The results are in from the first Democratic ?primary? of the 2004 election season, an online poll conducted June 24 and 25 by MoveOn.org PAC, a San Francisco-based activist group. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean came away the clear leader with 43.9% of the vote, but fell short of the 50% needed to win the MoveOn endorsement. The second and third place finishers were Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) with 23.9% and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) with 15.7%. The six other Democrats in the race each received totals in the single digits.
Over 300,000 of MoveOn?s 1.4 million members cast their votes, more than the combined number of votes cast in the 2000 Democratic primaries in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. The voting was conducted using an innovative system that assigned a unique URL to each voter. A random phone survey of over 1000 primary participants was conducted by pollster Stanley Greenberg to verify the accuracy of results.
This online event, which was closely (and nervously) watched by the media and Democratic establishment, signals what could be a major power shift within the party. The point of the whole exercise, said MoveOn in its announcement of the primary, was to try to wrest control of the nominating process from the ?pundits, pollsters and wealthy donors [who] determine the outcome long before the actual primaries,? by giving the Democrats? liberal base a voice early in the process.
In addition to voting for their preferred candidate, MoveOn?s ballot asked members for permission to share their contact information with the candidate, as well as to pledge volunteer time and money to their campaigns. Remarkably, MoveOn reports: ?54,370 voters pledged to volunteer for their preferred Democratic contender; 77,192 voters authorized MoveOn to give their e-mail addresses to the candidate of their choice; and 49,132 voters pledged to contribute money to their candidate, for a total estimated at more than $1.75 million (a $35 average contribution).?
That kind of influx of money and grassroots organizing resources this early in the race, particularly for the three front-runners, could give a dramatic boost to their campaigns.
?This is only the beginning,? said Wes Boyd, MoveOn.org PAC?s treasurer. ?Our most important objectives have been met: early Democratic grassroots involvement; increased contributions and volunteer support for each campaign; and mobilization of the Democratic base to defeat George Bush. We wanted people to have a seat at the table, and they have taken it.?
Not all observers see MoveOn?s primary as a good thing.
What do you think of MoveOn?s strategy for the 2004 elections? Join the discussion in Caf? Utne?s Politics forum: http://cafe.utne.com/motet/guest/motet?show+Politics+13+493--1