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Dean places first in online ‘primary’

In one of the first tests of Democratic presidential contenders’ appeal, Howard Dean won the most votes in an Internet primary run by, a grass-roots group that opposed the Iraq war
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In one of the first tests of Democratic presidential contenders’ appeal, Howard Dean won the most votes in an Internet primary run by, a grass-roots group that opposed the Iraq war. But Dean fell short of the 50 percent needed to win the endorsement of the group, which claims a 1.4 million membership.

More than 317,000 people voted in what billed as “the first ever Internet primary,” with Dean garnering nearly 44 percent of them.

Placing second was Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio with 24 percent.’s anti-Iraq war orientation gave a decided advantage in its primary to the two contenders who have been most outspoken in opposing President Bush’s Iraq policy, Dean and Kucinich.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who voted for last October’s use-of-force resolution that gave Bush the authority to invade Iraq, placed third with 16 percent.

The other Democratic contenders each finished with less than four percent of the total.

Perhaps the best known Democratic contender, the party’s 2000 vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, was able to win only about 2 percent of the vote — an indication of how his support for the Iraq war jeopardizes his chances with the left wing of the party. co-founder Wes Boyd told reporters he was encouraged by the turnout of more than 317,000. In comparison, about 156,000 people voted in the 2000 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary.

In a statement released after announced the results, Dean said, “Our campaign was built on mouse pads, shoe leather, and hope. Today, we see just how far that combination can go: We have won the primary by a landslide.”

ANOTHER VOTE POSSIBLE Boyd said the group might conduct another Internet primary, but it would not occur before the end of the summer. He said the group would survey the membership to determine when to hold another vote.

Alluding to Dean’s failure to reach the 50 percent threshold needed to win the endorsement, Boyd said, “Clearly, if we had endorsed somebody it would have been a much stronger statement.”

And Boyd made a point of highlighting the nearly 3,000 people who voted for retired Gen. Wesley Clark who has been positioning himself for a possible late entry into the Democratic race.

“I was personally surprised Wesley Clark did get almost one percent of the vote on the write-in,” said Boyd.

Assessing the outcome, Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, who is not affiliated with any of the presidential campaigns, said, “What was most surprising to me was how unrepresentative this was of where the Democratic primary electorate is in national polling. This was very much of out of synch” with national polls and with surveys in the first caucus and primary states, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Recent polls in Iowa show Kerry, Dean, Lieberman, and Rep. Dick Gephardt as the most popular contenders. Lieberman places first in most national surveys of Democratic voters.

Rosenberg also noted that only about 22 percent of the membership voted in the primary. “This was a small sample of a small group,” he said.

Some Democratic contenders had alleged that the primary was tilted to favor Dean, with a Gephardt campaign spokesman, Erik Smith, last week calling the event “rigged.”

Before the results were announced, Robert Gibbs, a spokesman for John Kerry, told the Associated Press, “We’ve never believed that we would win this. We always believed this was a made-for-Howard Dean primary.”

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.