Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Websites Show Importance of Internet Campaigning

Originally posted on and written by William S. Bike

In 1995, candidate Lamar Alexander announced he was entering the presidential race not at a rally or a press conference, but on the Internet. This action is credited as the beginning of a whole new world of political campaigning. The Jesse Ventura Minnesota gubernatorial campaign of 1998 conquered that world, because Ventura could not have been elected Governor without the Internet.

Now, no candidate can even think of getting elected without a webpage. The question no longer is who has a website, but whose is the best. This year’s Pennsylvania Gubernatorial race between Democratic incumbent Ed Rendell and Republican former Pittsburgh Steeler football player Lynn Swann is a case in point. The better website just might determine who wins the election.
Rendell’s is easy to navigate, very colorful, and very graphically busy. Such busy-ness, if the website had been a pamphlet in the old days of publications, would have been a problem–too hard to read. On the Internet, however, it is a good thing–people want jazzy.

A drawback is that most of the news releases on Rendell’s website under Press Room are negative about Swann–voters deserve more positive information. The click-on box Endorse Gov. Rendell, which lets ordinary voters write an endorsement for the Governor, is excellent–every candidate should have one of these. Swann doesn’t. The Ask the Governor box also is excellent, and the box that makes it easy to send a letter to the editor is good, too. Swann doesn’t have these, either.

One big problem is┬áthe contribute page–when I clicked on it, it took forever to download, and then page cannot be displayed came up. That’s bad and could easily cost the candidate money. The get involved and contact us boxes also are good, and an unusual and great addition is the click on PA counties map, which lets a you click on whatever area you’re interested in to see what Rendell has done in that specific geographic area.
Swann’s website also is relatively easier to navigate, colorful, and is less graphically busy, but more conservative graphics appeal to a more conservative audience anyway, so that’s appropriate. A positive is Swann’s on the blog page that connects to blog postings–that’s something Rendell’s doesn’t have. However, Swann’s staff needs to look at the page a little more closely. The on the blog promo at one point said that polls show that Swann is closing the gap at Rendell 48.4%, Swann 43.5%, but on the same page a June posting says Rendell
47.7%, Swann 43.4%. That’s not closing the gap.

Every time you switch pages within the Swann site, an irritating popup window comes up and goes beep–that virtually guarantees that many people will log off the site as soon as possible. Swann had a nice simple page on policies, and his video page is very good. The page for signing up for the campaign is called two minute drill–I know Swann is trying to make a football reference, but the connection between two minute drill and signing up for the campaign is not readily apparent.

Unlike Rendell’s, Swann’s contribution page can actually be accessed, and an excellent touch is a video Swann talking to you that comes up on the contribution page.

In conclusion, both sites are good and do the job. Rendell’s is better because it has more features than Swann’s, but a huge problem is Rendell’s contributions page. Swann’s runs right by Rendell’s as if the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Little Sisters of the Poor.

William S. Bike is Senior Vice President of ANB Communications, a political consulting firm based in Chicago, IL, and is the author of Winning Political Campaigns, Denali Press, 2001, a how-to guide on all aspects of political campaigning.

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