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Democrats vie in Internet 'primary'

By Tom Curry, MSNBC

Some activists smell something fishy about next week's Web-based "primary" to test the early strength of Democratic presidential contenders. While a number of the candidates are urging their supporters to vote in the event, some strategists see it as skewed toward Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who shares the group's antiwar views. "It appears to be rigged," said Erik Smith, a spokesman for Rep. Dick Gephardt's campaign.

SMITH CHARGED THAT people who registered on theMoveon.orgWeb site this week immediately received an e-mail from Dean, but from no other contender, trying to win their support. "It doesn't look like every candidate was given an equal opportunity," Smith said.
"I'm sorry people feel that way," said co-founder Wes Boyd. "A few days ago, some of the campaigns weren't taking this vote seriously." But now that the event has gotten some news media and grass-roots attention, Boyd said, "some campaigns are trying to delegitimatize this process."

Launched in 1998 by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to oppose the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, says 1.4 million people have participated in its petition and mobilization efforts.

Boyd said he expects "hundreds of thousands" to vote in next week's event, which will be conducted Tuesday and Wednesday. For comparison, about 156,000 voted in the 2000 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary.

Boyd said his group sent a memo to all nine Democratic contenders explaining how the primary would work. In a pre-primary straw poll, the group determined that the three favorites among its members were Dean, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Only the three favorites get a promotional e-mail sent out on their behalf to people who register to vote in the event.

Playing down the importance of the vote, one operative working in a 2004 campaign said, "It is widely recognized that this is Howard Dean's guaranteed win."

The group will announce the outcome of the vote Friday. If any of the contenders garners more than 50 percent of the votes, he'll get's endorsement for the Democratic nomination.

"We're setting a high bar; it will be very difficult for anybody to achieve that," said Boyd.

He said the group decided to conduct its self-styled primary early in the campaign because "ordinary people should get involved and not let the pundits and big contributors determine the field."

A Dean victory in the primary would add a positive note to what has been a recent series of news-making coups for the Vermont maverick. Last week, Dean launched the first television ads run so far by any Democratic presidential contender.

And last weekend at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention, in a straw poll organized by National Journal's Campaign Hotline, Dean placed first, although only 352 votes were cast. has played a lead role in opposing President Bush's Iraq policy and is currently running newspaper ads with the headline "MISLEADER" superimposed on a photo of Bush.

The ad says, "The evidence suggests that ... the American people were deliberately misled. It would be a tragedy if young men and women were sent to die for a lie."'s antiwar orientation seems to give a decided advantage in its primary to the two contenders who have been most outspoken in opposing Bush's Iraq policy, Dean and Kucinich.

So why, then, have Democratic hopefuls Gephardt, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. John Edwards -- who all voted to authorize Bush's invasion of Iraq -- urged their supporters to take part in the event?

Lieberman campaign spokesman Jano Cabrera told, "We encourage our supporters to participate, but we encourage them to participate in as many venues and forums as possible."

But Cabrera acknowledged, "When it comes to organizing in cyberspace, the advantage goes to other campaigns. We recognize that Howard Dean has made an extraordinary effort when it comes to organizing people online."

Gephardt campaign spokesman Smith said Gephardt was competing in the primary because "we don't to write anybody off. These ( members) are passionate Democrats."

One prominent Democrat who is not affiliated with any campaign was critical of's timing. Simon Rosenberg, the president of the New Democratic Network, a centrist fund-raising group, said might diminish its clout by endorsing a candidate so early.

"My concern in that this primary -- and if they end up endorsing (a candidate) -- could dramatically limit their long-term ability to be influential in the Democratic Party," said Rosenberg. "They have taken an enormous risk. I hope they know what they are doing." staffer Zack Exley recently took a two-week leave of absence from the group to work as paid consultant for the Dean campaign on how to improve its Internet voter mobilization tools.

Exley said had offered to share its expertise with other Democratic presidential contenders as well. His work for Dean, Exley said, "should not be interpreted as a sign that the Move.on staff has an interest in endorsing Dean."

He added, "We're supporting all the Democratic candidates" by offering to spread's Internet expertise.

One computer expert suggested there's reason to question the validity of any Internet vote.

"It is impossible to ensure an accurate vote over the Internet, using conventional computer hardware and software (e.g., PCs running Windows, etc.)," said Lauren Weinstein, the co-founder of a group called People For Internet Responsibility.

"The fundamental nature of these systems makes them open to voting compromise in a vast number of ways, most of which could be completely hidden from the user," said Weinstein. "Vote hackers could even plant viruses on systems way in advance that would just sit and wait for an election."

