Interpreting those MoveOn poll numbers For Howard Dean, the MoveOn.org PAC "primary" results represent both victory and defeat. Clearly, it's a victory because Dean so far outdistanced the competition among a group of strongly committed voters; but it's also a kind of defeat because he fell well short of the 50-plus percent required for an endorsement (and the financial inflow that would have provided).
Realistic observers knew that any candidate would find it difficult to achieve a majority in a nine-candidate field. Yet there were still many Dean supporters who hoped and believed he would do it -- and thereby receive an enormous early boost. Despite such dashed expectations, however, his 44 percent plurality is a significant achievement and a big consolation. And the enthusiasm generated by MoveOn brought large infusions of fresh cash to Dean's campaign via the Internet during the past several days.
Placing second is likely to sustain the candidacy of U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the vegan who feeds red-meat rhetoric to Democratic audiences. On the left-most wing of the party, Kucinich may now pose a real challenge to Dean, who is less liberal than his publicity and much more centrist than the former Cleveland mayor.
Should John Kerry, in third place, be disappointed today? For a putative front-runner to trail Kucinich by eight points isn't so great, even in a contest like this one. What should please Kerry, however, is the response to the MoveOn.org ballot's second question, which suggests his potential appeal across party factions.
Asked which candidates among the nine Democrats they could "enthusiastically support" against Bush, slightly more than 75 percent named Kerry -- second only to Dean with 86 percent. That's encouraging for a candidate handicapped -- in this antiwar electorate -- by his vote for the Iraq war resolution. And it's particularly significant because no candidate won an outright endorsement.
Wisely, the MoveOn leadership asked the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner firm to check the integrity of its process with a telephone poll -- and the results appear to hold up well. That doesn't mean the Freepers, Limbaugh dittoheads and other right-wing meddlers had no effect, although their disappointment with Al Sharpton's pitiful showing is evident in these comments.
[12:30 p.m. PDT, June 27, 2003