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Santorum's Campaign Chokes Online As Site Is Overwhelmed By Traffic

BY Sarah Lai Stirland and Nick Judd | Wednesday, January 4 2012

Rick Santorum in Iowa Tuesday night. YouTube

The results of Iowa Republicans' presidential nominating caucuses were not yet final when Rick Santorum took the podium to deliver a response, but one thing was clear: a vastly outspent, out-organized candidate had fought Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner, almost to a draw. All that was uncertain was if Santorum had won Iowa against all odds or if his victory was more metaphysical.

Under normal circumstances, this would make Santorum a darling of the Internet, where celebrity, controversiality and underdog status can leverage a candidate into the hearts of online masses. But that didn't happen last night: Just when the former Pennsylvania senator's campaign could have made the most out of its online presence, his site began to malfunction.

TechPresident noticed that Santorum's web hosting provider appeared to be overwhelmed for a time Tuesday night; top Santorum aide John Brabender told Politico's Jonathan Martin that their system "blew up" — a result of an unexpectedly high burst of interest — but was only offline for less than 20 minutes.

Late into the evening, as it became clear that Santorum had either tied or won an unbelievably close race, his campaign URL began redirecting users to a new donation page touting the "Iowa surprise." It still does — but a top digital expert on the left was wondering last night why Santorum didn't also send out a fund-raising email.

It's possible Santorum's campaign was waiting for clear results before contacting supporters, which, as this article is posted, still hasn't happened.

A spokesman for the campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"I can only wonder," the digital expert on the left wrote of Santorum in a Twitter direct message, "how much $$ he left on the table tonight."

The campaign also placed ads against the candidate's name on Google, which displayed a link to a donation page.

Santorum's campaign finance filings show that his digital consultant is Emotive, a digital online campaign consulting firm in Arlington, Virginia.

If he left cash on the table, he certainly took more from Iowa than other candidates: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who reportedly left Iowa in a huff after delivering a less-than-stellar caucus performance — and President Barack Obama were the only two presidential contenders to email supporters after the caucus.

Rep. Ron Paul's campaign website still leads with a how-to on caucusing in Iowa; the best real estate on Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign home page on Wednesday was devoted to selling her book. In the first two of four slides rotating in pride of place on Romney's site, the former Massachusetts governor's campaign emphasized the Iowa victory and a contest in which one lucky campaign donor will spend New Hampshire election night with his team — both of which came with a fund-raising ask.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is "re-evaluating" his campaign after a lackluster performance in Iowa, also has a website that doesn't look to have been updated since last night. The last re-evaluator in this presidential campaign was Herman Cain.