Republican Candidates Almost Invisible on the Web

Via Kevin Drum, I see that Micah Sifry has done some comparative analysis and found that the Republicans mentioned as leading contenders for the 2008 presidential race are “almost invisible on the web.”

To give you just one example, if you add up all the friends all the Republican candidates have on their MySpace pages, and compare it to all the friends the Ds have, the totals will amaze you: 4,007 to 51,471. If I take fringe candidates Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo out of that equation, the Republican total drops below 2,000.

Same with total incoming blog links, which for the Republican are woeful in part due to the fact that most of them don’t have serious websites yet. Counting links to their primary unofficial sites along with official sites (and in some cases, like Newt Gingrich, George Pataki, Chuck Hagel and Mike Huckabee, none of whom are officially in the race, I’m counting links to their government sites or, in Newt’s case, to his personal site, and in Hagel’s case, to a draft site), we get a total of 3,069 incoming blog links. That compares to 8,488 to the eight sites of the Democratic candidates who are officially in the race. If I included some of the Democratic non-candidates who might still get into the race, like Al Gore, I’m sure the totals would be even more imbalanced.

Same is true for photos posted on Flickr. There are a total of 789 photos of members of the Republican field, even with those non-candidates counted. (In fairness, I started hunting for photos of Tommy Thompson, Jim Gilmore or Ron Paul the politicians, and when I discovered that there are plenty of regular folks with those names who have photos on Flickr, I gave up about three screens into my search.) By comparison, there are 3,977 of the official Democratic field.

Now, frankly, I’m not too concerned with the lack of GOP presence on MySpace. While young lipstick lesbians posting pictures of themselves (no guyz pleaz!) in the altogether using garish 1994-style Web graphics complete with instant-on music blaring at you has its place, I suspect it will not be a decisive factor in the next presidential race.

Ditto FaceBook. Really, who wants to see a lot of pictures of Tommy Thomson or Mike Huckabee?

The blog issue is more interesting, since that has indeed shown itself a powerful venue for issue advocacy and fundraising. I’m not sure that Technorati links are much of an indicator, however, since of the multiple millions of sites tracked, perhaps 500 of them are meaningful players.

There’s not much doubt that the Republicans are about two years behind the Democrats on the Web. Partly, as Drum suggests, “Democrats are hungrier than Republicans because they’ve been out of office since 2000.” Further, as Chris Bowers and others have persuasively argued, the Democratic “netroots” are much more communitarian than their Republican counterparts.

I’m rather amused, as will be might right-of-center brethren, at the notion that the Republican candidates do not “appear to have much outreach to blogs going.” Many of the candidates have hired blog outreach coordinators and are already spamming us with deluges of poorly-thought-out blanket emails. They are, however, lagging behind their Congressional brethren. The “Ways and Means Press” deserves honorable mention for 63 messages on the year, which is only 26 days old. (They are 0 for 63 in my actually reading said emails, I should note.)

The blog outreach business is a burgeoning field. It’s a double edged sword for bloggers, especially prominent ones, however. Well done, it provides useful information and access to important officials. Done poorly (as it usually is) it generates a lot of spam. Moreover, as I discovered in an exchange with Henry Copeland earlier, it’s probably costing us substantial money as “outreach” and the attempt to get free placement is likely displacing advertising campaigns, thus literally taking money out of our pockets.

Regardless, by the time the 2008 race really gets underway, I suspect the GOP will have largely caught up with the Democrats in the Web game. Smart operatives quickly learn to copy the best practices that are employed by their opposition, so the advantage lag tends to be small.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Campaign 2008, Congress, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. My advice, create a special “election 2008” add spot and auction it off on a daily basis. The market will build nicely over the next 21 or so months and then crumble, but it will be a sellers market while it lasts.

    Let the campaigns get their “thought for the day” spam out to your readers but pay for the privilege.

  2. Triumph says:

    young lipstick lesbians

    James, For the uninitiated, could you please explain what a “lipstick lesbian” is? And how are they distinguished from their makeup-eschewing fellow travellers?

    Where do prominent lesbians like Mary Cheney, Ellen Degeneris, and Oprah fall on the scale?

