At at a little over six weeks out from November 7 - less than four till Oregonians start marking ballots - where does the race for governor stand?
Let's project a little.
Start with the averaging numbers at pollster.com, which compiles figures from a range of polls, including Moore, Zogby and Rasmussen. Pollster averages the numbers from the last five polls conducted in the race to weed outliers, and accounts for variable polling methods. Viewed since May, that rolling average has stayed remarkably stable, never significatnly widening or closing, consistently showing a seven- to nine-point lead for Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski over Republican challenger Ron Saxton. Kulongoski leads in that range prevailed last spring and, up to and through the most recent poll (a Rosmussen), it holds today. That follows a range of activities on both sides, including a major Saxton TV blitz, just now resuming, a small early one by the governor, and a good deal of publicity about the race.
Okay. Suppose the current 46%-39% polling numbers are close to accurate and remain stable, as they have the last five months, for one more month. How would that play out in the election?
First, let's assume the remaining 15% is all other, including votes for the three minor party candidates. Suppose we assign 5% of that to the minors; it could go higher, certainly, but groups of minor-party candidates like these in a field with two major-party contenders often tally in the 4%-7% range. So far, the limited public polling on the three has given Constitution Party nominee Mary Starrett around 3%-4%, with the others far behind. (Higher numbers, we suspect, would mean Starrett is eating into Saxton's support.) We'll stick with 5% total for now.
Of the remaining 10%, let's figure about two-thirds goes to the challenger. Ordinarily, undecideds tend to break to the outsider, because although they have had more time to get to know the incumbent and haven't been willing to sign on. That could be a little different this year, if a Democratic tide sweeps hard and encourages more down-the-line Democratic voting. Let's say Saxton gets 7% of the undecideds, and Kulogoski 3%.
Results: Kulongoski 49% or slightly more, Saxton 46% or slightlyless, Starrett 3%, the others about 1% each.
For the moment, we'll figure that as a reasonable default estimate. If nothing changes.