- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Texas gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez trounced Gov. Rick Perry yesterday, but not in a political contest.
The Democratic challenger defeated the Republican governor in an online poll by George Washington University that rated candidate Web sites.
Voters decide today who becomes the next governor of Texas, and Mr. Perry is expected to win. Mr. Sanchez's campaign has used the Web to send reporters commentary during debates and to rebut Mr. Perry's claims.
"You may be able to argue that if [Mr.] Sanchez comes closer than expected, maybe it's because of the Web site," said Michael Cornfield, director of research for George Washington University's Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet.
The school's poll, begun a week ago, asked for rankings of Web sites on a scale of 1 to 5. With 433 votes cast, Mr. Sanchez's site earned an average score of 4.74 to Mr. Perry's 2.85. This was the third year the school has asked voters to rate candidate Web sites.
The Internet probably won't send a candidate into a governor's mansion or into Congress, but voters appreciate a good Web site.
Mr. Cornfield said the best sites include information on issues that matter to voters, such as data to back up candidate claims, information on volunteering, and privacy protections to guard personal data from voters.
Voters also appreciate humor.
Ohioans may not elect Tim Hagan as their next governor today, but the Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Bob Taft has received a lot of attention for his unofficial Web site, www.TaftQuack.com. The site rips Mr. Taft and includes a picture of the governor's head on a duck's body.
Like Mr. Sanchez in Texas, Mr. Hagan is expected to fall short in his attempt to displace the incumbent, but not because of the Web site. Mr. Hagan received perhaps more attention for his marriage to "Star Trek: Voyager" film star Kate Mulgrew.
"It's very clever as a parody site. The question is whether that translates into people supporting the Hagan campaign," said Kirsten A. Foot, assistant professor of communications at the University of Washington.
Mr. Hagan was sued by supplemental health insurance company Aflac Inc., which accused the campaign of patent infringement when it transmogrified Mr. Taft into the image of a duck, the company's corporate mascot. The company's lawsuit failed because Mr. Hagan wasn't selling anything.
"It's another instance of if [Mr. Hagan] exceeds expectations, people who are Internet enthusiasts may conclude he made the most of the medium," Mr. Cornfield said.
Mr. Taft's campaign site received higher marks in the unscientific poll than Mr. Hagan's official Web page, 4.8 points to 4.64 points.
Good Internet sites can persuade undecided voters, Ms. Foot said, while the best Web pages use technology to mobilize supporters.
The Web site of Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, California Democrat, includes an electronic postcard that supporters can use to send their own greetings to friends. Because the e-mail message doesn't come from the candidate, it appears less political, Ms. Foot said.
The campaign can add the e-mail address of the electronic-postcard recipient to its database.
A good Web site doesn't ensure political success and never has.
"Not at this point," Mr. Cornfield said. "Online campaigning is still at the margins of campaigning. To make it work, you have to make a concerted effort, and so far campaigns have been unwilling to hand the reins over to a digital driver."

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