Campaign Website 404 Pages: Democratic 2020 Primary

It’s that time of year to look at the Democratic primary candidates’ 404 pages on their campaign websites.

As you probably know, in HTTP-speak, a 404 page is what displays when a page is not found. In the old days, you usually got a standard The page cannot be found page. Today, you are more likely to get a page that goes along with the look of the site but is otherwise nothing special, like our 404 page. But a lot of sites do more. And that has been the case with campaign websites.

So I thought we would go through each of the candidates in their order in national polling — more or less.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden’s page is designed to appeal to people like me. It has him with an ice cream cone looking very much like his character at The Onion. He says, “Looks like that page isn’t here. Keep cool – I’ll get us back on the rails.” This is shockingly good coming from a campaign that is anything but cool.

Joe Biden 404

Rating: 5

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren has a fairly standard page but with a 2017 SNL skit with Kate McKinnon as Warren. It’s interesting that the character can be so exaggerated and yet pretty much dead-on. And clearly, I am not the only one who likes that feisty character.

Elizabeth Warren 404

Rating: 4

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders says, “We’ve run into a yuuuuuuge problem.” It then uses this to talk about the problems of the country. There is also an animated GIF of Sanders that does kind of sum up his campaign and his appeal. A little knowing, self-deprecating humor goes a long way.

Bernie Sanders 404

Rating: 4

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg says, “Oops! Something has gone wrong.” There’s also an image of him looking playfully troubled. For a young guy, Buttigieg is surprisingly good at banality. Extra point taken off for being money-grubbing.

Pete Buttigieg 404

Rating: 3

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris asks, “Are you lost?” It includes an animated GIF of Harris looking pretty cute as she tries to suppress a laugh. There is a goofy side of her that has been sadly missing in this campaign. It’s nice to see here.

Kamala Harris 404

Rating: 4

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang features a boring caricature of himself along with, “Oops! Page not found.” Surprisingly, it makes Buttigieg’s page seem a lot better. But at least he doesn’t use a quarter of the page begging for money.

Andrew Yang 404

Rating: 3

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar has a page that announces it is a 404. Then, in big letters, it says, “Uff Da!” I looked it up but it meant what I thought. It’s pretty boring but if you scroll down, there’s a video of her throwing a binder at a staffer. (I’m Kidding!)

Amy Klobuchar 404

Rating: 3

Cory Booker

Cory Booker looks like he’s teasing a fussy baby. It’s cute. And the page says, “Cory believes we can all get where we’re going together. Just not on this page.” I like it.

Note that I didn’t dock the page for pushing fundraising because (1) it doesn’t take up much of the pages and (2) I’m more forgiving of struggling candidates.

Cory Booker 404

Rating: 4

Julian Castro

Julian Castro offers us, “Page not found.” Yeah, it’s competent. But it’s no better than the Frankly Curious 404 page, which took all of 10 seconds to install via a WordPress plugin. Really, Castro brothers: raise your game!

Julian Castro

Rating: 2

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard’s page is aggressively plain. I guess if you aren’t going to do anything interesting for your 404 page you might as well make it uncluttered. It certainly is more compelling than Castro’s.

Tulsi Gabbard 404

Rating: 3

Tom Styer

Tom Styer tells us, “Not found.” But you can watch a 4-minute video about how awesome he is. Now I’m thinking I was too harsh with Castro. Wow!

Tom Styer 404

Rating: 2

Steve Bullock

Steve Bullock says “Looks like the page you were looking for has gone fishing!” And there’s a picture with him with a fish. I know I’ve seen candidates in previous years use this. It’s not horrible. But: fish torture?

Steve Bullock 404

Rating: 2

Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand is shown drinking a pint of beer. It says, “We all have those days.” It’s nice and simple — appropriate for her (ended) campaign.

Kirsten Gillibrand 404

Rating: 4

John Delaney

John Delaney displays a B&W picture of someone driving with the words (from Born to Run), “We’re gonna get to that place / Where we really wanna go…” It doesn’t look very good but it’s probably the most useful 404 of the bunch. Still: it is officially no longer cool to quote Springsteen.

John Delaney 404

Rating: 3

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson has an incredibly simple but pleasant page, “Let’s get back on track.”

