

Web Site Survey

Forrester used a 24-question survey in analyzing the candidates’ Web sites, with each question rated on a five-point system. The sites were evaluated for their overall functionality, as well as key individual features like e-mail updates, campaign donation information and the candidates’ position on key issues.

Forrester concluded that the current crop of candidates fall short of the mark in using the medium effectively.

“This is the first presidential election in which candidates and voters have access to a wealth of information via the Web,” said John McCarthy, Forrester’s group director of Internet Policy and Regulation Research. “The Web is a low-cost, nationwide tool that effectively supports fundraising efforts and enables candidates to clearly express their views and immediately rebut their opponents. However, current candidates’ sites fail to fully reach their potential.”

Neither the Bush nor McCain campaign teams were available to comment on the report Friday morning.

A Powerful Tool

What is apparent to many is the powerful reach of the Internet and how it is changing the dynamic of American politics. While policy leaders debate whether Americans will someday be able to vote online, the candidates are clearly starting to see the value of an unhindered, unfiltered and relatively free medium.

McCain has been actively courting the Web as his small campaign begins to muster a head of steam. Gore, who by contrast is a known Internet advocate, has been more reserved.

Bush does not need the Internet from a financial standpoint, having raised $68 million — the most money of any candidate in the history of U.S. politics. However, with an estimated 43 percent of the American public online, he and his team are obviously well aware of the advantages of an effective Web site.

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