The Northwest has been out of the picture for so long as a national player in the primaries that we’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to have a say in the winnowing process – before our major choices are limited to two. Washington thought in 2004 it might be a significant factor in the Democratic primaries (there was no contest on the Republican side then), but it didn’t really turn out that way.
Oregon and Idaho haven’t been players for quite a few cycles now, largely because their primary elections are set in May. (Washington’s main primaries have been in September, which required a breakoff of the presidential activities for early in the year.)
Was not always this way.
Through much of the 20th century, Oregon was a significant stop on Primary Way, periodically a turning point. In 1912 the Oregon primary gave then-insurgent candidate Theodore Roosevelt an important boost with a landslide vote over incumbent President (and Roosevelt protege) William Howard Taft. Oregon was a substantial stomping ground for John Kennedy in 1960 and Richard Nixon in 1968 – the state got an extensive look at both those years, pre-nomination. (The semi-legendary Democratic politician Monroe Sweetland wrote a piece for the Oregon Historical Quarterly in 2000 on “The Underestimated Oregon Presidential Primary of 1960.”) It gave Senator Frank Church an important head of steam (albeit temporary) in 1976. All of which seems fitting, in the state where the primary got its big start.
Maybe some of that history will help the new push to break off the presidential primary in Oregon, and set it for February 5 – the fifth election date in primary season, and early enough that it may matter.
The idea got a blogosphere push last week when two founders of Blue Oregon, Kari Chisholm and Jesse Cornett, floated the idea. It’s now moved to another level, with the chairs of both major parties backing the idea.
“People tend to forget about Oregon in the primaries, and that’s wrong,” says Oregon GOP Chairman Vance Day.
Oregon Democratic Chairman Jim Edmunson concurs, saying that Oregon’s late primary “is largely meaningless.”
The major objection, presumably, would be cost. So the question is: How much is participation in selection of the next president worth? Considering the stakes, it should be worth quite a bit.Share on Facebook