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.