MoveOn.org, the online grassroots advocacy group, will conduct a web-based presidential primary election next week. Voting will begin at midnight EDT on June 24 and continue for 48 hours.
MoveOn said it would endorse, organize volunteers and raise money for whoever is able to win at least 50 percent of the total vote. If none of the candidates reaches that threshold – and it may be difficult, given the size of the field – the group will put off announcing its endorsement until this summer.
An earlier straw poll showed former Vermont governor Howard Dean, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) holding the top three positions, with none having a majority. The contest, where the names of all nine candidates seeking the Democratic nomination will appear on the ballot, could have a significant impact in the selection of the candidate if he or she is able to win the group’s endorsement.
A memo posted on the MoveOn web site says that in most primary contests “pundits, pollsters and wealthy donors determine the outcome long before the actual primaries. By the time the rest of us cast our ballots, the nomination is typically a done deal. The MoveOn.org PAC Primary will allow hundreds of thousands of voters to speak out now, adding their weight to the campaigns of their choice.”
MoveOn counts 1.4 million members nationwide. The votes will be based, in part, on the candidates’ responses to seven questions. Among the questions are whether they would seek repeal of the USA Patriot Act, if they support progressive environmental policies and how they would stand up to the “unhealthy” policies of the Bush administration. The responses to the questions were posted on Moveon.org late this week.
Michael Cornfield, a political scientist at George Washington University, said the group’s endorsement could be a boon for the Democratic Party’s more liberal candidates. He estimated the group raised $2.4 million during the 2000 election, when its membership was about one-third its current size. He said the group now might raise more than $10 million in 2004 and could put Dean or Kucinich even with other candidates like Edwards “in one fell swoop.”
Founded in 1998 as a vehicle for urging Congress to “move on” from the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, MoveOn has consolidated its reputation as a premier online organizer with its opposition to George W. Bush’s drive to war with Iraq. It is now working with others to demand that Congress establish an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate possible Bush administration distortions of the truth in building public support for the war.
Readers wishing to participate in the MoveOn primary by going to the MoveOn web site (www.moveon.org) and requesting a ballot. Deadline for requests is the afternoon of June 26.