MoveOn.org’s supporters voted Sen. Barack Obama the Democratic presidential candidate they think can best lead the country to get out of Iraq, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton lagged behind in fifth place, the liberal online organization announced yesterday.
Mr. Obama won 28 percent of the 42,882 votes cast, former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, took second place with 25 percent and Mrs. Clinton garnered 11 percent.
It was a strong showing for Mr. Edwards who, like Mrs. Clinton, voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002, but has since done a far better job of repairing relations with Internet and anti-war activists than Mrs. Clinton, the New York Democrat who has refused to call her vote for the war a mistake.
The poll was taken after MoveOn supporters watched a “virtual town hall” — recorded remarks from seven Democratic candidates on what they would do about the war in Iraq — either online on their own, or at more than 1,000 organized house parties.
“Barack Obama has been against the war in Iraq from the beginning and has a plan to bring it to a responsible end,” said Bill Burton, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, who said that message is what’s resonating throughout the Internet. “We are proud of the fact that so many thousands of individuals have shown their support through this poll, through BarackObama.com and through Facebook and other online organizing sites.”
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, a new national poll found former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who has not announced whether he will seek the nomination, has jumped to second place among Republican contenders, leapfrogging Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani led Republicans with 29 percent, Mr. Thompson had 15 percent and Mr. McCain had 12 percent in the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll of 437 Republican primary voters. The poll was taken April 5 to 9 and has a margin of error of five percentage points. Among 557 Democratic primary voters in that poll, Mrs. Clinton had 33 percent support, Mr. Obama garnered 23 percent and Mr. Edwards had 14 percent.
In the battle for MoveOn’s Internet activists, Mr. Edwards did particularly well with those who attended one of the liberal group’s house parties. Among those voters, he finished first with 25 percent of the vote, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was second with 21 percent. Mr. Obama placed third with 19 percent and Mrs. Clinton was sixth, with 7 percent of the vote.
Mr. Edwards has built a strong alliance with liberal bloggers since the 2004 election. He won a March 15 straw poll on DailyKos, perhaps the most influential liberal blog, beating Mr. Obama 38 percent to 26 percent. In addition, the Democratic fundraising Web site Act Blue has raised nearly $3 million for his campaign through more than 30,374 individual donations. Mr. Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, has been a frequent presence online, writing her own blog entries and sending out regular e-mails to supporters.
A prominent liberal blog, Talk Left, praised Mr. Edwards after the town hall event for knowing “how to talk about Iraq,” endorsing his position that Democrats should continue sending President Bush an Iraq war supplemental spending bill with a binding timetable for withdrawal of American forces.
The Obama and Edwards campaigns should receive a fundraising boost after their strong finishes in the poll. MoveOn has set up a page directing its members to make direct financial contributions to whichever candidate they felt gave the strongest performance.
“We’ve definitely seen increased traffic,” said Eric Carbone, Internet director for the presidential campaign of Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., who got 6 percent in the MoveOn poll. “And we attribute that to the MoveOn forum.”
In the summer of 2003, MoveOn gave a significant boost to the Democratic presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, when he won 44 percent of the vote of 317,000 MoveOn members who cast votes in an online straw poll.