Thoughts on Oregon’s Presidential Primary

By Brian McGuigan of Portland, Oregon. Brian is a recent college graduate, a political activist, and a blogger at www.brianmcguigan.com.

Before last Tuesday, pretty much everyone had written off Oregon’s May 20th primary as an afterthought. But as the results from Texas and Ohio show, the race for the Democratic nomination is far from over. This appears to provide Oregon with its most exciting -- if not significant -- primary contest since the 1968 showdown between Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy.

Certainly Oregon’s 52 pledged delegates, divided proportionally, will not decide the outcome of the national race. Considering how close this race is though, every delegate does count. That’s why both the Obama and Clinton camps are expected to gear up their campaigns here – with visits from the candidates themselves likely in the coming weeks.

Clinton state campaign chair Josh Kardon took the opportunity to lower expectations for his candidate in The Oregonian last Wednesday. “It is clear that Senator Clinton is going to need to come from behind in this state.” With no polls available though, there is no indicator telling us which way Oregonians are leaning. We do know that Oregon yields complications for both campaigns.

Whether or not Obama’s national momentum has made in-roads in Oregon remains to be seen. What is unmistakable though is that he will have to come introduce himself to voters here. Remember, Oregon’s vote-by-mail system sends ballots out weeks before May 20, around the same time as the Pennsylvania primary. So for Obama to effectively campaign here, he will have to sacrifice time in the Keystone State.

There are, however, identifiable factors that may prove injurious to Clinton’s prospects here as well. For instance, in a state that is staunchly ant-war, it’s hard to see how Oregonians will reconcile with Clinton’s vote in favor of the Iraq War Resolution. Obama, by contrast, has been publicly opposed to the war since 2002, making his candidacy much more palatable.

Moreover, Clinton’s checkered past in Oregon may come back to haunt her on May 20. Despite hosting a fund-raiser in Portland during her 2006 Senate re-election campaign, she declined to use her clout to aid local Democrats in their election contests. Obviously, this embarrassed many party officials who organized the event and lead many to the conclusion th at she took our money and ran.

There are 11 weeks to go and anything can happen. I look forward to hearing from both campaigns so that we may make the best decision for the future of our party and country -- best of luck to both of them and to those of us who are still undecided.

Comments

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    I'm not sure now that Oregon will count. It's now clear that the Clintons are not going to pull a rabbit from the hat. And HIllary's move to create race as a wedge issue in Penn. will backfire enough that she may need to concede soon, very soon. She is becoming the George Wallace of 2008.

    Howard Fineman reported on MSNBC last night that the Geraldine Ferraro remarks on Fox News were a calculated move on the part of the Clinton campaign to create race as a wedge issue in Penn. Not since 1972(the first presidential election I was able to vote in), and George Wallace has a Democratic candidate deliberately used race as a wedge to divide voters. Even if the Clintons win Penn. this will be repudiated by the Dem. party and the Clintons' legacy will be that of George Wallace, those who used division and hate to try to win elections. I think it is the end of Hillary Clinton's influence in the national but perhaps even in the state of NY. Even the talking heads on MSNBC were filled with disgust. Tonight Keith Olberman is going to do a special comment on Hillary Clinton. I think he will address forcefully this issue.

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    don't they send out ballots 2 weeks before? That'd be first week in May, well after the PA primary in 4/22, no?

    The race was over when she lost TX. She needs about 75% of the vote in PA/WV/KY to even have an inkling of a shot. Good luck with that, Hillary.

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    Bill, I'd suggest you sit down and take a deep breath. (You know a good progressive has gone over the edge, when they start quoting Howard Fineman on anything).

    Hillary is going to do well in Appalachia, because unlike the deep South, where all the racists became Republican, eastern mountain country still has poor-whites who vote Democratic so long as their skin color matches.

    But there is going to be no rabbit out of a hat. The unpledged delegates are generally letting the voters have their say, but if you listen very carefully to their comments, you can just feel their revulsion at Hillary's tactics. Her praising McCain over Obama was the last straw. From the commentary of Nancy Pelosi, I'm not even sure she's really going to be shortlisted for the VP slot.

    Again, unpledged delegates aren't aliens or members of the Illuminati. They're Democrats who have spent countless hours building the party. They will not reward people who try to split it in two.

    So as my sister in law says, take a chill pill.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    torridjoe, you're right. I guess Oregon poses no problem for Obama after all.

  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)
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    I am betting Clinton will have a very strong... MINORITY of support here in Oregon. She will lose the state. It is just a question as to by how much she will lose it.

    Obama can play well here because of the anti-war sentiment as well as the high student populations. He needs to make visits to Portland, Eugene, Salem/Corvallis and likely Bend and/or Medford. Liberals in Oregon have also become more and more involved in recent years and this will bode well for Obama's ground game in May and in the general election.

  • Opinionated (unverified)
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    For Hillary campaign staff is reading this -

    You guys are morons! Josh Kardon I read your post here sent you an email at the address you posted about supporting Hillary in her campaign in Oregon. You don't even have the courtesy to respond.