  3. James Joyner says:


    According to Wikipedia:

    A lipstick lesbian is a slang term for a feminine homosexual woman who is attracted to another feminine woman, rather than a lesbian who is attracted to a more masculine woman, such as in a “butch and femme”-type relationship. It is also used to describe a homosexual (or bisexual) woman who exhibits feminine gender expression, a female who wears make-up (thus, lipstick), dresses or skirts, and perhaps takes on other characteristics associated with feminine women.

    In mainstream American films, lesbians are often portrayed according to the lipstick lesbian stereotype to be both politically safer and more sexually attractive to male viewers. A good example is Showtime’s television series The L Word, which presents most of its major lesbian characters in this way. Most lesbians in mainstream pornography are also portrayed in this way.

    The term was used in San Francisco at least as far back as the 1980s. In 1982, Priscilla Rhoades, a journalist with the gay newspaper The Sentinel, wrote a feature story on “Lesbians for Lipstick.” The term is thought to have emerged in wide usage during the early 1990s. A 1997 episode of the television show Ellen widely publicized the phrase. In the show, Ellen DeGeneres’s character, asked by her parents whether a certain woman is a “dipstick lesbian,” explains that the term is “lipstick lesbian,” and comments that “I would be a ChapStickâ„¢ lesbian.”

    In my usage, though, I’m thinking of the (possibly apocryphal) phenomenon of college-aged women experimenting with lesbianism and then moving back into heterosexual roles.

    My brief forays into MySpace searching for various things related to my Hollywood site has unearthed a phenomenal number of self-identified lesbians, all of whom are very attractive. My guess is that some sizable number are not really lesbians and that an even larger number are guys using pictures of women, posing as lesbians, in order to get hot women who claim to be lesbians to show them photos in their altogether.

  4. jwb says:

    Not to delve too deeply into the frivolous, but wouldn’t that scenario degenerate into men posing as lesbians trading pictures of hot women with other men posing as lesbians?

  5. Ragnell says:

    Hoping to help encourage more active congressional involvement, I emailed Mitch McConnell to congratulate him for hiring someone to act his blog intermediary. However, I also suggested that he convince the top Republican congressional leaders to hire a skilled and respected blogger*to help organize or fund all of the efforts of the online community backing the war on terror. Not just a contact for his office, but an official Republican congressional liaison, which assisted in coordinating online efforts with Congressional allies.

    I think some blogs such as PowerLine are attempting to do so; but so far their community is small. Powerline’s particular effort appears to attract primarily republican bloggers and commenters. Libertarians or liberal hawks don’t appear to have joined up at that site.. Furthermore, as you noted, few Republicans blog or even post on digg or**

    The same limitation occurs with liberal hawk attempts at unifying a large group of bloggers and commenters. I’m not seeing many conservatives post articles at politics central. Perhaps it doesn’t matter a great deal, but it does dilute the potential of their combined impact through power of numbers. So I question whether all these assorted groups could lay aside their differences on social and religious issues, in order to unite under one huge blog umbrella and gain larger online visibility. How else can a counter-force to Kos’s traffic be created?

    I know I’m singing to the choir, but Kos outguns us because he managed to organize the large part of the radical left under one blog umbrella. You know how that accomplishment impacted their internet visibility. In contrast, their opposition is broken up into so many independent blogs(a classic sign of personality types who prize their individuality). Of course while Kos enforces the groupthink law; most conservative or libertarian bloggers would rather die the death by a thousand cuts rather than sacrifice their right to disagree with each other.

    *Current Republican efforts to promote a network of republican bloggers is absurd due to their poor understand of how the blogosphere works. For example, bloggers are required to post what fundraising they have accomplished for that month. A further problem is presented when they post the bloggers real name and city of residence. Some of us face severe professional damage if such publicity reveals our political viewpoints to our very intolerant, far-left administrations.

    **If I link to five articles at, 40 more are posted during the same time which promote a radical left viewpoint. In fact, I could link 20 articles and still remain in the tiny minority. You understand how this impacts news on net but the Republican leaders are oblivious to the damage. They had better wake up to this problem before it’s too late to change the ratio.