Obama reigns on Web; Thompson leads GOP

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More Web surfers are landing on Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign Web site than on those belonging to any of his rivals, a new report shows.

The Illinois Democrat’s site (BarackObama.com) had 717,000 unique visitors in July, making him the most trafficked 2008 White House hopeful, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, which tracks such data.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, came in second with 437,000 visits to HillaryClinton.com, and 348,000 visitors checked out former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, at JohnEdwards.com.

Leading the Republican pack is newly announced candidate former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, who gave his reasons for running in a 13-minute Web video. He had 381,000 visits to his original site, ImWithFred.com, which now forwards traffic to Fred08.com.

Mr. Thompson, best known for his role on NBC’s “Law & Order” series, used the Internet this spring to reach a wide audience. He taped a snarky Web video responding to Michael Moore as the two “sparred” over the Internet on Cuba policy.

Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, had 124,000 unique visitors to JoinRudy2008.com in July, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (MittRomney.com) with 116,000 and Rep. Ron Paul (RonPaul2008.com) of Texas with 113,000.

Mr. Paul, an antiwar libertarian candidate with a strong Web following, remains the most searched-for politician name, according to Technorati.com.

Mrs. Clinton may boost her Web numbers this month with a contest giving supporters the chance to have lunch with her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

She first announced the contest Tuesday, telling supporters that she would buy the groceries for a private lunch at her home in Northwest Washington. Yesterday, the former president jumped into the mix by asking in a fundraising appeal to supporters: “Do you mind if I drop in?”

“There’s no one smarter, no one better informed and no one whose conversation I enjoy more,” Mr. Clinton said of his wife. “So if you have the chance to sit down and talk with Hillary — like you do right now — you don’t want to miss it.”

Mr. Obama was first to do his dinner contest with a similar theme — giving a handful of supporters who donated as little as $5 to his campaign the chance to sit down with him at a restaurant. His campaign later posted Web video from the meal.

Unusual Internet campaigning has helped the Democrats get more online attention, but Republicans might be catching up, Nielsen analysts said.

Senior director of media analytics, Carolyn Creekmore, said Mr. Thompson seems to be “taking a cue” from the Democrats, adding that his announcement is “reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s.”

Mrs. Clinton skipped a public rollout event and instead told voters that she would run for president during a taped Web video where she sat comfortably on her couch and declared, “Let’s chat.”

Mrs. Clinton’s site captured voters’ attention for a longer time span than any other candidate.

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