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Clinton-Obama Feud Moves to Domain Names
Category: Domain Names
It's come to this: a Democratic primary race so close and heated that a fierce battle of rhetoric has begun playing out in domain-name registrations.
Hillary Clinton's campaign quietly registered VotingPresent.com and VotingPresent.org in early December. Though no websites have gone up on the domains (which were first reported by ABC News), it's a fair bet the sites won't be promoting election-themed Christmas gifts: "Voting present" refers to a parliamentary maneuver in the Illinois Legislature that allows a lawmaker to abstain from voting on a particular measure.
The obscure procedural move became national election news Thursday, when The New York Times ran a front-page story reporting that Clinton rival and former Illinois state senator Barack Obama voted "present" nearly 130 times in his eight years in the post, sometimes on key issues like abortion.
The Times story marks the zenith of a rhetorical arc Clinton launched Dec. 3, when she first slammed Obama's non-votes in a speech in Iowa. We now know her campaign registered and squirreled away the domain names the next day -- a move that signals candidates' growing use of highly focused microsites to buff their own images and to throw mud at opponents, from a safe distance.
"When you go to VotingPresent.com, you'd be immersed in the information, but you're also distanced from HillaryClinton.com," said Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute. "It's where you're going to see things go."
Obama's campaign started the trend when he responded to Clinton attacks on his voting record by launching a "Hillary Attacks" website. And candidate John Edwards briefly ran a sarcastic "Plants for Hillary" website, referring to a Clinton staffer's planting of a question for the candidate at a local Iowa forum. The site has since been dismantled.
Meanwhile, Clinton's campaign team has begin hitting back at AttackTimeline -- a site that provides two long laundry lists of attacks on Clinton made by Democratic presidential rivals Obama and Edwards, along with a graphic time line. Like the Obama site, it's meant not to attack rivals for their policies, but to make the case that they're engaging in negative campaigning by attacking her.
With barely two weeks to go before voters in Iowa caucus to start choosing convention delegates who support their preferred candidates, polls show Clinton and Obama in a dead heat, with support for Edwards rising. Iowans have a reputation for being especially turned off by negative campaigning.
Though the Voting Present sites aren't live, the Clinton campaign followed up the Times story Thursday by staging a conference call with reporters, featuring three of Clinton's congressional allies criticizing Obama as an indecisive fence-sitter.
"The president of the United States needs to take a tough stand on tough issues," said Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-New York). "He needs to be able to say, 'Yes, this is my position,' or 'No, this is my position' … and this is why we're focusing in on his voting record."
Obama's campaign spokesman has repeatedly said that the charges are politically motivated and don't stand up to the senator's record of "leadership and courage."