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Some candidates don’t take advantage of what could be a powerful messaging tool and shy away from creating strategic campaign blogs. It’s a missed opportunity because a blog hosted on a campaign’s website is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to communicate with supporters.

The campaign has complete control over the content and timing, and has limitless design options for presenting its message in the best way possible. So what does it take to draw voters in and generate traffic in the crowded political blogosphere? Here are five candidates who were able to fine-tune the recipe in 2011.

5. Tim Kaine for Senate: While the posting frequency may not be as high as it could be, Kaine’s site has all the elements of a successful campaign blog. Interesting commentary on events in the campaign, easy-to-see format, and attention-grabbing headlines will make the Democrat’s campaign blog a standout in 2012.

4. Nathan Fletcher for San Diego Mayor: Local races can be hard to generate blog content for, in part, because of the issues at play in the race. But Fletcher’s campaign for mayor of San Diego has managed to make its blog a model by frequently posting short “Supporter of the Day” videos several times a week. The candidate himself also posts updates to the blog. The content here proves that you don’t need an edgy design to be powerful. In short, despite the relatively basic appearance, this blog for a mayoral race is more sophisticated than many campaign blogs for federal office. Take note, Congress!

3. Rob McKenna for Washington Governor: This is a classic example of an effective state-level campaign blog. The user friendly, eye-pleasing design and the consistent flow of hard and soft news content makes the blog a reliable source of campaign-related information, while still pushing the campaign message.

2. Ron Paul for President 2012: Paul is a magnet for online traffic because his supporters are tech savvy and, for the most part, extremely committed. So it comes as little surprise that his camp has the best campaign blog within the GOP field this year. The blog is easily accessible from the header, is updated nearly daily with interesting tidbits to fuel the Paul mania, and has its own unique title with a public author to serve as the blog’s voice. Moreover, the design is edgy while still keeping the basic foundations of a blog. Say what you will about Paul’s chances, but his campaign blog is ahead of the field.

1. Obama 2012: After his revolutionary 2008 online campaign, expectations are high for the president to excel with new media this time around, and his campaign blog doesn’t disappoint. The eye-pleasing color-scheme and layout contrasts with the simplistic title (“Blog”), and the steady daily flow of content makes the page a reliable source of information.

Andrew Clark is an account director for Hynes Communications, where he works with political campaigns, corporations and advocacy groups on new media messaging. He previously worked on the McCain 2008 presidential campaign.