The Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine” tells us that as early as Dec. 8, visitors to JebBush.com were being redirected to the campaign website for fellow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. But most netizens seem to be just catching wind of the prank now and are seizing the opportunity to mock an already-struggling campaign.
The official Bush campaign website is Jeb2016.com, so the current redirect is not a result of hacking, but rather of a prescient purchase that may have been made before either Bush or Trump declared their candidacies.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the Wall Street Journal that they’re not responsible for JebBush.com, though no doubt they’re quietly thanking whoever is. (The page’s current owner has been kept private by domain registrar Fabulous.com.)
After Bush asked for applause from an audience in New Hampshire and passionately hugged someone who said he might vote for him, this website snafu is the last thing he needs. In the arena of repurposed domain names, though, the former Florida governor is far from alone.
A search for variations on “[Insert Candidate] for President,” “Elect [Candidate]” and “[Candidate] 2016″ website names yields a virtual cornucopia of biting and sardonic redirects.
Starting on the Democratic side, hillaryclinton2016.com brings us to a website laid out with a striking resemblance to The Huffington Post. In fact, some of the links lead to actual Huffington Post articles, but the page’s banner headline – “Hillary’s Gender Fabrications” in bold caps – takes us to the text of a 2014 Washington Times column, all while masquerading as a compendium of Clinton-related knowledge.
According to CNNMoney, most iterations of Clinton domains belong to a 66-year-old retired factory worker named Janet LaCelle, who purchased ElectHillary.com, ReelectHillary.com and so on more than a decade ago for just $15 each.
With the Clinton campaign now in full swing, LaCelle is trying to sell them for several thousand dollars per page. Back in the day, the hardest task had been remembering to renew them each year, and LaCelle still laments when her forgetfulness cost her PresidentHillaryClinton.com.
“I lost a good one,” she told CNNMoney.
Clinton’s Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also has a few reappropriated domains, but they are largely supportive, albeit nonsensical.
BernieforPresident.com, for instance, presents the choice of two Bernies: Sanders, or Bernie Lomax, the dead chief executive at the center of the dark comedy film “Weekend at Bernie’s.”
“Which Bernie?” asks a poll on the website. A total of 290 votes have thus far been cast, 265 (more than 91 percent) for Sanders, and just 25 for Lomax.
“PS – I’m reaching out to Sander’s [sic] team and 20th Century Fox to schedule the first debate!” the website says. “Contact me to get your favorite Bernie in the race!”
Meanwhile, BernieSandersforPresident.com has a more clear-cut mandate. The page is filled with a large image of Sanders giving a speech, on which a shining endorsement appears in bright green font: “Bernie Sanders for President 2016 / Run Bernie Run / A rare politation [sic] who refuses PAC money and he is a voice of reason in a divided country the USA.”
Other domain owners are enigmatic. ElectBernie.com is a site dedicated to “informing the public about safety,” with posts about precautions to take while driving.
The obvious query is addressed on the “About Us” page. “Why is your site called ElectBernie.com?” the site’s owners ask themselves.
Their response: “That’s a great question and one day we will have an answer.”
What is that supposed to mean? The first blog post (“Distracted Driving”) is dated July 14, 2014, so it is possible that whoever owns the domain predicted Sanders’s rise more than a year ago and was simply waiting for the public to follow suit. But that doesn’t explain why the website appears to not have been updated since then.
Among Republican candidates, Bush fares poorly in the domain wars. Aside from JebBush.com, there is also JebBushforPresident.com and JebBushforPresident.net, neither of which have positive things to say about the presidential hopeful.
JebBushforPresident.com is a website run by two men named C.J. and Charlie, a bearded gay couple who have been “madly in love” since 1996.
“So many times we find ourselves in situations where we can’t relate to each other, don’t understand each other, or feel like there’s nobody who wants to listen to our point of view,” their homepage reads. “Let’s change that.”
While most of their blog posts discuss LGBTQ identity and inclusiveness more broadly, C.J. and Charlie devoted one page to their namesake, referencing a 1994 Miami Herald editorial in which Bush likened legal protections for LGBTQ people to the elevation of “sodomy.”
“Since then, he’s moderated his stance a bit,” C.J. notes, “but this was the impetus for our blog.”
This assessment is rather mild compared with that of JebBushforPresident.net, which features the banner “Jeb Bush for President” with a large “NOT!” stamped over it.
“This website was prepared by a loyal Florida Republican in the hope of saving the Republican party from supporting Jeb Bush for President,” the page reads.
As a political outsider, Trump has built his campaign on his business acumen. At least in this case, the sales pitch rings true: DonaldTrump.com and Trump2016.com both redirect to his official campaign site, DonaldJTrump.com.
That didn’t stop loser.com from redirecting to Trump’s Wikipedia page for the entire month of January and some of February. The honor, however, has since been passed on to Kanye West.
Now, while all fake presidential campaign sites have their own character, none have been as versatile as TedCruzForAmerica.com.
In the summer of 2015, the domain redirected to the site for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, against which Cruz once led a government shutdown.
This January, it started redirecting to the Human Rights Campaign, which at one point featured on its front page an article called “Ted Cruz Continues His Attack on Transgender School Children.”
The most recent redirect really takes the cake.
Typing in TedCruzforAmerica.com reveals an iridescent portrait of a young family whose welcoming smiles adorn a page titled “Immigrate to Canada.”
Somehow, our curiosity about Cruz has led us to the government of Canada’s immigration page, and so powerful is this redirect that a visitor may browse the entire government of Canada website while the URL remains TedCruzforAmerica.com.
Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, but he renounced his citizenship in 2014. Perhaps the U.S. senator from Texas is now having second thoughts and pondering such things as his immigration eligibility and how to prepare for life in the True North strong and free.
“Canadians are proud of their citizenship,” one page reads. “We value the rights and freedoms and accept the responsibilities that this status gives us.”
And with that, the site bearing Cruz’s name tells him that it’s not too late for a second chance with the first country he called home.