Writings and observations

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.

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Oregon

The newly newspaper-less counties in Idaho who just got word their weeklies in Shoshone and Rupert will be closed, might have another option. Over in western Washington, the same thing just happened to the small community of Orting. There, the locals didn’t just sit still for it: They up and created their own new online newspaper, with contributions from the editor of the old print version.

Via Olympia Time, we were interested to read an early edition of the new effort, the Orting News. Some Idahoans might want to swing by as well.

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Idaho Washington

T-minus a week to two (there’s some flexiblity) for the mailing, and then the marking, of primary election ballots in Oregon. (Deadline, and counting day, is May 20.) Time to take stock. Herewith, a short overview of the main races on the ballot, in this post those for major office, and upcoming a rundown of the most notable legislative contests. They’re listed more or less in order of significance (as we work it out) . . .

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

bullet President/Democratic. Has to go first – who ever would have figured three months ago that the Oregon contest might have had real national significance? And yet it could, ironically because it is so late in the season. Only one Democratic primary election date, June 3, will follow the concurrent Oregon/Kentucky contests, and both of those small states are probably gimmes for Illinois Senator Barack Obama, and Kentucky is widely considered a slam for New York Senator Hillary Clinton. Oregon is as close as it gets to a genuine end-game contest between the two. (Although be it noted: We’re in that large crowd of analysts who’ve concluded – in our case ever since the Wisconsin primary – that the only way Clint wins the nomination is through some wildly unforeseen earth-shaking event; the odds against her at this point are overwhelming.)

Not that the point should be pressed too far: We’d bet on Obama winning Oregon, albeit we’re less sure of the margins. Both campaigns are digging in deep and hard, Bill Clinton is already scheduled for a return visit, and Oregon could become scorched political country over the next month. Right now, the May 6 Indiana and North Carolina primaries necessarily get top billing and attention, but after that (assuming the race is still on) Oregon logically rises to the top of the field. Question: What impact might this have on in-state races?

Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley

Steve Novick

Steve Novick

bullet Senate/Democratic. We’d figured into the first weeks of this year House Speaker Jeff Merkley would, if not bag the race, then at least be clear frontrunner. As matters stand, this race is very hard to call. Merkley has caught hardly any breaks in the last three months, and the mistakes he has made (not an exceptional number, but they’re there) seem to have been amplified. Attorney Steve Novick has accumulated a pile of favorable press and a clear identity. Merkley is ahead in money and endorsements, but not by so much as to create an overwhelming problem for Novick. And we have to say that in travel around the state, we’ve seen more evidence of on-ground Novick activity and support (yard signs, people handing out literature and so on) than for Merkley. Pressed, we might give Novick an edge as things are playing out right now.

Not without caveats. Both candidates (and yes, there are four others too, but the winner will be one of these two) are highly substantive and knowledgeable, but much of Novick’s visibility has come by way of gimmickry: TV spots highlighting how “different” he is without highlighting
why that matters, or highlighting any issues of public import, for that matter. (Yes, he addresses them, in his usual fluent way, but at the margins, almost in the background.) Still, his latest ad, in which Novick visibly “pulls the plug” on a standard-issue spot-within-a-spot, could have the secondary effect of undercutting the just-starting Merkley TV campaign.

A hard campaign to call, much tougher than it once seemed to be (a testament among other things to just how skilled a political operative Novick is). Could be (given indicators of still-high undecideds) that it’s yet to be won, by one or the other.

Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson

Kevin Mannix

Kevin Mannix

bullet House 5/Republican. Oh, this is looking interesting. At the moment they both announced, a conventional wisdom set in about Mike Erickson (the 2006 Republican nominee here) and former legislator and gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix, the competitors for the Republican nomination. It held that Mannix, who quickly wrapped up much of the establishment party support (not just support, really – enthusiasm), has regional support locally from his days in the legislature, has pulled a long list of Republican-based endorsements so far and has deep affection from social conservatives in the party, should run the table. And that’s that.

But as in the Democratic Senate race, we have to take some pause. Mannix may win – we’re not predicting to the contrary, yet at least. But this deal may not be wrapped. Erickson has been fast out of the chute with his first TV spots, and (a light indicator) has more ground evidence of activity than Mannix so far. And time is running short. And the last big rounds of headlines people in the area have been exposed to about Mannix have mostly been less than positive (general election losses, financial issues, Loren Parks and so on). Mannix’ assets here are real and substantial, and we don’t discount them (even if they do remind us just a bit of the kind of assets Hillary Clinton had going for her last year). But in this kind of a lightning round, if Erickson continues to pour money into media, who knows for sure what may happen? An Erickson win would be an upset, but upsets do happen (and we try to be alert for them). We’ll withhold our bets for now.

Kurt Schrader

Kurt Schrader

Steve Marks

Steve Marks

bullet House 5/Democratic. Our comfort level is a little higher in pegging this one. State Senator Kurt Schrader of Canby is (in the Mannix role) the guy with the long-standing and deep ties, while Steve Marks, though a former chief of staff for then-Governor John Kitzhaber, is in spite of his background necessarily playing a more outsider role (a bit more like Erickson). The dynamic differs here, though, for several reasons. Schrader is a very experienced candidate with long-standing personal ties around Clackamas County and around Oregon Democratic politics; Marks is doubtless connected, but on a lower level. Schrader starts as much better known, and he got started earlier. You can sense their relative positions from observing that it’s Marks seeking a series of primary debates with Schrader, not the other way around.

Probably neither is wildly well known district-wide right now (both Republicans surely have better ID at this point). But the advantage seems to go to Schrader.

Kate Brown

Kate Brown

Rick Metsger

Rick Metsger

Vicki Walker

Vicki Walker

bullet Secretary of State/Democratic. Three solid candidates (we can say, having talked to all three) – state Senators Kate Brown of Portland, Vicki Walker of Eugene and Rick Metsger of Welches. Varied bases of support. Varied types of appeal. You can make an interesting and realistic case, we’d say, for any of the three surviving the primary. A win by any of them would not come as a shock. (There is a fourth candidate, Paul Damian Wells; he will surely finish a distant fourth.)

After sifting through what seems to be relevant, our best guess is that the win will go to Brown. It’s not just her money (she’s outraised the others, substantially) or endorsements, but more what that signifies: She’s been at the Statehouse since 1990 and a party leader most of that time, meaning that she can call in a lot of links and connections. She was the first of the three into the race, and from all accounts has run at least as hard as the other two. Her campaign discourse looks at the office more broadly and yet feels more honed and specific; our sense is that she’s better at projecting her message.

There again, weeks remain. We shall see.

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Oregon

Remember local, home-grown radio? It wasn’t all that long ago such a thing was commonly accepted; nowadays, it’s almost forgotten.

But now it could happen. The Boise Community Radio Project has just passed a major hurdle, getting radio transmission permission from the Federal Communications Commission, on FM frequency 89.9. They’re not on air yet, but the main obstacles remaining are mechanical and financial, and really of a smaller scale than what they just surmounted.

A local option for Boise listeners. In recent years, that qualifies as news.

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Idaho