In the early part of each presidential race, candidates throw their hats into the ring -- and, of course, create a website. If you want a trip down memory lane to when candidate websites really started, visit the Dole/Kemp website from 1996 -- it’s remained untouched for the last two decades, a perfect time capsule of both the candidates’ political ideologies and mid-'90s clip art.
But as technology transforms, so do (the majority of) these websites. Whether they've consistently changed for the better is to be determined (over the past few years, the Washington Post, TechCrunch, and Mental Floss have weighed in on this). Meanwhile, just because some candidates delete them in the end, doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. There’s a site dedicated to capturing each presidential campaign site in all its patriotic glory, and of course there’s also the Internet Archive’s Wayback machine.
But what happens to these presidential candidates’ websites when they’re no longer candidates? For the ones who remain in the Senate or the House, they often dissolve their campaign site and move back to their generic government sites. But for the rest, it’s a very different story.
Below we take a look at some well known candidates -- and a few we forgot about -- to see what’s become of their online presence. Have they transformed their online persona in a post-presidential campaign world or let it die?
Alan Keyes: A conservative political activist, Keyes ran for president in 1996, 2000 and 2008. And while his original website looked like the other candidates’ (political colors, his plan for the U.S.), it has morphed into a pay-to-view site -- after the five free views, of course. And those five free views are not by visit to the site, but by pageviews, after that it’s “$2/month, $20/year or $150 for access that does not expire.” We wanted to poke around the “impeach” tab a bit more, but we only had one view left, so maybe you can give it a look and see what’s going on.
Al Gore: The victim of hanging chads, his website is a far cry from what it looked like 15 years ago (and we’re not even talking about internet graphics). In the years since the recount incident, we’ve been well aware of what Gore has been up to, mainly his dedication to bringing public awareness to climate change, and oh, winning an Oscar. His website is now a champion of his causes, and that whole Bush v. Gore thing? It’s like it never happened.
Dan Quayle: Somehow it escaped us that Dan Quayle ran for president in 2000, his campaign website toting “Making American Families Stronger,” seemed to play off the dig he took at Murphy Brown. And while the campaign site is dead, he’s had a very stagnant web present on vicepresidentdanquayle.com since 2005. Although his site makes no mention of potatoes, the homepage has remained untouched for at least a decade, according to images on the Internet Archive site.
John Edwards: It’s as though he never existed, and his 2004 and 2008 campaign sites has disappeared into the abyss (except in screengrabs, thanks 4president.us). Other than those few images, the web has been pretty much scrubbed of any of his presidential pursuits and any hope he had for the White House -- before everyone found out what was really going on.
Newt Gingrich: First off, we should note that Gingrich’s site is called “Gingrich Productions,” which is pretty fitting, given there’s media and a store with a featured products section. And unlike any of the other former candidates’ websites we’ve visited, he shares the website with his wife; her biography and books appearing alongside his. Actually, it’s precisely Callista’s Gingrich's books that caught our attention. Apparently we’ve been missing out on a children’s book series, the latest of which hit shelves in time for Christmas 2015; the cover depicts the protagonist, a little elephant of course, celebrating Christmas in front of the White House. And since the 2012 election, Newt’s been busy: he has a section dedicated to his opinions on the happenings of U.S. politics, but also a link to Newt University, and photos…of family vacations.
Herman Cain: We can’t get over the section title “news nuggets.” He looks like he’s been busy since 2012 with his radio program, which for the second time on our quest, we’ve found costs money, $6.99 -- but you can stream the latest show for free. We just hope the radio program has a nugget section.
Mitt Romney: The only option of his page is to sign up for a e-newsletter -- that’s it. No information on what he’s doing these days, which made us wonder, what is he doing? There was the Washington Post article in early 2015 that stated he was thinking about running again, but that’s not the case. So, we’re still unsure of how he fills his days. Fortunately, we took a look at another former presidential candidate’s website, John McCain, to find out Romney was at McCain’s holiday party on Dec. 12. Must've been a rager.
Fred Karger: Honestly, we don’t remember Fred Karger’s campaign for the presidency in 2012, but we had to include him on this list for being the only recent candidate to formally tie up his website when his campaign ended. It looks like his final post -- with an illustration of a fat woman singing -- was that. A perfect time capsule of midway through the 2012 race, should you ever need one of those.
With the primary elections coming up, time will tell what becomes of the 2016 candidates' websites. Meanwhile, Inverse recently published an article arguing that candidates’ websites are actually getting worse -- which may just lead to some internet gems for future generations.