While it was expected that his gains from last month would continue, Chris Dodd has surprised even me by shooting all the way to second place in the Dailykos straw poll. After 3,633 votes, here are the current results, which tend to only change from this point based on stuffing (last month's results in parenthesis):
Edwards: 31.5% (39)
Dodd: 23.2% (7)
Obama: 15.8% (21)
Clinton: 9.5% (11)
Other: 7.1% (5)
Kucinich: 5.0% (6)
Unsure: 4.6% (5)
Biden: 1.8% (1)
Richardson: 1.5% (1)
This is interesting for several reasons, many of which are more blogosphere and progressive movement centric than they are 2008 centric. Consider the following:
- Chris Dodd still languishes in last place in the Democracy for America straw poll. Even though that poll has been heavily stuffed by at least Al Gore supporters, and probably those of several others, that Dodd remains in last at DFA suggests that his rise at Dailykos is not widespread in the progressive netroots community.
- Had Dodd's increase been accompanied with a simultaneous rise in small donors, volunteers, and email sign ups for Dodd? Media buzz from a major blog is certainly helpful, but so are the resources the blogosphere can provide to help run a campaign. As of September 30th, Dodd had actually received the second fewest small contributions of any Presidential candidate except Gravel, and he didn't even lead Gravel by much (source). If the support for Dodd is deep, this should change instantaneously, as blog favorites are known for having a large amount of small contributions. If there has not been a large increase, that would be quite telling.
- Even if there was a widespread pro-Dodd shift in the progressive netroots community as a whole, and even if that shift was translating into massive activist support, would it even be possible for the blogosphere and the netroots to make a big difference for a candidate such as Dodd? During the first four months of 2003, Howard Dean averaged 15.3% across ten polls of New Hampshire. By way of contrast, Chris Dodd's best showing in New Hampshire has been only 3%, less than one-fifth of Dean's starting position, and he hasn't achieved that number since July. Dean also started at 5.5% in Iowa, according to the four polls conducted in that state during the first four months of 2003, whereas Dodd has never risen above 2% in any poll of Iowa. Dean was also facing far less well-known and well-financed competition. In 2003, on the Democratic side, Dean's opponents had raised about $69M at the end of Q3 (source), and no one had a name ID in excess of 65%. By way of contrast, three Democrats have name Ids in excess of 90% this time around, and they have raised funds in excess of $206M. Dodd is facing a far, far more formidable situation than Dean.
Now, with all of this in mind, what does it say about the netroots and the 2008 campaign? First, I think it shows quite clearly that the blogosphere is not of one mind on anything, and isolated islands and fragmentation might be emerging to a degree they did not in the past. Second, I think it also demonstrates that the blogosphere is not the primary activist engine of the netroots, and that it is more of a buzz machine. Third, it shows once again that it is virtually impossible for the netroots to accomplish anything on their own, and that we have more success with campaigns, candidates and ideas that have a solid footing offline beforehand. Fourth, it might also show that growing numbers of the blogosphere are starting to view both the Edwards and Obama campaigns as long shots too, so if you are going to support a long shot there is no need to restrict your choices to the second tier. Fifth, and finally, it confirms to me what I have always thought about the ideological bent of the netroots for some time: foreign policy and civil liberties issues are of the most importance to progressive netroots activists, and the willingness to show some fight against Republicans and conservatives are far more important than the specifics of policy proposals will ever be.
Dodd's huge performance in the Dailykos straw poll provides lots of food for thought, both on the blogosphere and the 2008 Presidential campaign. If nothing else, the straw poll certainly is a lot more interesting than most of the other campaign happenings these days.
Update: As far as the second bullet point above is concerned, the Dodd campaign has told me that they raised "well over" $200K entirely in small donations during the two days last week when Dodd announced he would filibuster. Also, traffic to the Chris Dodd campaign website has increased ten fold, and "tens of thousands" of new people have singed up for the email list. So, there has been some real activism. Whether that momentum continues, and then whether the activism reaches a critical mass to start changing the public opinion polls, remains to be seen. The dkos straw poll could still yet prove to be a leading indicator on this one.