Campaign website wars

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Last week, Fifth District Republican Congressman Virgil Goode (the incumbent) and his Democratic challenger, Al Weed, appeared together at Charlottesville’s Senior Center (see pg. 17). To mark this 2006 campaign milestone, Hit This Site decided to take a look at just how in-tune the two candidates are with the district’s technology-savvy constituents. And so we bring you (drumroll, please) Goode/Weed: The Campaign Website Battle.
    Perusing a politician’s website is informative, at best (and akin to watching paint dry, at worst) but Al Weed—or at least those in charge of making him look good—seems to have a pretty good grasp of how to liven things up. Info and news about Weed and his campaign, how visitors to the site can contribute, and a blog make up most of the site. Though the obnoxiously patriotic color palette and elementary design are unfortunate, there are a few small touches that give the site character: Humorous headlines, such as “Weekly Weed Report” and “Mr. Goode Flip Flops” (complete with photo of people adorned in Big-Foot size flip-flops); pictures of Al as an innocent young boy, studious young man, and nature-loving environmentalist; and a “Volunteer of the Week” blog entry (which, as of this writing, features a girl showing a lot of leg—way to up the sex appeal, Al!). Overall, it’s clear that Weed’s campaign cash isn’t being used on high-priced Web designers—but he comes across as a genuine, everyday guy.
    Incumbent Virgil Goode’s site wins the “pleasing to the eye” award: Expertly Photoshopped images of Virgil top every page, so that half-asleep surfers won’t ever forget where they are. As far as content goes, though, the site leaves a lot to be desired. At final count, there are only eight actual pages—with two of them empty, and one a duplicate. “The Issues” page is, appropriately, the most extensive, but it’s filled with boilerplate (“I believe that marriage should be a union between a man and a woman,” Goode says, surprising no one) that most voters have surely heard before. Of course, Goode’s taxpayer-funded site (www.house.gov/goode) is more extensive, but it also proves that more is not necessarily better. One look at his “Kid’s Page,” with its eyeball-searing Microsoft Paint aesthetic (dig that hi-tech animated inchworm!), would make most kids I know run for the Weed. And so, in the early rounds at least, it looks like Al’s got the online upper hand.

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