    How do you expect to make any dent in Oregon with such a poor followup. Stop talking to the press about how Hillary will need to come from behind Josh and start pounding the pavement NOW. This is a dog fight and you need every helping hand you can get.....

    Frustrated Hillary Supporter!

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    "With no polls available though, there is no indicator telling us which way Oregonians are leaning."

    Actually there have been months of head-to-head polls on SUSA from which one can infer that Obama leads handily in Oregon, and by comparison with the somewhat similar state of Washington both campaigns probably expect Obama to win by a comfortable margin. So Josh is not "lowering expectations" as you suggest.

    However I think the cheap shots at Hillary re: fundraising etc. are a little bit over-stated, and she may well defy expectations here. After all, Obama held rather selfish funraisers in San Francisco and then refused to even have his picture taken with Mayor Gavin Newsom because the mayor was championing gay marriage at the time. Obama lost California but still made a showing, including in S.F. Hillary will make a showing here, and if she actually won it -would- be a major upset. That's not lowering expectations, that's reality, though it's a nice try BCM.

    There has been a lot of activity for Hillary under the radar including house parties, debate watches, etc.

    But there's good reason to work hard for Hillary in Oregon. She is a better candidate on the environment, on health care, on women's rights, on LGBT issues and on overall readiness to be commander-in-chief. And on the war I trust her more than either of the other candidates to broker a real lasting peace if possible and end the war responsibly.

    Go Hillary!

  • BCM (unverified)
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    Obviously Clinton supporters are split on this, Chris. I'll let Opinionated respond for me:

    Stop talking to the press about how Hillary will need to come from behind Josh and start pounding the pavement NOW. This is a dog fight and you need every helping hand you can get.....

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Steve Mauer-"Bill, I'd suggest you sit down and take a deep breath. (You know a good progressive has gone over the edge, when they start quoting Howard Fineman on anything)."

    <hr/>

    Your concern is noted. Fineman and co. are a good reason for the cynical politics we have in this country. Nevertheless my read of the Clinton camp mirrors his. Hillary Clinton has gone over to the dark side in a last effort.

    I was just a little short of 21 to vote in 1968, but saw the party disintegrate through the stupidity of its leaders and lose a generation. My first election to vote was in 1972 when I saw George Wallace split off the alienated white underclass with the racial wedge. I am not going to "chill" when I see those who represent the party structure going down the same path of rubbing salt in the wound that so many have worked so hard to heal these many years. The worst can happen, and frequently does because of hubris and the greed for power.

    One lasting effect of this nomination process for this life long Dem. is the Clintons' revelation that the Dem. party is far from democratic, nor does it value universal human dignity and participation, transparency and accountability. Those who are office holders seem to value their hold on office more than anything the party professes to believe, and are more than willing to appeal to the worst inclinations of the human soul.

    Your advice is duly noted if not received.

  • Opinionated (unverified)
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    BCM - you can use my comment as your squawk box, but thats assuming anyone from the Clinton campaign is actually reading this....

  • Harry K (unverified)
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    Bill R said: "...the Clintons' revelation that the Dem. party is far from democratic, nor does it value universal human dignity and participation, transparency and accountability."

    That's what we progressives have been saying for a long time. Never thought I'd agree with you.

    Furthermore, Obama's and Clinton's Republican-lite rhetoric about foreign policy is starting to backfire, as recent polls (Antiwar Voters Trust McCain to Make Decisions About 'War on Terror') suggest that McCain wins on "war" issues.

    Right-wing Democrats' insistence on running to the right of their own constituency threatens to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. When will you learn?

  • james r bradach (unverified)
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    How can anybody trust Clinton on the war? There is no lasting peace with America, so we had better have leadership with the judgement to see who our real enemies are...we don't need to invent them. The majority of Americans have been there all along. It is a minority opinion and failed leadership that has us here in this hell today. That failure of leadership has got to stop. Holding Clinton resposible will be a great step.

  • james r bradach (unverified)
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    Mccain? Talk about a failure of leadership!

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    Bill R. wrote: "I am not going to "chill" when I see those who represent the party structure going down the same path of rubbing salt in the wound that so many have worked so hard to heal these many years. The worst can happen, and frequently does because of hubris and the greed for power."

    Exactly right, and that's why I do not support Obama or his sanctioned campaign strategy in this regard. There was absolutely no credible evidence or motive of the Clinton campaign injecting any racial message after New Hampshire, and yet Obama surrogates took to the airwaves to accuse them of such in order to undermine Hillary's African-American support and ensure Obama took South Carolina. (Is it a coincidence that this happened simultaneously with a post-NH softening of Obama's SC lead in some polls?) Obama and his surrogates opened this year's painful race rift, and if you don't see that you weren't paying very close attention. Progressive whites in the south are not racist - they pride themselves on having been champions of desegregation, affirmative action and equality. If you're a racist neanderthal you tend vote Republican, because Republicans were against the Civil Rights Act, are against affirmative action, etc.

    The Clinton campaign is not stupid - even if you think the worst of Hillary (which she does not deserve when you look at her life's work, and the whole reason she embraced the Democratic Party as a young woman) she would never drive a wedge that could only hurt her in seeking the Democratic nomination.

