A political Cyberland rush

Is politics invading the Internet - or vice versa?

Of late, Internet speculators have been buying the rights to any Web-site name they can dream up that might have some logical connection to possible presidential candidates like George W. Bush or Richard Gephardt. (You know, Bushin00.com, or prezGep.org.)

They pay $70 for Internet "domain names" and hope to sell them for a hefty profit to supporters, or opponents, of the candidates as the race heats up.

These names identifying actual or potential Web pages could become choice bits of political real estate - though their present value isn't within whistling distance of the prices charged for prime-time ad slots on TV. It's the continued fixation on that medium, in fact, that has opened the door for the speculative rush on available Web-site names. Most candidates and their consultants have been slow to purchase Internet addresses.

The growing number of citizens on-line, the boom in Internet commerce, and the liveliness of political dialogueon the Web is doubtless starting to sink in, however.

Smart candidates will be thinking of creative ways to use the newest mass medium - for ongoing, direct exchanges with voters, for example.

The next American presidential contest, like the holiday shopping season just past, could become a harbinger of the dawning cyber age.

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