Marianne Williamson 404

Rating: 3

Michael Bennet

Like Bullock, Michael Bennet uses a page I’ve seen before. There is a (poor-quality) picture of his family (I assume) in the woods having just cut down a Christmas tree. It says, “Looks like you’re lost in the woods.” I wonder if what they did is legal.

Michael Bennet 404

Rating: 2

Wayne Messam

Wayne Messam tells us, “Page not found!” And there’s a nice but unrelated picture of him.

Wayne Messam 404

Rating: 3

Summary

None of these pages are embarrassing. And a number of them are pretty good. But there is no doubt that Joe Biden’s page does the best job of pushing his narrative. And overall, I think he has an excellent site.

Here are my rankings, but I reserve the right to change my mind (which I will undoubtedly do).

  • Joe Biden (5)
  • Elizabeth Warren (4)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (4)
  • Bernie Sanders (4)
  • Kamala Harris (4)
  • Cory Booker (4)
  • Pete Buttigieg (3)
  • Amy Klobuchar (3)
  • Marianne Williamso (3)
  • Tulsi Gabbard (3)
  • Andrew Yang (3)
  • Wayne Messam (3)
  • John Delaney (3)
  • Tom Styer (2)
  • Julian Casto (2)
  • Steve Bullock (2)
  • Michael Bennet (2)

Let me know what you all think. Am I missing something? Is John Delaney’s page cool in a way I can’t see? Am I being too hard on Bullock and Bennet for ripping off past candidates? Am I being too soft on Elizabeth Warren because I have a crush on Kate McKinnon and, well, Elizabeth Warren? Let me know in the comments. Or not. Regardless what you say I know that I am absolutely right about everything.

4 thoughts on “Campaign Website 404 Pages: Democratic 2020 Primary

  1. This is great (and really well-formatted!) Hmm, anything to add…

    I was really weirded out by Delaney using Springsteen, because he’s a congresscritter from Maryland. Bruce isn’t from Maryland! However, it turns out Delaney was born in New Jersey, really close to Asbury Park, which is the title of Springsteen’s first album, so I guess he’s allowed.

    “Uff da” is a stereotypical Minnesotan phrase, meaning exactly what it does in that video, except that no Minnesotan under 80 has used it since the movie “Fargo” came out. The only way we use it is like we use other lines from that movie, like “sure, ya betcha, don’tcha know”; in jest, because that’s how most people in the US think we talk and we don’t talk that way. I’d allow it, except Norm Coleman used it in a political ad once — without a whit of irony.

    Incidentally, since this post idea got me thinking, I started poking around some of these websites to see how easy they made it to volunteer. Most make it pretty easy. If there’s a volunteer link on Klobuchar’s website, I didn’t find it.

    Biden’s site IS pretty good, and he IS pretty dull — he’s the human equivalent of New Employee Orientation videos. But it doesn’t surprise me that his website is good, he probably inherited a lot of Obama’s people. They sure have their work cut out for them…

    Speaking of volunteer stuff, most sites ask what you’d be willing to do; go door-to-door, make phone calls, spread the message on social media, etc. Biden’s has “Work with campaign staff to host an event at your home,” which most of them do, and also “Offer up a spare room in your home for a staff member working in your area to stay in temporarily.” Which is kinda fake-folksy; aren’t you paying those staff? This campaign ain’t exactly Eugene McCarthy 1968 in terms of underdog status.

    My favorite was that Bernie’s volunteer page had a drop-down menu for your volunteer skills, and one of them was “data entry.” Hey, I can do that! In fact, I’ve done it for a campaign before! And they won! I’m sure my efforts had nothing to do with them winning, but still, cool!

  2. I love this! Here are a few UK ones.

    https://www.libdems.org.uk/UKIPhuih8 (I think, although am not certain, that the Lib Dems were the first party in the UK to do this sort of 404 page)

    https://labour.org.uk/gjfjf (this is a reference to a Tory MP’s recent no-show on a big news channel, when they went ahead with the interview even though he refused to go on camera)

    https://conservatives.com/jdjdjd (creepy data gathering on a 404 page – nice…)

    • Yeah, even the LibDems have some fight in them. I wish the US pages were more combative! The Conservative page is creepy!

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