- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 7, 2007

Former Gen. Wesley K. Clark boasts 35,000 more friends than ex-Sen. John Edwards, and there are more flattering photos of Sen. Barack Obama than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In an attempt to reach the MySpace generation, politicians are turning to the virtual campaign trail. Dedicated political junkies are setting up their own sites devoted to encouraging presidential runs from their favorite candidates — former Vice President Al Gore, Sen. John McCain and the two Democratic superstars currently topping polls, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.

“Happy New Year to the future president of the United States of America,” Leapin Larry told Mr. Obama Sunday on one of the fan sites, which has more than 21,000 friends.

Michele, a 28-year-old from Orange Beach, Ala., tells the former first lady: “Hillary, you fixed ny. I’d love to see you as president. Go for it, you would fix this country.”

Some of the candidate MySpace pages are official, such as the sites run by 2004 vice presidential candidate Mr. Edwards and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack — both Democrats seeking the 2008 nomination. Others, such as the nearly 100 sites created in Mrs. Clinton’s name, are run by anonymous Web surfers.

If popularity were gauged by MySpace, Mr. Clark, a Democrat with an official “Securing America” page, is winning with more than 45,000 friends, and Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat, is the best-known.

At least 40 MySpace accounts have been set up as belonging to Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, but none seem to be official. A close look at MySpace fan sites reveal passionate Web surfers.

“Hi Hillary with your brains and beauty you should have no problem!!!!!!!!” yells a man with the screen name HuckFinny, doing so entirely in capital letters.

“I have never been into politics actively, but if big Al would run again, oh, I would do anything,” writes Josh Paskowitz on a Gore site. “I would march. I would rally. I would DIE to make him win.” Patrick agrees, telling the former vice president: “Can’t wait to see you out there again in 2008. … Keep up the fight.”

Mr. Gore does not have an official site, but he does have a page promoting his film on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

There’s also a site called “President Gore,” which calls the 2000 Democratic nominee, who won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College to George Bush, the “Rightful president.”

Mr. Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina, has one of the most active official pages as he works to build a grass-roots campaign. It includes all the details of his presidential-announcement tour and Web video links and his snazzy 2008 logo.

“Our country needs a president who sees the serious problems and honestly wants to fix them,” Kristin of California tells Mr. Edwards.

Jen, a 23-year-old Pennsylvania resident, tells the candidate, “I am so happy that you decided to run again! You have my vote!!!” emphasizing her happiness and voting intentions with the screaming all-capitals style common on such sites.

The comments would be an ego boost for any politician.

“Iowa is Hillary country,” Howie, a 27-year-old from Des Moines, Iowa, says. “Time to announce, so I can get to work helping you win here in the caucuses in January 2008!”

MySpace user Beth tells Mr. Obama on one site: “You’re the solution in 2008.”

“Please run for president,” one person begs Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican. “We need a real patriot in the office!”

Several efforts to draft candidates enjoy popularity on MySpace. One site has even worked up a merchandising plan, selling “Barack the Vote” T-shirts superimposed on an altered “Rock the Vote” logo.

There are several sites devoted to Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who made a failed bid to unseat Mr. Bush in 2004. Many of the sites seem to have been designed to promote his candidacy then, but a few are more current.

One is a good try at an official site, complete with the song “America the Beautiful” and a waving U.S. flag indicating Mr. Kerry is “online now.”

Among his top friends are his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and former Democratic Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Mr. McCain is his only Republican friend.

Beth, a 44-year-old resident of Skokie, Ill., wishes Mr. Kerry “best of luck in the new year,” and tells him “I voted for you!! I love you!! I’ll vote for you again!!”

Plenty of the lesser-known politicians have sites as well.

Democratic Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich’s official site promotes an end to the war in Iraq, complete with a Democratic presidential primary poll showing him in the lead.

“You are an inspiration,” Colleen, a 31-year-old Denver resident tells the Ohio representative.

“Glad to hear that you have decided to run in 2008!” Chris Ho tells Democratic Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Another fan of the Delaware politician says, “Go for it senator. Get the troops out.”

On what seems to be New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s official site, Jess tells the Democrat he should pursue a presidential bid. Of the most likely Democratic candidates, only Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut has no MySpace presence, official or fan-based.

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