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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 least he doesn’t use a quarter of the page begging for money.
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!)
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.
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 bothers: raise your game!
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
Marianne Williamson has an incredibly simple but pleasant page, “Let’s get back on track.”
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.
Wayne Messam tells us, “Page not found!” And there’s a nice but unrelated picture of him.
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.