Feb 27 2006

Opening advantages

Published by at 8:30 pm under Oregon

There is some talk that one shouldn’t put too much weight on the just-released Rasmussen Poll on the Oregon governor’s race. But while there’s something to that, the poll does suggests some points worth bearing in mind.

First, the poll results, then qualifiers and thoughts.

The poll – apparently the first of one-a-month measures expected from here to November – does not measure the primary contests, only how two of the Democrats and three of the Republicans would match up against each other in a hypothetical general election.

Overall, incumbent Democrat Ted Kulongoski comes off pretty well. He defeats all three Republicans by clear margins: Kevin Mannix by 51%-36% (15-point lead), Ron Saxton by 47%-33% (13-point lead) and Jason Atkinson by 48%-36% (a 12-point lead).

Former Treasurer Jim Hill, challenging Kulongoski in the Democratic primary, does more or less as well: He beats Mannix 47%-35% (12 points), Saxton 44%-31% (13 points) and Atkinson 42%-36% (six points).

What can we reasonably draw from this?

Well, not a lot of exactitude, even allowing for the earliness of the season. Democrats complained that Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorensen, who has been in the Democratic primary for months, was not surveyed.

Another reason for the inexactitude is that many of the candidates are largely unknown to most Oregonians. Few probably know, yet, who Atkinson is, many probably have forgotten (and not yet reminded themselves) who Saxton and Mannix are, and were trying to remember who Hill once was (among other things, the guy who came in second to Kulongoski in the 2002 gubernatorial Democratic primary). So what does it mean to pit Hill against Atkinson and get 42%-36% – probably just a general reflection that many Oregonians barely know who these guys are.

But more important (since Sorensen’s odds of a primary win are slim) was the absence of the biggest single question mark in the race: newly-minted Independent Ben Westlund. (In fairness, the poll was conducted only days after Westlund announced his entry into the race. Next month’s results presumably will include him.)

All of this is being well debated over on Blue Oregon.

Probably the most significant early indicator from the numbers, and maybe a real one, is this: Democrats, known or unknown, did comparably well against all the Republicans. This early polling does seem to indicate, in Oregon anyway, a preference for Democrats in what is looking like a Democratic year. Not a surprise, but something of a confirmation.

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