Rand Paul announces the start of his presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
In a speech just after noon in Louisville on Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky officially announced his intention to be on television as much as possible for the next year. And also to run for president.
Online, however, Paul’s announcement had already happened in the morning. When he premiered his made-over campaign website early Tuesday, its “About Me” page featured a pull quote from the libertarian darling that read: “I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government.” So much for the element of surprise.
Judging from last month’s midnight Twitter announcement from Ted Cruz — Paul’s sole official opponent so far — digital presidential declarations have surpassed televised ones. But whereas Cruz’s digital premiere seemed rushed and shoddy, Paul’s was structured and robust.
Avoiding all potential domain-name disasters, Paul hyped the launch of his campaign with a series of GIF-filled tweets Monday morning. He also circulated a promotional video titled “WATCH: Rand Paul, a Different Kind of Republican.” The two-and-a-half-minute clip is set to the kind of dramatic music you might hear in a “Fast and Furious” slow-motion scene. It opens to glowing text that tells us “On April 7th, a different type of Republican will take on Washington,” which then gives way to a “Mad Men”-esque outline of Rand Paul in silhouette, complete with details of his curly locks (very detailed Photoshopping, Paul team).
It’s clear that Paul is pushing the association with Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” ad campaign. The first spoken words in the Monday video come from CNN’s Candy Crowley, who says, “There is [sic] probably few candidates for 2016 that are more interesting than Rand Paul.” The News section of his website proudly displays the title of Time’s recent cover story on him: “Rand Paul Is the Most Interesting Man in Politics.” This is a candidate who’s aiming to set himself apart from his fellow candidates, in terms of both Washington politics and personality.
But is his online campaign hub as thoughtfully presented as the image he’s put forward in his promotional videos? Below, we survey his website’s pros and cons in our latest installment of RevURL.
Look and feel
Paul fashions himself a digitally savvy, cowboy-boot-wearin’ dude, which is why it’s crucial that his website, unlike another candidate’s, is not made from a WordPress design template. Here he succeeds very well.
At the top of the page, imposed onto a photo of Paul at a podium, is a live-updating donation tracker. As his supporters poured into the site this morning, the sum grew bigger and bigger — both an encouragement to his grassroots campaigners and a middle finger to his lesser-funded rivals. Beneath that banner flashed the names and locations of recent supporters, this personal information on full display to the Internet.
That donation counter follows you throughout the website, flickering in the corner to remind you that the guy, however interesting, still needs your money. And he’s willing to take it in all forms, including bitcoin.
Paul’s site features a subtle parallax design, meaning that, as you scroll down, a flaglike background runs over the top image of the page, as videos and buttons pop to draw you in. It’s equally smooth on a phone, no oversized pages to interrupt the precious donation process. This is the type of slick Web experience that all those millennial voters Rand is after are expecting.
When it comes to color scheme, Paul has smartly reserved his weird, dark Don Draper-inspired graphics for social media, instead opting for shades of crimson, navy, and Twitter blue to color the buttons on his website. Most boxes on the page are stately and square, giving it an air of seriousness — one that Cruz’s site sorely lacked. You’ll also notice that some of these buttons are emblazoned with cute icons of things like dollar signs and calculators — helpful graphics we’ve become accustomed to using for guidance on our smartphones.
Midway through the RandPaul.com homepage is a video section that very smartly uses a historic screenshot of Paul and his wife, Kelley, with incredible ’80s hair. Well done, guys. Nothing like a #ThrowbackThursday photo to get otherwise uninterested visitors a-clickin’.
The most notable thing about Paul’s logo is that it denotes a trend! Yes, both Cruz and Paul have fireballs (or teardrops, depending on your perspective) in their campaign emblem. But, you know, so does the Tinder logo, so take this pattern with a grain of salt. Paul’s fireball is slanted, and has a little less color and flicker than Cruz’s. You might say it’s a slow and tame flame, not the kind that might set a 3-year-old girl’s world on fire.
Either way, design experts are unimpressed.
Paul, or at least his army of advisers, has written actual words about his views on his site. Which is kind of impressive! Issues range from “Israel” to “the sanctity of life” to “audit the feds.” As Business Insider notes, the word “education” is misspelled at least once. Each page, which can be accessed from the navigation bar at the top of the site, comes with a short YouTube video of Paul clarifying what he thinks, just in case you don’t want to read. Words are so 2014, anyway.
(Via Business Insider)
Here is where Paul reigns supreme among his competitors, both declared and undeclared. As I mentioned before, the presidential candidate launched a zealous social media campaign early Monday morning, mostly via his Twitter handle (recently changed from @SenRandPaul to just randpaul). All day, he posted GIFs that announced his upcoming speech. He went on, over and over again, with the same reckless abandon with which delivery guys distribute takeout menus in your apartment building. Leading up to the actual event, these postings came at a feverish clip, to the point where I started to feel concern for whoever runs his Twitter account.
Paul has also announced that he’d be holding a live Facebook Q&A after his speech, in which he will — wait for it — Persicope some of his answers live. And speaking of Facebook, that’s where he recently posted a printable “Stand With Rand” sign, encouraging his supporters to photograph themselves with it and put it on social media with a #StandWithRand hashtag.
This is an ill-advised move, as the sign will inevitably be photographed and posted with someone’s nether regions. The Paul campaign also accidentally retweeted a Photoshopped image of the Aurora, Colo., shooter with the sign. I assume that’s not the Second Amendment messaging he intended.
But, as Paul said at a March SXSW talk in which he championed Snapchat, “If you don’t go to the platform where they are, you won’t find them.”
4.5 bitcoins out of 5. The half-point off is for not also accepting Coinye.