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Can Kos stop McCain?

January 12, 2008

Antiwar website owner attempts to create a ‘Democrats for Romney’ movement.

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One of the strangest stories of this election cycle is the last ditch attempt by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, owner of antiwar DailyKos.com, to derail John McCain’s candidacy for the Republican nomination by encouraging Democrats to vote in the open primary in Michigan for Mitt Romney. As he says, ‘we want Romney in, because the more Republican candidates we have fighting it out, trashing each other with negative ads and spending tons of money, the better it is for us. We want Mitt to stay in the race, and to do that, we need him to win in Michigan’. Of course, I agree with him that Mitt Romney is one of the weakest of the five serious candidates that the Republicans could run (although Huckabee runs a close second) and that McCain is the strongest. However, it does raise the question as to whether this will have much impact on the contest.

There is the obvious question as to how many Democrats will take part in the primary. Although only Hillary Clinton is on the ballot there will almost certainly be an attempt by Edwards and Obama supporters to vote for the ‘uncommitted’ option on the ballot paper. Indeed, in 2000 when the Democratic primary was not on the same day, Democrats accounted for only 17% of those taking part. Although John McCain benefited greatly from such switching, he would still have beaten Bush by 4% if no democrats had voted for him. It is also debatable as to how influential Daily Kos can be. Both their preferred candidates, Wesley Clark and then Howard Dean failed in 2004 and the overwhelming favourite, John Edwards is trailing in third place. Even their defeat of Joe Lieberman in 2004, although a sign that the Democrat party had been taken over by the antiwar movement, was little different from campaigns run by those on the extremes of both parties against centrist candidates (a fact which they admitted here). In any case the voters ultimately sent both Daily Kos and Ned Lamont a message by electing Lieberman.

Although, it might blunt McCain’s support and muddy the waters a little bit, it’s impact might actually be positive if it pushes Democrats disillusioned with the dominance of antiwar activists into McCain’s camp. Indeed, Romney supporters are already trying to spin it as some sort of attempt to boost McCain through the use of reverse psychology.

What do you think? Please leave a comment below.

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