    The Obama camp cynically and immorally judged that the racist label would stick and would galvanize their support in African-American and among naive liberals, and they were right. Only they had anything to gain by this approach. I think Sean Wilentz, among others, does a pretty good job on the topic.

    If you want to blame someone for the awful re-awakening of this issue in this year's election, look at whose offical surrogates trumpeted it most often and most loudly, and look at basic strategy: no one wins the Democratic nomination by being a racist, that's idiotic. This whole issue and the way it has torn our party apart is disgusting, but stop spreading the implied lie that Hillary is its author. She isn't.

    Finally, if you want every vote to count, start busting your ass to see that Florida and Michigan delegates either get seated or get a re-vote. This absolutely un-democratic suggestion from the Obama camp that "we just split 'em all 50/50" is the worst kind of blatantly opportunistic disenfranchisement. I applaud your outrage; direct it at the right target, which is the we'll-participate-only-when-we-know-we-can-win Obama campaign.

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    I'm tired of the Democratic Presidential campaign right now.

    Just tired.

    Almost bored.

    And still on the fence, grateful to be observig from a safe distance.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Chris Corbell said: "The Clinton campaign is not stupid - even if you think the worst of Hillary (which she does not deserve when you look at her life's work, and the whole reason she embraced the Democratic Party as a young woman) she would never drive a wedge that could only hurt her in seeking the Democratic nomination."

    <hr/>

    Chris, I don't share your view of Hillary or Bill Clinton. Hillary has devoted her life's work to Hillary. When it was convenient she served on the Walmart board and had the gall to say how proud she was of the Walmart policies when they were servicing child labor and sweat shops to market their goods and busting unions and denying health care and decent wages to their workers. As for Bill, we all know his priorities were to servicing his penis over his country, his presidency, and his marriage.

    When the Clintons send Geraldine Ferraro, symbol that she is as first woman vice presidential candidate, to make the talk show circuit and announce that Obama is unfit to be a candidate and wouldn't be one except that he has that rare privilege to be half African in origin, then it's pretty clear that Hillary is doing a "George Wallace" on those low income whites who somehow feel resentment that some AA is out there getting something they aren't entitled to. She' morally unfit to be president. And this is from someone who worked in the '92 Clinton campaign, met Bill Clinton, and attended his inauguration at invitation. She's gone over the cliff in my view, and if the party insiders want to go with her, many potential Dem supporters are going a separate way.

    It's pretty crummy when the Clintonites do this tactic, daring Obama to respond, calling him weak when he doesn't and accuse him of playing the race card when he does. It's created a lot of bad blood, and it didn't have to be this way. Your response just typifies how this tactic plays out, and how destructive it is to the progressive cause and how helpful it is to the right wing agenda. It's not for nothing that Rush Limbaugh is teaming up with Clinton and sending his supporters to vote for her as cross overs. They love her tactics and want it to continue.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    Hillary will run all the way to the Convention unless something huge happens to her campaign. That would require something pretty unreasonable, like getting blown out of the water in PA.

    This kind of scenario is real unlikely. Observe the comments by Hillary supporters in the face of he campaign at this point. The evidence is that she keeps her base in the face of virtually anything she decides to do. Given that support, she'll go to the convention. Just how ugly she'll do it is anybody's guess.

    Yes our delegates will count.

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    Chris, that's an interesting line of attack: Obama "selfishly" raised money in northern California. I didn't realize that Clinton wasn't raising money in San Francisco. What's your source for that?

    If they are both raising money there -- and I'm guessing they are -- what distinguishes "selfish" fundraising? Top-down, usual suspect donor mining? That sure sounds a lot more like Clinton's campaign than Obama's. It's Obama who's raising money from non-traditional Democratic sources, reaching out to grass-roots donors, and tapping new universes of contributors.

    Also, Clinton supporters can bring up the Newsom photo as many times as you guys want, but that won't change the fact that both candidates support civil unions and neither support gay marriage. I think you know this. One difference though -- and I'm specifically referring to Bill Clinton here -- is that no top advisor to the Obama campaign ever suggested John Kerry back Ohio's Defense of Marriage Amendment.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    To answer your question Charlie, I would put forth that Clinton's visit to Oregon could easily be considered 'selfish' fund-raising. I'm sure there was more than enough money for her to raise in NY, but she came here to boost her rep and take our money anyways. Moreover, she refused to help any of our local Dems. All that is pretty selfish in my book.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    On electability- Good news and bad news. According to this poll US voters prefer the generic Dem to Repub by 13 %. Less good news- Obama by 3 nationally over McCain Clinton by 2 over McCain

    http://politicalwire.com/archives/2008/03/12/voters_prefer_democrat_for_president.html?disqus_reply=226151#comment-226151

    Voters Prefer Democrat for President Registered voters prefer a Democrat to be elected president by a wide margin, 50% to 37%, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. But when asked to choose specifically between Sen. John McCain and either Democratic candidate, the results in each case are a statistical tie, capturing the conflict felt by Americans voters.

    <h2>Sen. Barack Obama edges McCain by 47% to 44%, while Sen. Hillary Clinton edges McCain by a near-identical 47% to 45%.</h2>
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