New at work: Presidential candidate tracker

Written by Adrian Holovaty on May 1, 2007

At work, we recently launched Campaign Tracker, a browsable database of campaign events planned by the 2008 U.S. presidential candidates. This is the latest section of The Presidential Field, washingtonpost.com's guide to the '08 presidential elections.

The site's goals are to compile as much information about candidates' travel as possible and to make it easy to browse all of that information in a variety of ways. Our staff has done a great job compiling all of this.

The list of candidates gives you an overview of recent and upcoming campaign events. Each candidate gets his or her own page (e.g., Mike Huckabee). In addition, each candidate gets a page for each state he or she has visited -- e.g., Mike Huckabee's visits to Iowa, or the full list of states Barack Obama has visited.

You can browse by date on a color-coded calendar, and, of course, each day has its own permalink (e.g., April 13, 2007). Each state gets its own page, too, so you can keep an eye on past and future candidate visits to Illinois, for example.

We've got RSS feeds for every candidate and every state, too. Full information is here.

The site is fully Django powered.

Finally, everything integrates with the other apps we've been churning out, such as the Q1 campaign finance data and candidate bios. There's more to come, of course. Suggestions and ideas welcome.

Comments

Posted by Alex on May 1, 2007 at 12:26 a.m.:

Hi Adrian, I just discovered your blog...read some old entries.

Awesome job you are doing. I'm a web designer student at aifl.edu

Posted by Ryan on May 1, 2007 at 1:05 p.m.:

Funny, I came across this just yesterday and looked for your name at the bottom.

I remember thinking it would be be really cool if I could type in my physical address or zip code and email and then it would email me when a candidate (there's a checkbox next to each one so I can pick) is going to be within $N miles of where I live (default to something sensible like 25 miles).

I'm about to release a Google maps mashup and it has taught me how relatively easy this sort of functionality is, especially with the right libs for your scripting lg of choice.

Posted by Mindy McAdams on May 1, 2007 at 5:15 p.m.:

You know what I would love to see during this campaign? A tracker about real issues, not the horserace.

I am already bored with reading who has more money. I want to know who stands for what, who is waffling or changing his/her story in front of a different audience, and who has support from which groups, like the NRA and the NEA. And why. If we have to hear and see election, election, election for the next 19 freaking months (!), it would probably be much better for all of us if the journalism organizations focused, for once, on the issues that matter to the public and the nation-state -- and not a bunch of baseball statistics.

Posted by Adrian on May 1, 2007 at 5:36 p.m.:

Mindy: I completely agree.

Posted by Mindy McAdams on May 2, 2007 at 8:56 a.m.:

Can't you do something about it? (Grin!)

Posted by closets on May 9, 2007 at 1:44 p.m.:

Agreed. It would be nice to see a matrix of candidate views that illustrates (for example) who doesn't believe in evolution or who has doubts about the theory of gravity, etc.

Posted by Daniel B. Honigman on May 21, 2007 at 8:18 a.m.:

Ha, is Al Gore included in the database? He could have an asterix, Roger Maris-style.

Posted by Victor on May 22, 2007 at 2:08 p.m.:

Nice project and well executed, Adrian. I'm really going to follow this.

Now if you could also get citizens to start a dialogue around all this information, you'd really have something. Any plans to add some participation features?

I agree with some of Mindy's points and the sentiment in general, but unfortunately the way our system is currently structured campaign finance can be quite revealing when it comes to uncovering a candidate's present and future agenda.

What might make the data more revealing and help tie it together with the rest of the guide is if we could drill down and see where the contributions are coming from and correlate that with the qualitative aspects of the candidate, contributions cross referenced against a candidate's stated platform and policy statements and voting record (candidate A took money from special interest B but claims she's for issue C), and be able to track that over time as the candidates are whittled down.

And it would also be interesting to see how the money is spent by the candidate, assuming that is a matter of public record.

There was the FundRace project in '04 (not sure if it is ongoing) and a student project (also done in Python) at my alma mater Indiana University that hooked the data up with Google maps (http://www.cs.indiana.edu/~markane/i590/contributors.html). Though I'd be less interested in small-time individual contributors and more in the big ones, including PACs, corporations, and the gang on K Street.

As someone who majored in politics but is a web developer by day, I really love to see this kind of tool especially at a major newspaper like the WSJ. I think one of the real powers of the web is to keep the Fourth Estate (and all the others) honest and frankly I feel the major media outlets have let the citizens down by not embracing the web's potential perhaps because they fear the control they will lose if they do.

Posted by jonah on May 23, 2007 at 3:40 a.m.:

Adrian, I just wanted to say that it's really hard to get started with Django. Compare it to how easy it is to get started with Ruby on Rails. I just think Django would be a lot more popular if people could actually try it out. But it's so hard to try it out. I've tried it several times. And every time I go to that page, my eyes glaze over. And I'm not even an idiot. I've managed to try every other framework on every other language. I have never encountered any other 'get started' site that is so user unfriendly. Compare this:

http://www.djangoproject.com/documentation/install/

to this:

http://www.rubyonrails.org/down

And it's a no-brainer why Ruby on Rails is so popular and Django is so obscure. It's so easy to try out Ruby on Rails, and that's what wins adherents. Django is so damn hard to try out. I can't even start. Which is surprising, because Python itself is so easy to try out.

Anyway, that's my bitching for today.

Peace out.

Jonah

Posted by Adrian on May 23, 2007 at 8:02 a.m.:

jonah: Sorry to hear you had problems!

It'd be a great help if you'd explain what specific problems you had with the installation, and it'd be a great help if you did that on the django-users mailing list rather than posting a comment to an unrelated blog entry on my personal Web site. :)

Posted by Karl Krueger on May 29, 2007 at 6:41 p.m.:

130 plus candidate for President and you cover 16. It is the money that make them viable or not. I can raise as much money as Mike Gravel but you don't see my name on any of the polls. It will take a lot to overcome the media exclusive coverage of just a few candidates.

Posted by mstaml on May 31, 2007 at 11:35 a.m.:

Nice browsing and successfull integration . very usefull info .

Posted by Murat on May 31, 2007 at 11:36 a.m.:

Exactly the same and not other you have my voice also.

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