Candidates increasingly plug websites during debate

Greg Nash

Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are increasingly plugging their campaign websites on the debate stage to encourage viewers to donate or learn more about them. 

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzPence offers Cruz 'heartfelt thanks' for Trump endorsement Cruz: Trump hasn't apologized for personal insults Cruz says he forgives Trump for attacks on family MORE (Texas) was the first GOP candidate to direct viewers to his website on Wednesday night to learn more about his new flat tax proposal.

Cruz’s “dot org” website has been the subject of headlines before, after he failed to secure the coveted top-level “dot com” domain name, which currently houses a message about support for President Obama and immigration reform.   

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“You can find it online at tedcruz.org. It is a simple flat tax where, for individuals, a family of four pays nothing on the first 36,000. After that, you pay 10 percent of the flat tax going up,” Cruz said early in the debate. 

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush similarly pushed people to his website Wednesday night during an answer about his vision for the future. 

“Six million more people living in poverty than the day Barack Obama got elected president. And the left just wants more of the same,” Bush said. “We have to offer a compelling alternative that is based on hope and optimism and grounded in serious policy, which I've laid out. And you can go get it at Jeb2016.com.”

Social media and the Internet have become increasingly important in presidential politics in the past few cycles. 

In 1996, Bill Clinton and Bob Dole both had campaign sites, but a website shoutout on the debate stage would be fruitless in the early dial-up era. Most observers credit the 2004 cycle for first harnessing the power of the web.

A quick search of the first two main GOP debates this year turns up no mention of candidates’ websites. 

This cycle, it appears to be a trend started in on the Democratic side, when Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSunday shows preview: Both sides gear up for debate UK's Corbyn calls for unity after reelection as Labour Party head Green group endorses in key Senate races MORE (I-Vt.) directed people to his site multiple times during the CNN debate earlier this month. Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who has since dropped out of the race, also pushed people to “chafee2016, to learn more about me.”

Coming off a hot performance in the CNN debate, Sanders announced he had raised more than $1 million in the four hours after the debate. That could have been helped along by a direct solicitation during the debate. 

Sanders decried the influx of money from super-PACs before adding that "if people want to help us out, BernieSanders.com. We are averaging $30 bucks apiece. We would appreciate your help.”

At another point he directed people to his website to fact check his stance leading up to the Iraq war in 2002.