Why Republican Candidates Will Run From .GOP Address

by Nathan L. Gonzales March 7, 2014 · 10:54 AM EST

A Republican group recently boasted about Republicans becoming “the only political party in history to run a Web ending.”

But it would be surprising if many Republican candidates are anxious to put .GOP behind their name.

The Republican State Leadership Committee led the effort to secure the .GOP Web ending and unveiled it at the Beyond the Dot conference late last month [video]. USA Today had a thorough piece examining the process, as well as the potential upsides and downsides for the new Web ending.

Republicans got an initial nod of approval from an unusual source.

“I’m pissed the GOP got their (new gTLD) and we didn’t get ours as Democrats,” said Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, according to a tweet from the conference. “It’s just another thing in the toolbox to use to reach out to folks,” Messina said. “As a campaign manager, all you want is more tools, and I think this is a really interesting one.”

But while the Web ending might bring some continuity to state parties and other functions of the Republican National Committee, it is not clear that the Web ending is a great tool for candidates to use in their campaigns.

As I’ve written before (here and here), candidates in competitive races usually try to avoid the partisan label in favor of developing an independent brand. And for candidates running in safe Republican seats, anything that might smell like the establishment is hated.

That’s because the GOP brand is terrible. The Republican Party had a 33 percent favorable and 61 percent unfavorable rating in the Feb. 19-23 New York Times/CBS news survey. The Republican Party had a 24 percent positive and 47 percent negative rating in the Jan. 22-25 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The Democratic Party’s image was better, but still probably not popular enough for Democratic candidates to use a .DEM or a similar Web ending. Democrats were at 42 percent favorable and 53 percent unfavorable in the New York Times/CBS News poll and 37 percent positive and 40 percent negative in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey.

“The fact they want to attach the GOP brand to their domains shows how out of touch they are with how folks view their party and agenda,” said Democratic consultant Travis Lowe of Three Point Media about the Republican effort. “I’d recommend to candidates that all of their communications, including their website, talk about who they are and what they’re going to do in the job rather than hang a sign on the front door, so to speak, that says new ideas aren’t welcome.”

“Communicate about yourself and your vision, don’t tie yourself to every facet of your party’s vision (or lack thereof),” Lowe added. “Leave the party building and branding to the party committees.”