Obama beats Clinton ' in website traffic

If website hits were votes for the 2008 presidential election, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) would be the clear winner.

Twelve percent of Internet surfers who visit www.senate.gov click to the freshman senator’s homepage, according to rankings on Alexa.com, which tracks website traffic. Obama’s site gets more hits than any other senator’s, and, much like his popularity, those hits have increased over the last month.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who made her official presidential announcement last Saturday, pulls 7 percent of Internet surfers to her site from the main Senate page. Her numbers rose to current levels Monday after stagnating at 4 percent for the last month.

But Republicans are falling even further behind Obama.

Likely GOP presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is tied with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), pulling only 2 percent of senate.gov users to his site. The percentage of users he gets has also fallen over the last month.

Web surfers haven’t been too keen on 2004 Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who hasn’t ruled out another presidential bid. Kerry has lured 1 percent of Senate website users to his site.

Alexa.com ranks the popularity of committee websites, too, many of which get more hits than the lawmakers themselves. But Obama gets more interest than any committee.

Some speculate that Obama’s strong pull is simply a matter of intrigue. He is lesser-known than Clinton, McCain and Kerry, who have all been in the public eye for some time.

“I imagine that Obama might be at the top because while all four of them are mentioned as possible presidential candidates, the others are known by the public much better for various reasons,” said Andrew Busch, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. “You would expect [Obama] to have the most traffic because he’s the one with the least amount of information on him.”

The other senators with White House dreams, either pronounced or speculated upon, Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), each garner 1 percent of traffic from the Senate homepage.

In the lower chamber, few sites get more than 1 percent of the traffic off of house.gov. Rep. Tom Tancredo’s site registers on Alexa.com’s rankings, but three other House members eyeing a 2008 bid for the White House, Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), and Ron Paul (R-Texas), fall below the 1 percent mark.

The House clerk’s site pulls 6 percent of users from the main page while House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) leadership page and the Office of the Law Revision Counsel both draw 2 percent of users.

Each presidential hopeful has a separate website devoted to his or her presidential bid. The average three-month ratings largely parallel hits off the House and Senate sites.

Over the last week, Obama’s campaign site has been visited more often than Clinton’s. His site has an average ranking of 86,653 over the last three months, while Clinton’s three-month average is much lower, at 291,730.

McCain’s three-month ranking is even lower still, at an average of 321,363.

Like Clinton, Brownback announced his White House bid Saturday, but his people aren’t flocking to find out more about him. His campaign website does not get enough hits to be ranked daily and its average rank over the last three months is 779,265.

Likewise, Kucinich’s official site does not have enough traffic to get ranked on a daily basis, but at 212,368, his three-month average is much higher than McCain’s, Clinton’s or Brownback’s.

Alexa.com lists website traffic rankings by tallying the Web usage of several million Alexa Toolbar users over an aggregated three-month period. However, Alexa.com does not support AOL/Netscape and Opera browsers, which means that the sample may be skewed. Due to small sample sizes, low-traffic sites may not be accurately ranked, Alexa.com states.

Jeremy Jacobs and Madeleine Scinto contributed to this report.