Ann Althouse for president?

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She hasn't announced her candidacy, and frankly, I doubt that she would accept a draft. But still, a curious chain of associations yesterday led me to wonder.

It all started  when Andrew Sullivan linked to an article by Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones on "Why Rick 'Man on Dog' Santorum can't beat his Google troubles":

Santorum's problem got its start back in 2003, when the then-senator from Pennsylvania compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia, saying the "definition of marriage" has never included "man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be." The ensuing controversy prompted syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage, who's gay, to start a contest, soliciting reader suggestions for slang terms to "memorialize the scandal."

And the winning suggestion is currently memorialized in at least four of the top ten Google hits for Santorum.  (This, of course, has nothing whatever to do with Prof. Althouse and her potential bid for the White House. Be patient, the connection is coming.)

The next step was, which I learned about from some experts quoted in Mencimer's article:

I wanted to ask Santorum whether he had a strategy for scrubbing his Web presence, but he didn't return my calls. So instead, I asked a few experts. "This is an unusual problem," says Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender, which specializes in helping individuals maintain a positive Web presence. "It's devastating. This is one of the more creative and salient Google issues I've ever seen." […]

To at least make a dent, Santorum could try a concerted push to generate links to his domain on prominent sites and blogs, ginning its Google ranking; Mark Skidmore, an expert in search-engine marketing at the online strategy firm Blue State Digital, says Santorum should also consider buying paid search results for his name. […] But like Fertik, Skidmore thinks Santorum faces an uphill battle, in part because Savage's site has been up for so long—with more than 13,000 inbound links, compared with only 5,000 for Santorum's own site, America's Foundation. "He's staring at a very big deficit," Skidmore observes.

Wait, I thought, those are pretty paltry numbers for a major national figure. And this made me wonder about the inbound link count of other possible 2012 presidential candidates. So I checked, starting with the list of possibilities here, and using Google to find each politician's most prominent campaign site, PAC, or whatever. The results of my researches, in order of increasing link count:

Candidate Site Inbound Link Count
Mitt Romney 1,928
Tim Pawlenty 5,744
Rudy Giuliani 19,712
Mike Huckabee 45,126
Newt Gingrich 60,732 4,859
Ron Paul 69,472
Sarah Palin 63,260 86,721

These still don't seem to me like very large numbers of inbound links — Language Log gets 486,122 if you add up the "classic" site ( with 201,793) and the current one ( with 284,329).

And garners 1,092,907, or 17 times more than SarahPac. Of course, Andrew Sullivan isn't eligible to run for president, having been born in England. So I it occurred to me to check on 1,062,212 inbound links. And Wikipedia suggests that Ann was born in Delaware.

Seriously, these in-bound link counts (even if accurate) have little or nothing to do with vote-getting and fund-raising. They're mainly relevant because of their role in determining "page rank" and similar metrics that affect the order of web search results. And this matters a lot if you're fighting to keep an unpleasant joke from being the first thing that people see when they look you up, but otherwise, maybe not so much.

Also, one of the keys to accumulating lot of in-bound links is to have a lot of pages for people to link to. Thus tells us that has 70,072 pages, for 15.6 in-bound links per page, and has 59,138 pages, for 18.5 ILPP. In comparison, has only 116 pages, for 63,260/116=545 ILPP. So by that metric, which might be a bit more politically relevant, Sarah is beating Andrew by a factor of 29.

But still.


  1. Someone said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 9:35 am

    A minor correction: the term is "PageRank", not "page rank". Although it does serve to rank pages, it is a trademarked product named for its original developer, Larry Page.

  2. Terry Collmann said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 10:49 am

    Quick – someone think up scatological meanings for "Palin", "Gingrich" and "Limbaugh".

  3. Dan T. said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 10:54 am is a fifth-level domain name; one rarely encounters those. However, it redirects to, which is only fourth-level.

  4. Dan T. said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 10:57 am

    Also, Newt Gingrich is the only one of those noted above who uses a .org site, as is proper for noncommercial organizations; apparently the rest of them regard themselves as commercial entities.

  5. Katie said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 11:27 am

    Incidentally it is the "born a UK citizen" not "born in the UK" origin of Andrew Sullivan that would prevent him running for US president. The Kennedy children would have been eligible to run for President even if they had been born in London while their father was Ambassador there (a quick check shows that none were but I could be wrong).

  6. richard howland-bolton said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 11:31 am

    Good point Dan T. but I bet they don't think about it at all, and just go with the ubiquity of '.com'.

  7. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

    To the best of my knowledge Andrew Sullivan is still a UK citizen. He has applied for US citizenship but not yet achieved it.

  8. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

    @Katie: That's debatable. The relevant phrase in the Constitution, "natural-born citizen", has never been authoritatively defined.

  9. groki said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

    fighting to keep an unpleasant joke from being the first thing that people see when they look you up

    though of course if you* are an unpleasant joke, there's your uphill right there.

    (*not mentioning any names.)

  10. Janice Byer said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

    I'm with Terry Collmann. This is too fine an honor to bestow upon only one deserving enemy of human rights.

  11. fog said,

    September 9, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

    Speaking of page rank and Language Log, a Google search of "language log" currently gives the old site as the top result. It's been this way for the past few weeks, but I still don't remember every single day.

  12. John said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 10:57 am

    Quick – someone think up scatological meanings for "Palin", "Gingrich" and "Limbaugh".

    I suggest 'Collmann'.

  13. Sili said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

    Incidentally it is the "born a UK citizen" not "born in the UK" origin of Andrew Sullivan that would prevent him running for US president.

    Aren't UKers "subjects" rather than "citizens"?

    I'm not eligible to vote, but I don't think I'm alone in preferring Mark Liberman for president in preference to any of the above.

  14. dirk alan said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

    my favorite anagram – mccain palin = niacin clamp.

  15. Janice Byer said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

    Sili, I'm not British, but as I understand it, the British Nationality Act of 1981 made citizens of all subjects and abolished the legal use of the term "subject" with reference to inhabitants of the UK. This follows from "citizen" being defined as one with rights guaranteed by law, whereas a "subject" is defined as one simply subject to the rule of a monarch. Hence, the latter was deemed to be an anachronistic status label for contemporary Britons.

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