Now that the campaign trail intersects the information superhighway, even the not-so-sophisticated computer user can satisfy the craving to keep up with the folks trying to occupy the White House.
With a modem, a service that allows some connection to the World Wide Web and a little time, the political junkie can get a megabyte-size fix.
That’s good, because the chances of seeing Bob Dole, Bill Clinton or Steve Forbes up close and personal in Washington or Idaho are, at best, slim until things get sorted out in Monday’s Iowa caucuses and the Feb. 20 New Hampshire primary.
So why not let the Internet bring Iowa and New Hampshire to the computer screen? Just sign onto the preferred service or punch up Netscape, get into the Web and call up a favorite search engine.
For those who aren’t techno dweebs, a search engine is a device that allows one to type in a topic and order up a search of all documents related to it.
Typing in “politics” to the Web Crawler - a fairly simple and ubiquitous search engine - yields an overwhelming 3,228 possibilities to explore. Fortunately, the list gives only the first 25, and at the top is LebaNet, which promises Political Links and News Groups. Links are connections to other spots on the Internet. Groups are collections of like-minded folks.
LebaNet, like most of the “sites” that follow, is a home page. That’s a graphically enhanced compilation of information and links to other sites or bulletin boards on related topics.
LebaNet offers lists of the presidential candidates, the political parties, some techno-sounding topics like Digital Democrats and Cyber-Republicans. And a link to something called “On the Road to the White House.” Exploring it is as easy as a point with the arrow and a click with the mouse button. Nice graphics. What’s this? A Virtual Voting Booth where one can cast a cyber vote for a favorite candidate. Click on the colored type to see who’s ahead.
Hmm. Former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes, who barely shows up on most polls, leads the pack of 28 candidates. Running second is President Clinton, followed by Phil Gramm and Lowell Weicker, a former governor who isn’t even running. Maybe Weicker should change his mind.
Sen. Bob Dole is mired in fifth, but at least he’s leading publishing magnate Steve Forbes. The list was updated four days ago, so maybe we can find something a little more current elsewhere on the Net.
Click back to “On the Road to the White House,” and there’s a site dubbed CyberCaucus. Could be a good spot to look for information about the Iowa caucuses, which everybody talks about and nobody understands. Click.
Compiled by Drake University, CyberCaucus offers more links to the presidential candidates and the parties, plus a link to the Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in the Hawkeye State. They should know what the candidates are up to in Iowa. Click.
The Register offers up a few recent political stories, including an account of Phil Gramm limping into Iowa after his defeat in the Louisiana caucuses. To get to the next story, one just scrolls down.
Dole is blasting Gramm for missing the farm bill vote. Scroll. Forbes is saying more nice things about the flat tax. Scroll. Keyes is saying bad things about the flat tax.
CyberCaucus also offers its own news service. Maybe something more current is there. Click.
Nope, campaign announcements, the most recent one from last April. Click back to CyberCaucus. Click back to On the Road, which includes a site called Campaign 96 Online. Click.
This is another handy home page that lists political sites by state. Head for New Hampshire.
A promising option appears in New Hampshire Primary Destination. Click.
More nice graphics and an invitation to participate in a political tavern discussion on the Internet. What the heck, maybe there’s a hot debate in cyberspace. Click.
A list of participants exchanging computerized missives over the last few weeks appears. Nothing from today, though. Someone named Ed Dupont, touting Forbes as the GOP’s best bet, is the most current, at 10 days old. Phil Kincade is challenging everyone to pick the order of the top nine finishers in the Feb. 20 primary. He’s offering an autographed copy of Lamar Alexander’s book.
Not sure the prize is worth the time to write all nine names down. And the problem with a Political Tavern discussion on the Internet is, no one takes an order for a beer. Click back.
There are links to candidate forums, too, but a quick peek reveals that these are not Internet discussions with the candidate, but merely recycled campaign speeches. Sen. Richard Lugar’s offering from Oct. 5 is the most recent.
But Primary Destination also offers news clips from four New Hampshire newspapers. Foster’s Daily Democrat is offering up 17 stories from that day, plus audio and visual copies of stories that have appeared recently on WMUR, the state’s only television station. Those would take too long to load, but the newspaper stories pop up quickly.
Here’s a headline that says Forbes has a lead over Dole. Click. More details of the Forbes surge, plus a nice chart on how the polls swayed back and forth over the last month. That’s worth studying before listening to the talking heads tonight on CNN’s “Inside Politics.”
Seems like there was something called Primary Monitor back on On the Road. Click back several times until that home page appears, then click on this tantalizing site.
More nice graphics, courtesy of the Concorde Monitor, which is obviously in competition with the Daily Democrat for the computer audience. Nice menu, plenty of stories, position papers from candidates, press releases from political groups supporting or opposing the candidates. But a click on one of the offerings reveals a catch.
One must subscribe to this service. As in pay money.
The Monitor does, however, tantalize the curious with a free preview. Just call the number or write the e-mail address, both of which are there on the screen. The temporary free look reveals a wealth of information, with news stories updated at least twice daily, polls from all over the country, texts of candidates’ speeches, campaign itineraries, editorials and columnists. For only $100, says the nice man at the Monitor, the link will be good through the primary.
That’s what they do to all junkies. Offer a few free samples to get them hooked. Better click out of here before the willpower weakens.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Staff illustration by Molly Quinn