Afew quick thoughts on the just-posted Riley Research Associates statewide Oregon poll on presidential, Senate and ballot matters around the state. (Happily for analysts, crosstabs are included.)
The size of the undecideds in the presidential and Senate contests. After all these months of intensive headlines, we're struck by the large number of people who have yet to make of their minds, maybe most notably in the presidential contest - on both sides. (Maybe the Republicans especially: Nine polled-for candidates and 35% - among women, 46% - can't express support for any of them? Not that the Democrats are so very much stronger.) That suggests some serious fluidity in the two contests; a lot is up for grabs and can happen. We're not quite sure what to make of the seeming runup in former Senator John Edwards' numbers.
The low Smith numbers. Out of context, the matchup of Republican Senator Gordon Smith and Democrat Jeff Merkley (no Steve Novick numbers, unfortunately) at 38% to 19% looks not bad for Smith. But add the context. Merkley has just entered the race, and remains hardly known outside his Portland-area state House district. (His best numbers are in the Portland metro.) The polling does include Independent John Frohnmayer (7%, which sounds high), who may or may not enter. The undecideds are at 35%, which ought to be a huge red flag for Smith - undecideds usually break for challengers. Smith's 38% isn't good. And don't get us started on his 44% in central and eastern Oregon, which usually runs 65%-75% for upper-ticket Republicans. This has the look of a highly competitive race.
Backers of the ballot measures, 49 (land use) and 50 (tobacco tax), have work to do. We've suggested from the start that these measures are passable if a solid campaign for them is staged. But they are not done deals, and the current 58% for the first and 53% for the second, with substantial undecideds, isn't strong enough to allow their supporters to coast.
UPDATE Should have noted here some of the difficulties with this poll and for that matter with any poll so early - none of them would be suitable for taking to the bank. We find the numbers interesting, but no more than that - very far from conclusive. There's a useful detailed critique of this one specifically on the MyDD blog by Oregon blogger torridjoe.