Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, June 27, 2003  

The results are in, and now it's time to spin. First the facts. When asked to select a single candidate, the votes came down like this:

44% Dean
24% Kucinich
16% Kerry

3% Edwards
2% Gephardt
2% Graham
2% Braun
2% Lieberman
1% Sharpton
2% Other
2% Undecided

Big victory for Dean and Kucinich, right? Yes, but there's more. MoveOn asked a subsequent question, "Please select all of the candidates who you would enthusiastically support in the 2004 general election against George W. Bush, if chosen as the Democratic Party nominee next summer after the Democratic Primaries." I like this question, because it gets at the incredibly fluid nature of support this early in a campaign. While Move On's members have begun support one of three central candidates, their support is not Nader-like. Look:

86% Dean
75% Kerry
68% Kucinich
56% Edwards
53% Gephardt
51% Braun
50% Graham
42% Lieberman
35% Sharpton

What the numbers mean
Move On's members are the liberal, activist core of the Democratic Party. Obviously, these results don't reflect the opinions of the national Dems. In the primaries, liberals always do better among Democrats than they do in the general election. So, it's not surprising to see that the three candidates seen as most liberal took 84% of the vote.

The big winner is Dean. Almost half of the party's liberal wing voted for him, and although he's a populist, he's one of the most conservative candidates. That means that if he wins the primary, he'll run strong on the moderate platform he's already established. The message will be different, but his policy positions will remain the same.

The big loser is Dick Gephardt. Predictably, he did poorly in the single-vote portion of the poll. The bad news is that only half of the voters said they'd back him if he emerged as the Democratic candidate. The news gets even worse when you consider that 28% of respondents said they'd back any Dem (explaining Sharpton's good showing).

Kerry, Kucinich, and Edwards should regard this as a mixed bag. Kerry's numbers show that Democrats generally support him, but they don't particularly favor him. If he's going to win the primary, he's got to start winning hearts. This is especially true because of the other New Englander and the New Hampshire primary. Only one is likely to emerge as a viable candidate.

Edwards is in a similar boat, but he'll do far better among moderate Democrats than Kerry, so his low numbers don't reflect Democrats in general. Still, he would liked to have done better on both of these questions to solidify his standing among the activist core.

Finally, my man Kucinich. The news is mostly good, but there are a number of caveats. You can interpret Kucinich's numbers as the inverse of Edwards: he's far more well-known among liberals than the general population. His two-thirds approval among those polled by Move On is misleading because he has no name recognition among moderate Dems. The good news for Kucinch is that this shows his emerging strength among liberals--he's starting to steal some of Dean's populist momentum. The real questions for Kucinich haven't changed: 1) can he get enough momentum to get him into the national spotlight so he can get his views known, and 2) will there be enough money coming in for him to seriously challenge candidates with millions more dollars to spend?

posted by Jeff | 10:39 AM |
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