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November 27, 2014

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The Policy Racket

Kate Marshall late to the party with campaign website

Kate Marshall

Kate Marshall

Mark Amodei

Mark Amodei

Most members of Congress these days have a Twitter account. And a president, they say, won the 2008 election with the help of the power of Facebook.

Perhaps that’s why Nevada special election candidate Kate Marshall, the Democrat who declared her intention to run for the 2nd Congressional District seat in May, is only just putting up her official campaign website, eight and half weeks before voters are scheduled to go to the polls.

Marshall will be unveiling her campaign website Friday morning, and while it’s definitely an upgrade from what she’s had going thus far, it’s also got us wondering: what took so long?

A website is a fairly standard piece of a campaign strategy. It’s a place where voters, journalists, and interested parties can peruse a candidate’s biography, read about the candidate’s positions on the issues, and view pictures and videos that bring the candidate to life.

But it’s also not the only tool that a candidate has to reach voters, or at least the media, to drum up interest in a campaign.

Since Marshall announced her candidacy, katefornevada.com has been a rather austere affair, effectively functioning as a placeholder with links to her Facebook and Twitter accounts, links to forms where people can donate time and money to the campaign, one pop-up introductory campaign ad, and a note that read: “Website Coming Soon.”

Functioning without a website so close to campaign time is “a little unorthodox, because it’s such a central organizing place for a campaign...and for how the media covers candidates,” said Nikki Usher, an expert on new media and incoming professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.

But social media sites, Usher explained, are always easier — and cheaper — to get off the ground quickly, and can actually have greater reach in rural areas.

“If it’s an area with low broadband penetration, people aren’t going to be online as much; but Facebook and Twitter are mobile platforms,” she said, likening the social media options to grassroots tools as opposed to a website, which is static.

Both Marshall and Amodei have pretty gussied-up Facebook pages, and both candidates are on Twitter (Amodei’s been on for longer, but Marshall tweets more frequently).

Amodei has also had a campaign website with all the fixings up for a few weeks now.

Marshall’s site will sport a little less of the blotter style that defines Amodei’s info-packed homepage and go for a clean, user-friendly look that’s a little more high-tech but a little less candidate-centered. A scrolling banner of pictures depicting district residents clearly states Marshall’s two main campaign objectives: “getting Nevadans back to work” and “working with the community.” But it doesn’t feature all that much of her face until lower down on the page, as opposed to Amodei’s website, where his smiling mug is right up top.

Not all the kinks are out of Marshall’s website yet. When viewed Thursday night, the conclusion of Marshall’s video ad — now embedded instead of a pop-up — still featured a link to a University of California, Berkley biology professor crooning a hit song from the 1952 classic “Singin’ In the Rain” to his packed lecture class on fossil records. (Though that, at least, is nonpartisan; when the ad was a pop-up video on Marshall’s place-holding website, it also linked at its conclusion to a House floor speech Nevada Republican Rep. Joe Heck gave back in February.)

Campaign officials for Marshall wouldn’t comment on whether Marshall’s online aspirations were delayed or if it had always been the plan to have a site unveiling kick off the main campaigning season before the special election. Either way, now that both frontrunners have their new media niches locked down, we’ll see who brings more e-game to the race.

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