The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


The Debate Rages On...

GOP Web Redesign Greeted With a Mocking Reception

By Garance Franke-Ruta
Perhaps instead of everyone in the future being famous for 15 minutes, it will be that everyone gets mocked for 15 minutes.

Certainly the Republican National Committee experienced that Tuesday when it tried a public beta relaunch of its Web site, It caught a such a drubbing from a broad, and bipartisan, array of Internet wits and politically minded troublemakers that Chairman Michael Steele jettisoned the name of his new RNC blog, "What Up?", in favor of "Change the Game" by day's end.

By then, though, the online ribbing had led some wag to build a program that turns the walking, talking Steele introductory video on the new RNC site into a function that can be added to any site (by simply dropping a fresh url into a box at and begun circulating it across Twitter.

Despite the fun-making, GOP strategists say the site is going in the right direction. "Some kind of made fun of Chairman Steele saying this is a platform, but it's the first campaign or committee Web site that will have an API that will allow others to write programs on top of it," says Patrick Ruffini, a partner at Engage, a Republican new media agency and the RNC's eCampaign Director from 2005 to 2007. "That's huge. Not even Obama had that."

The site began to accumulate criticism almost instantly, as critics pounced on the red (for red states) banner field of the site, dotted with stars. "Branding confusion alert! (via the new ( has a new communist look," tweeted makeemsaysuh.

Others pointed to the list of GOP accomplishments as a trouble spot. It claimed Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren as a GOP great, when the rulings of the Warren Court have been a subject of great dismay and criticism among conservatives. Taking responsibility for Warren's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling seemed a stretch to some, as did claiming for the Republicans baseball great Jackie Robinson, an independent who at first supported but later turned away from the party.

The Future Leaders page was left blank. The site crashed repeatedly over the course of the day. In fact, there were so many glitches that The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder collected them in list form, writing a "Top Ten Reasons Why the GOP Website Relaunch Is Fizzling" and Obama campaign new media director Joe Rospars quipped, "You know your Web program is in trouble when your site can't even handle the traffic bump from people making fun of your Web program."

Steele shrugged off the bugs as the sort of thing that come with any public beta. "It's a beta site, meaning that there -- we're working out a lot of the kinks and the bugs," Steele defended the site to Fox News. "So the Dems can have their fun. Go play with it, have some fun with it. ... But the reality -- but the reality of it is, it is a new tool to communicate the new GOP."

Posted at 3:01 PM ET on Oct 14, 2009  | Category:  The Debate Rages On...
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Late Update: Over at LiveWire, Rachel catches Michael Steele's response to the controversy. Steele to critics of "It's not even really a website."

Posted by: sjohnston1 | October 15, 2009 7:04 AM

Astonishingly inept, inappropriate, and embarrassing site. Somewhere deep in his soul (?) Michael Steele must hate his job. The head as an O is my favorite part.

Posted by: sjohnston1 | October 15, 2009 6:54 AM

Ahem, Cough-cough:

Your welcome Mikey Steele! ;~)

Now step down and let Sarah take over!

Posted by: SAINT---The | October 14, 2009 8:17 PM

The communications theory definition of communications is "The transfer of intelligence from one entity to another."

All the IT glitz in the world will not add up to communications unless the republican party comes up with any intelligence at all to transmit.

They think that by getting glitzy, with it, IT, or whatever will tidbits of twentieth century pabulum new currency. Daytons bus tokens have more currency than anything that Mr. Steele can mutter.

GWB mumbled and stuttered because he was lazy and bored, but even were he an orator of the James Earle Jones category, (and anyone who can communicate simply by breathing heavily into a scuba mask has his talents) he would have been as well off stuttering, because HE NEVER HAD ANYTHING REASONABLE, OR TRUTHFUL TO SAY.

Posted by: ceflynline | October 14, 2009 8:13 PM

As Richard Nixon once said in a moment of self-awareness and clarity, "Sock it to me?"

Posted by: thebobbob | October 14, 2009 5:06 PM

Someone needs to check ID's and make sure that we are dealing with adults here. The Republicans have not acted like adults for quite a number of years. If they all check out, then they should be screened for mental problems. I for one didn't think they could sink any lower but they seem to outdo themselves with each stupid move they make.

Posted by: racam | October 14, 2009 4:24 PM

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave,

when we practice to deceive."

Posted by: scrivener50 | October 14, 2009 4:11 PM

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