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Posts published in April 2008

The yard sign metric

No, not so much the number of yard signs in front of houses or on property (though there is that, too). Rather, in this case, the ease with which a supporter can actually go get a yard sign.

That's often not as simple as you might think. While campaigns may aggressively seek out some prime spots for signage, what seems like a diminishing number of campaigns actually make it easy for an interested supporter to simply get one.

So check this out from the Steve Novick (U.S. Senate in Oregon) campaign: Detailed instructions on where exactly to get signs, and lists and maps of 25 places around the state (spottier in the east, but then most human organization is) where they can be had. Many pointed to supporters, who in turn will help build the organization.

Robo-Oregon, too

The current dustup over robo-calls - effectively a kind of push polling without the poll - in North Carolina (where state officials have started an investigation) apparently extends much further. As in, to the Northwest.

The same group apparently has sent out a bunch of mailers in Oregon, asking recipients to register to vote. (They screwed up, though: By the time it reached their targets, the registration deadline had passed.) An example has been posted on the Talking Points Memo web site.

Fort Hall’s big casino

Tribal casinos around the Northwest are a varied lot. Some of them are large scale operations, smaller than a large Vegas casino but still big enough to support large hotels (the Grand Ronde, the Coeur d'Alene, among others). But some of them are small-scale operations, like the little (and barely remembered) casino at Burns.

Fort Hall in eastern Idaho, between Pocatello and Idaho Falls (close to 200,000 people live within 50 miles or so), is on the smaller side, its casino near the reservation's main community focusing principally on bingo. You have to figure tribal leaders have been thinking expansion for some time. Apart from the nearby population base, there's solid road transport (it's near the merger of Interstates 86 and 15), and the nearest sizable casinos are about 150 miles away, at Jackpot, Nevada. If it became more of a destination point, it could draw strong Utah traffic.

The tribe said today that it plans a major expansion of just that sort - an 80-acre resort including a hotel with 200 rooms (which will make it one of the largest in eastern Idaho), a golf course, a water park (out in the desert) and more. Work on it is expected to begin in a few months. (Since this is all happening on reservation land, regulatory hurdles should be minor.)

This may be on the short list of big stories of the year for eastern Idaho. It could change the dynamic of the reservation and its relationship with the communities in the area.

The McDermott money

Jim McDermott

Jim McDermott

The Jim McDermott legal case is done, with McDermott's payment of a $1 million court judgment to John Boehner, the House minority leader. (The suit had to do with Washington Representative McDermott's release of a recording of an overheard phone conversation.) The case was a civil lawsuit between two private parties, meaning that Boehner legitimately could have pocketed the money. Instead, he said he will donate it to Republican candidates - which would seem to sting McDermott.

A Boehner spokesman was quoted, "I wouldn't expect he'll receive a lot of thank-yous come November."

Maybe not, considering how appreciated an extra million will be to the various Republican campaign funds running hard-up this year.

Although and unless: McDermott, who has had a legal expense trust fund in place for the case (part of the money for the settlement came from it, the rest from his campaign treasury), could do a make-good by setting up another fund: One to counter the money he just game Boehner.

Just a thought.

Registration: A year’s comparatives

The recent raft of stories about shifts and increases in voter registration in Oregon - especially the pickup in Democratic numbers - have tended to look at the short run of the last three or four months. Which has generated some interesting stats, but we thought we'd take a little longer look - the numbers from March 2007 compared to March 2008.

The Oregonian reported a couple of days ago, for example, that "Oregon Democrats, who began the year with about 70,000 more registered voters than Republicans, have doubled that advantage, which stood Friday at 826,984 Democrats to 685,344 Republicans."

So what over the course of a year?

In March 2007, Democratic registrants in Oregon totaled 767,214, and Republicans 703,564 - a gap of somewhat over 63,000. In March 2008: Democrats, 803,042 (a gain of around 35,000), and Republicans 685,469 - a loss of about 18,000. Two points: A Democratic gain has been underway for an extended period, throughout the last year; but about 22,000 voters of it - a big portion - has emerged in just the last few weeks. (But might some of those be primary election switchers? The March-March count comparison does control for that to a degree.)

As of the Secretary of State's March reports, Democrats are in the majority in Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Hood River, Lane, Lincoln, Multnomah (approaching 3-1 there), Tillamook, Wasco, and Washington. In March 2007, Clackamas and Washington were majority Republican.

Even in the smaller counties, you see some fallout. Baker County Democrats went from 3,009 to 3,013, and Republicans fell from 4,809 to 4,749 - down 60, in a county with fewer than 8,000 voters and very little Democratic official presence. (In Multnomah County, Republicans lost about 4,000 registrants.)

Another point worth making: The number of non-affiliateds dropped from March to March, from 441,491 to 431,773 - about 10,000.

One more thing. Oregon's most heated major contest this year looks to be the U.S. House race in District 5, and the party registration shifts may have something to say about that. Not much noted so far has been the shift in registration in the 5th, which usually has been described as a very close or maybe Republican-leaning district (and understandably, when you see that most of the legislators there are Republican).

However. In March 2007, Democrats there numbered 143,301, and Republicans 149,474. Last month, Democrats totaled 149,377 and Republicans 145,692 - a gain of about 6,000 and a loss of about 4,000, respectively, and a switch in preference. (Non-affiliated lost about 5,000 in the 5th.) That could be enough to make a difference in an otherwise close race, as this one prospectively could be.

A liquidity quotient

The metric shouldn't be overstated - we say here over and over that while money is important in political campaigns, it isn't all, and candidates outspent by their opponents win more often than you would think.

