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Unofficial Activity

Independent of potential presidential candidates, their advocates (and sometimes their opponents) are active on the Web working to spread the word. The sites include active communities with a number of contributors, others that are the handiworks of one or two dedicated supporters, and more one-dimensional, static sites that are effectively online brochures. They range in sophistication from highly polished websites communicating across a number of platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MeetUp groups and so forth) to simple blogs. Content typically includes recent articles and video clips, oftentimes there is a comment or discussion component, and sometimes there may be merchandise available. Some of these sites are framed as "draft" efforts.  Efforts occasionally lead to off-line activity such as information tables at a political conferences or meetings. Some of the independent sites have an element of fan club boosterism, and tend to echo or repeat content from a potential candidate's official site, while others can be more thoughtful or thought-provoking. The independent sites typically have limited lifespans. Some peter out as the authors run into time constraints or lose interest. If the principal makes it clear that he or she will not be a candidate or announces as a candidate the dynamics change, and the motivation disappears. It is interesting to consider whether there is a correlation between the amount of independent pre-campaign activity and the success or lack of success a campaign may encounter should the principal decide to become a candidate. In the 2012 pre-campaign period, 2009-10, former Gov. Sarah Palin has inspired far and away the most activity (see the special section below). A sampling of activity: