Republican Party logoIt’s about a year until the Iowa caucuses, which means that the media have been buzzing with speculation about which Republican politicians will challenge Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. As potential candidates start to play the “Maybe I will, maybe I won’t” game, there is one piece that many seem to be forgetting: securing their domain names for their future campaign websites.

We looked at some of the most popular GOP front-runners – Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich – to see whether or not they own key domain names to support a possible run at the presidency. In a recent CADNA piece about the domain names owned (or not owned) by members of Congress, we discussed how important it is for politicians to register their domain names and prevent others from squatting on their online identities. For one thing, owning their names as domains gives politicians an easy to remember platform that they can communicate to constituents. For another, preemptive domain name registrations can help prevent rivals from registering their names and using them for their own purposes.

A recent example from last fall’s Midterm Elections involved incumbent Democrat Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Sharron Angle, a Republican candidate running for Senate in Nevada. Angle had registered the domain name and pointed the domain to her own website. Currently, the domain resolves to the site for the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Apparently the five previously mentioned politicians have been too busy trying to decide if and when to announce their presidential ambitions to have paid much attention to this lesson. Only Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee own their names as .COM domains (, and None of the five own their name plus the phrase “for president” or “2012” – as in and Yet, all of those domains are registered, all by third parties, some going back as early as 2004.

Domain names that consist of personal names can be very difficult to reclaim once they have been registered, because many third party registrants can claim fair use rights to the domains. Politicians have it especially tough, due to free speech protections. So being a first mover and proactively registering domain names is critical, especially for presidential hopefuls.