Still, a chart of House races - races involving an incumbent seeking re-election, not an open seat - comparing candidates' cash on hand (according to the most recent reports), got our attention. (It was compiled at the website Swing State Project.) That's partly because of the race at the very top of the list nationally, the number one race for a challenger with much more cash on hand than the incumbent:

Idaho's 1st District, where Democrat Walt Minnick has $327,909 on hand, to incumbent Republican Bill Sali's $124,191 - 264% more. Only one other race in the country (in a Texas district) has nearly so large a challenger advantage.

However, in fourth place on the list, we do find another Northwest race: Democrat Darcy Burner, with $921,615 on hand, to incumbent Republican Dave Reichert's $698,035, in the Washington 8th.

There are just 10 races in the country featuring an challenger who has more money banked than does the incumbent; those are the only two in the Northwest.

Ammons from elsewhere

We wrote a bit last week about the departure of Dave Ammons, the dean (is that still proper terminology?) of the Washington statehouse press corps, from his perch as head of that Associated Press office. But another remark seems worth note here too.

That comes from David Goldstein of Horse's Ass, who reflects on his interactions with Ammons over the years. A view from the inside - an inside - worthy of a look. And an indicator, buried within, of the power of the AP.

The Paul factor

There's a temptation to just sort of forget about the Republican presidential primary in Oregon. All the main party organizational backing has either coalesced behind Arizona Senator John McCain, or at least isn't standing in the way. McCain has, among other things, the newspaper endorsements and something more powerful: Enough delegate votes to essentially ensure his nomination for president. He will sweep the Republican primary in Oregon; that is not in doubt.

All a given. But.

Traveling around the Willamette Valley last Friday, we noticed just two presidential candidates with signage along the highways and some of the far-flung residential areas we saw. We spotted some signs for Democrat Barack Obama. But those were heavily outnumbered by the front-running sign-placer in the region: Republican Ron Paul.

Paul's supporters seem not to be giving up, even if their guy obviously isn't going to be the nominee. You ee the indications all over; a news story from Nevada today, for example, led with this: "Outmaneuvered by raucous Ron Paul supporters, Nevada Republican Party leaders abruptly shut down their state convention and now must resume the event to complete a list of 31 delegates to the GOP national convention."

So, what of Oregon . . .

Don’t watch this at work

Hadn't watched the Ron Wyden health plan video; just didn't quite seem to make it to the top of the stack. An e-mail this morning from Wyden's office included a number of reviews of it, suggesting there might be some entertainment value there. Call us dubious - an entertaining video on a senator's health care plan.

Well, it is. We'll give it a thumbs up. But as the e-mail points out, you might want to watch this somewhere other than in an easily observed computer at your workplace. This video actually has a subversive edge: The theme that Wyden's health plan upholds "the fundamental right of every American to take this job and shove it."

And, from Idaho, where Paul just delivered a talk at Caldwell: "The self-professed reluctant candidate packed the house Friday as more than 900 people filled the College of Idaho's Jewett Auditorium to capacity to see Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul."

This thing could win some converts.

OR Pres: The delegate split

Among the various reforms of the presidential nomination process the parties - this applies especially to the Democrats - might consider for 2012, high up on the list ought to be simplifying delegate selection and apportionment. It ought to be simple enough that a lay audience can grasp it. Really isn't right now.

Having said that, a few words on what's at stake: The delegates Oregon will select. As we understand it. (If anyone spots a flaw in what follows, please notice it in the comments. Thanks.)

It's becoming, rapidly, very hot out here. Former President Bill Clinton will be back this weekend, even visiting a high school (at McMinnville) about five miles from our home base, among other places ranging from North Bend to Portland. We expect the Obama crew will be back soon too before long.

According to the records of the Democratic National Committee, Oregon's convention delegation will total 74 people. Of those, nine will be alternates, so that leaves 65 delegates as such. 12 will be "superdelegates" (top elected officials and party officers). The convention will select additional six of delegates who are elected officials or party leaders, and an "unpledged add-on", who likely will be former Governor Barbara Roberts.

The remaining delegates - meaning, their presidential preferences - will be selected in the May 20 primary, in two different ways. A dozen will be "at large" - selected based on the statewide vote. The other 34 will be selected by congressional district, split among the five House districts in the state; the districts get more or fewer delegates based on the Democratic vote there. So District 2, the eastern Oregon district that runs very heavily Republican, gets just five delegates; District 3, the central Portland district which is as strongly Democratic, gets nine. District 5 gets six, and 1 and 4 get seven apiece.

So how many delegates might Obama and Clinton get? Because of the proportionality rules, neither will likely pull any massive advantage out of Oregon. If Obama wins with a clear margin, he will probably pad his lead over Clinton by five or six delegates, but probably not more than that. (Everyone may be wondering the day after: Is this all that sound and fury was about? Well, maybe that and bragging rights.)

There's a thorough analysis up in a diary on Daily Kos, breaking down the likely outcome by category and district. Because a massive statewide win would be needed to do better than tie in the at-large delegate counts, diarist Skaje figures Obama may take those 7-5, though a tie is nearly as likely. But figures Obama takes one-delegate leads in four of the congressional districts, and ties in District 5 (actually, he figures a win there but not enough to split the delegates 6-4, which would require a landslide). The net result would be 29-23 if Obama wins much more than 10%, and 28-24 if by less.

A lot of fuss over very few votes.

UPDATE As e've half suspected, a couple of the procedural details were wrong: A state Democratic official (involved with writing the rules) got in touch with the straight data. The post has been updated to reflect that.

His take on the Kos post was that the analysis was less than thorough, considering as it did just one poll result and some questionable congressional district outcomes. But the feeling was that the diarist's end result - a very small number of delegates realistically at stake - was about right.