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The GOP Favorite, McCain Lags Online


Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's "Straight Talk Express" tour bus heads out of town on a slushy Interstate 70 west on Braddock Mountain in Frederick County on Wednesday afternoon. (Ricky Carioti / The Washington Post.)

By Jose Antonio Vargas
Where are the online McCainiacs?

Sen. John McCain may have effectively clinched the Republican nomination last night, with convincing wins in the Potomac Primary states. But online, McCain has not only fallen behind Rep. Ron Paul, the Internet rock star, but also badly trails Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The numbers speak for themselves. On Facebook, Clinton and Obama have 113,000 and 520,000 supporters, respectively. McCain has fewer than 61,000. On YouTube, McCain's videos have been viewed nearly 1.9 million times, significantly less than Clinton's (6.7 million) and Obama's (17.8 million). And while McCain was in fact the original Internet moneymaker -- he raised $1 million online within 48 hours during the 2000 cycle -- he now lags behind Paul, Clinton and Obama in online fundraising. Last month, the Arizona senator raised $3 million online to Obama's record-shattering $28 million.

Granted, there's a clear enthusiasm gap, online and off, between Republicans and Democrats. So far in this primary season, voter turnout among Democrats has been much higher than among Republicans. With the exception of Paul, no Republican candidate this cycle has challenged Obama in online popularity.

And as the primary race heads to a close, at least for the Republicans, there's no doubt that McCain will need more online support once he enters the general election phase of the race. Not only in fundraising, but also in grass-roots mobilizing.

He's had mixed success in the past. He's led the field in online search advertising. But McCainSpace, his answer to MyBarackObama, was a bust. (Read David All's critique of it onTechPresident, the nonpartisan group blog tracking online campaigning.)

Clearly, McCain's got a lot of catching up to do. At the moment, the most popular video about McCain on YouTube isn't from the campaign itself. It's a spoofof will.i.am's pro-Obama viral hit "Yes We Can," and it unflatteringly links McCain to the unpopular Iraq war. As of Monday night, it was viewed nearly 190,000 times. By Wednesday afternoon, that grew to more than 720,000.

"The strength of our campaign is our candidate," Christian Ferry, McCain's deputy campaign manager and former eCampaign director, told The Trail. "The Internet allows us to tell the story of John McCain."

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 13, 2008; 3:47 PM ET
 
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