- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2008

The competition for anti-John McCain Web sites is so stiff that those looking to register new ones say the best names have been snatched up already.

“Virtually every one we thought of was taken,” said Robert Shoemaker, who said his site RepublicansAgainstMaverickMcCain.com will go active this week. “The first one we wanted to do was Republicans Against McCain — just short and sweet. That wasn’t available, and we worked all the way around different labels we could use; none of them were available.”

In the end, Mr. Shoemaker, who held signs at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference protesting Mr. McCain’s immigration policy, said he and his partners settled on the somewhat cumbersome name in order to preserve a version of the acronym RAM.

At last check, StopMcCain.com, NoWayMcCain.com, ConservativesAgainstMcCain.com and RepublicansAgainstMcCain.com were all taken, as was IHateMcCain.com and the pointed VietnamVeteransAgainstJohnMcCain.com.

That last site was registered by Ted Sampley, a Vietnam War veteran who went after Sen. John Kerry during his 2004 campaign as the Democratic presidential nominee and has turned his focus to Mr. McCain.

“The Internet itself has become an amazing tool. If you learn to work this thing and take the offensive with it, it becomes a very powerful tool,” Mr. Sampley said.

David All, a Republican Internet strategist and co-founder of SlateCard.com, said the sites show the Internet is a leveling platform for those who have a message to get out.

“It just shows you the low barrier of entry the Internet provides to citizens who have a differing view on any number of issues,” he said.

He said there probably are more pro-McCain sites than anti-McCain sites and added that it’s likely the McCain camp has bought up some of the other possible anti-McCain site names to keep them from being used by foes.

Many of the names have been registered but don’t have any content yet. Mr. Shoemaker said his site will be operational sometime this week and also said the goal was to give an outlet to voters angry that Mr. McCain is the apparent Republican nominee.

“We know we’re not going to unhinge the nomination, but we do think if the Republican Party understands just how deep the division is here, there is some possibility there will be some backtracking,” he said.

Chris DeBello, who registered RepublicansAgainstJohnMcCain.com last week, had to settle for his second-choice name.

“My intent is not so much preaching or railing against McCain but to present his own words via quotes and video for others to see,” he said.

Mr. McCain’s campaign did not return a call seeking comment on the sites, but it is no stranger to these techniques.

Politico.com reported in June that Mr. McCain’s campaign had registered www.mittvsfact.com, which presumably was to have been used to attack rival candidate Mitt Romney.

Mr. McCain’s campaign also makes frequent use of Web video ads, which are a way of earning free publicity from press reports without having to pay for broadcast time to run them.

ABC reported in December that Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign had registered several Web sites with names that attacked Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination. One was DesperateHillaryAttacks.com, which appears to have been last updated after the Iowa caucuses.

Mrs. Clinton also may suffer from the same intraparty opposition as Mr. McCain. DemocratsAgainstHillary.com has been registered, though it doesn’t appear to be set up yet, though DemocratsAgainstObama.com is still available.

Mr. McCain’s detractors, including immigration control groups, also are using anti-McCain ads on other popular Web sites, such as the Drudge Report, to make their attacks.

Mr. Sampley is involved in another anti-McCain site, RepublicanTeaParty.com, which is trying to have Republicans formally register their intention not to vote for Mr. McCain.

“If as few as 10 percent of voting Republicans will commit to never vote for John McCain, he cannot win the presidency,” the site says.

The registrant of another anti-McCain site, Mark Fleming, who registered RepublicansAgainstMcCain.com, said in an e-mail he didn’t have time to put the site together and sold the domain name to someone else.

“I’ll just despise John McCain on my own,” he said, declining to say how much he was paid for the domain name or to whom he sold it.

Given where the opposition comes from, it shouldn’t be surprising that some pro-McCain sites are run by self-identified liberal Republicans, such as VoteMcCain.blogspot.com.

It may say something about the attack nature of the Internet that ILoveMcCain.com is still available.

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