The race for the 2012 Republican nomination is in full swing. During the last few months, we’ve spent a lot of time learning about the candidates' records, their personal histories, and the qualities that make them fit to be America’s commander in chief. But there’s a far more important issue we haven’t perused: Their websites.
Their OLD websites.
With the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, we can see what the candidates were doing online long before this election cycle. Most of the links inside these websites are still functional—let's do a little exploring!
1. Herman Cain (1998)
Welcome to the Hermanator Experience! Here you can find Cain’s biography, presented in true Horatio Alger fashion (right down to his membership in the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc.) The "Products" page promotes his motivational books and cassette tapes, among which are Save the Frog and Success is a Journey.
2. Mitt Romney (2002)
Former governors tend to keep their websites pretty buttoned up. There isn’t a lot of material here until we arrive at the “Kids' Page,” where we learn that Mitt’s favorite food is...meatloaf. And he’s a Coen Brothers fan. Under the “Goodies” tab at the bottom, there are several stylish desktop backgrounds supporting the campaign, including this "Mitt Happens" gem:
3. Rick Perry (1998)
Governor Perry’s personal campaign website has a lengthy history, dating back to his first run for lieutenant governor. Aside from Perry’s affinity for denim shirts, a run through his site yields several interesting tidbits. Celebrity endorsements come from Ben Crenshaw, Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Nolan Ryan, and (most importantly) Chuck Norris.
A link to Perry's 1997 Agriculture Commissioner bio reveals his thoughts on sponges, legalizing home-equity loans in Texas, and the importance of washing your hands.
4. Newt Gingrich (1997)
Behold our former Speaker of the House in all his jovial, paisley glory. He’s clearly a fan of the “more is better” approach when it comes to displaying our national coat of arms. One of the site's FAQs is "How old is Newt?" “Newt’s Picture Book” contains nine slightly larger than thumbnail-sized photos (they must have been bumping up against their bandwidth limit). The prize here is a photo of Gingrich and Izzy, the 1996 Olympic Games mascot.
5. John Huntsman (2005)
Nothing too garish here from the former Utah governor’s website. Perhaps that’s because his footprint on the Internet’s series of tubes is one of the shortest. Or it could be the fact that Huntsman seems to be a very shrewd operator; his bio notes that in addition to being fluent in Mandarin, he was the youngest U.S. ambassador (to anywhere) in a century.
6. Ron Paul (1997)
Ron Paul's site looks perfectly at home in 1997. The all caps declaration of FREEDOM, the elegant .gif of a Texas flag blowing in the Internet breeze—it’s almost too much to take in. Then there’s The Honorable Ron Paul, M.D. himself, looking spry and svelte as ever in his early sixties. Under “E-Mailed Responses to US Representative Ron Paul And the Cause of Liberty,” you’ll find a list of supporters who wrote in with the kind of sentiments that have made Paul a grassroots sensation, including one from a constituent who found Paul’s site via an “Alta Vista” search (quotations his).
7. Michele Bachmann (2002)
As a Minnesota state senator, Bachmann had a dedicated website up and running in 2002. In "Quotables,” she gets a fake endorsement from Elvis. (“Thank you, thank you very much.”) And the "Just for Fun!" section includes a link to something called Dancing George Bush—"This takes a little while to load but is well worth the time"—that sadly has not been preserved by the Wayback Machine.
8. Rick Santorum (2000)
“Hello! Welcome to my home page on the World Wide Web,” he calls to us over a dial-up connection. His page is careful to note that although they accept e-mails from constituents, replies can only take place via regular mail. Weekly columns shed light on Santorum’s views about a variety of happenings, including the balanced budget agreement of 1997 (my, how wistful those words now make us).