The first "home-page primary"

The battle for the hearts and minds of late-deciding New Hampshire voters is being waged right now on the Web sites run by the candidates.

By Walter Shapiro
January 9, 2008 1:41AM (UTC)
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Here is my favorite New Hampshire pre-primary statistic: Only 53 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans said that they have "definitely decided" whom to vote for. These numbers come from the final CNN/WMUR tracking poll that was conducted over the weekend. (The horse-race results themselves were not surprising: Barack Obama is up by nine percentage points on the Democratic side and John McCain has a five-point edge among Republican voters.)

All this brings me to a Big Hunch. And sorry to disappoint Ron Paul fans -- it is not about his subterranean surge.


Today will be the first presidential primary ever (cue the music) in the Age of Broadband. My guess is that in addition to record turnout and record warm weather, we will see a record number of voters scanning the Web sites of the candidates before they head to the polls. When I went via Google to the Web sites of the five major candidates contesting New Hampshire using a local hotel connection, I noted (no big surprise) that they were all overtly appealing to primary voters. For those who want to make their own comparisons, here are the sites of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

I would love to have the numbers for New Hampshire Web traffic at all these sites today compared with, say, tomorrow. My guess is that the major online story from the 2008 primaries will turn out to be not viral videos, social networking or even 2004's trend of Web-based fundraising. Rather, the most powerful tool will be something as humdrum as the Web sites controlled by the candidates. Welcome to America's first home-page primary.

Walter Shapiro

Walter Shapiro, a Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, is an award-winning political columnist who has covered the last nine presidential campaigns. Along the way, he has worked as Salon's Washington bureau chief, as well as for The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, Esquire, USA Today and, most recently, Yahoo News. He is also a lecturer in political science at Yale University. He can be reached by email at and followed on Twitter @MrWalterShapiro.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton John Edwards John Mccain R-ariz.