Asked about Weinstein's analysis, Boyd conceded there may be "opportunities for abuse" in the vote, but he noted, "there are opportunities for abuses in our larger electoral system as well."

The group has commissioned a telephone exit poll of a sample of those who take part in next week's vote to see if the sample jibes with the total raw vote. If the exit poll is substantially at odds with the total vote, Boyd said, the group may try to find out if the vote was manipulated in some way.

Putting aside the technical questions, if Dean does indeed win the vote, the rival campaigns will quickly seek to, as they say, just move on.

MSNBC Terms, Conditions and Privacy ©2003

Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy.
Dear MoveOn member,
The votes are counted, the exit polls are complete, and the results from the MoveOn primary are in. Over 300,000 MoveOn members have cast votes -- a turnout bigger than the election turnout in many states -- and news outlets from CBS to Reuters have covered the story as it unfolded this week.

The MoveOn primary has allowed hundreds of thousands of ordinary voters to speak at a time when usually only pundits, pollsters, and wealthy donors have influence. Now it's time to put our money where our mouth is. The end of this month -- June 30th -- marks a key deadline for candidate fundraising: candidates will truly sink or swim based on whether they show that they can raise money.

Since no candidate received more than 50% of the vote, we're encouraging everyone to support the candidate they voted for. A list of the official candidates and their fundraising webpages is below.

So how did the candidates do? The statistics below are only a part of the picture: perhaps the most significant fact is that virtually all of the candidates would have the enthusiastic support of a majority of MoveOn members. Taking back the primary process for ordinary people is an important goal, but the vote made clear that we're ready to defeat Bush no matter who the Democratic nominee is.

As a result of the primary, well over 100,000 people have joined a presidential campaign or contributed to one. We're already building a movement to defeat Bush in 2004.

Here are the vote totals:
BRAUN 7021 2.21%
DEAN 139360 43.87%
EDWARDS 10146 3.19%
GRAHAM 7113 2.24%
KERRY 49973 15.73%
KUCINICH 76000 23.93%
GEPHARDT 7755 2.44%
LIEBERMAN 6095 1.92%
SHARPTON 1677 0.53%
OTHER 6121 1.93%
UNDECIDED 6378 2.01%
317647 100.00%

The complete results, along with some analysis, are available on our website at:

It's been an amazing week for PAC. Every Democratic presidential campaign has invested time and energy into the primary. The national news media have covered the process with gravity. Together, we've begun to shift the balance in how these choices get made -- from wealthy benefactors and snarky pundits to ordinary, active citizens. Thank you.

--Carrie, Eli, Joan, Peter, Wes, and Zack
The MoveOn Team
June 27th, 2003


Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun:

Governor Howard Dean:

Senator John Edwards:

Congressman Dick Gephardt:

Senator Bob Graham:

Senator John Kerry:

Congressman Dennis Kucinich:

Senator Joe Lieberman:

Reverend Al Sharpton:


Paid for by MOVEON.ORG PAC, P.O. Box 9218, Berkeley, CA 94709. This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee. Website:
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Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy.
my GOD!!! If Kucinich EVER becomes president (I'm from Cleveland) then I will personally pay for myself and whatever friends I can to leave this country, for fear that my money will be stolen by that Socialist idiot.

Are people frigging MORONS? Do they not remember what that idiot did to Cleveland? It's just now starting to recover, and it's nowhere near close to heading towards where it could be. "Oh look, this downtown is run-down, let's raise taxes so that we can rebuild it" - {everyone with some money moves out} - "looks like we need to raise taxes some more to rebuild it" - {more people with money move out}.. You get the point?

That's the Democratic base. The United States (and consequently Democrats) should be glad that states aren't as powerful as the Constitution says they should be. Because then the federal government would be running the military and interstate trade, and that's about it. Leaving all the stupid wasteful social programs to die, or allowing states to run them as they see fit. The most free enterprise, lowest tax state would be the most wealthy, because people want to go there, and when they do, they're able to spend their money as they see fit, and they become wealthy. While the most liberal, Democratic, socialistic state would be dirt poor (just like the inner city that votes Democrat).

Guys, put your pride aside for once and seriously ask the question, should I really vote Democrat?

Evil can only triumph when good men do nothing.
And get this, mbm tries to say that this moveon org is
"a political action committee that supports moderate to progressive candidates." Yet only one or two of the candidates actually resembles that description. If Dean or Kucinich are actually in the running, would moveon claim they too are "moderate or progressive"? Yes, they probably would, despite there being hardly anything moderate about those two, and most the others for that matter. I guess the term 'progressive' can actually mean 'extremist' when it comes to liberals.

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