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Posts published in May 2008

The statewides

And we thought the two statewide contests - for attorney general and seretary of state - were going to be tighter than this. As the numbers come in, they aren't looking very close at all.

We thinly thought state Representative Greg Macpherson would emerge a little ahead, though the back-and-forth in the last few weeks seem to have damaged him. Definitely seem to have damaged him: Law professor John Kroger seems to be emerging (with more than a quarter of the vote in) with a not overwhelming but a decisive win. Chalk one for the conventional wisdom (this being one of the few places where we departed from it). A possible secondary factor: Kroger ran as a boat-rocker and Macpherson didn't; and this looks like a boat-rocking year.

But if so, how to explain the sweeping Kate Brown win in the secretary of state's race? She seems to be headed toward an outright majority win in a race with three major and strong contenders, racking up about twice the vote for fellow Senator Rick Metsger and around three times that of Senator Vicki Walker. The money for marketing undoubtedly helped, but that doesn't seem likely to be the only factor. Of the three, Walker was the one who was out to seriously rattle cages, while Brown focused more on capable administration and broadly-based issues.

These two contests pulled in different directions. So what will that say for the rest of the ballot?

The numbers race

The other Oregon contest this evening is, of course, who reports reports the election results fastest. So - now as the polls close and the numbers await release - we'll keep a look by way of checking on various sources.

Wil be updating. Among those checked will be the secretary of state's office (unofficial numbers), KGW-TV (which will draw from the Associated Press), the Oregonian (do they have a chart up or are we missing it?) and nationally at Talking Points Memo.

Back soon.

UPDATE The sec state's numbers were up fairly fast, but they accumulated faster at KGW - and in the presidential (not in the other contests) faster yet at Talking Points Memo, which was first to report past the 50% mark.

UPDATE 2 Once the Oregonian chart was up, it was quick and delightfully thorough. And they had a good early call in the 5th District Republican contest. 50 minutes in, this has become the best place to check for details.

Spotlight on Oregon

The spotlight tomorrow - nationally - turns to Oregon, and not just because of that Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton thing. Maybe not mostly, because barring a shocker Obama should put that one away (in Oregon, while losing in Kentucky). That seems not a difficult call; the mass rally Sunday only seemed to put an exclamation point on it.

No, among the serious political watchers, you've got two others going on, real posers both.

Yesterday your scribe filled out a punditology entry in the contest run by Blue Oregon's/Mandate Media's Kari Chisholm: Pick the winners, and the most nearly correct pundits get bragging rights. (No cash awards in this one.) Most of the questions seemed clear-cut enough; we may have guessed right or wrong, but (recognizing that upsets always do happen) established political equations suggest a reasonably definitive answer in most races. But not two of the biggest.

The Democratic primary for U.S. Senate between House Speaker Jeff Merkley and attorney Steve Novick just denies any easy analysis. After indecisively punching the buttons for each of them several times, we uneasily settled on Merkley on grounds that polling has indicated (softly) an uptick for him, and his advertising seemed to sink in at a critical moment. But two weeks ago we'd have clicked on Novick with less hesitation, and his campaign certainly hasn't slacked. This is an aggravatingly difficult call; neither win would be remotely surprising.

It has gotten significant national attention. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza blogged today that "Merkley's difficulties in the campaign to date should raise questions about whether or not he can topple the likable Smith. . . . [Although:] Assuming Lunsford [a Kentucky Senate candidate] and Merkley win tomorrow, both of these seats will remain on the national radar screen throughout the summer and fall. If either or both fall, it could take two seats off the table in November." (On the other hand, Novick has so exceeded expectations in bringing this race, once thought to be solidly in Merkley's command, that how could you so easily write him off for the general if he topples the party favorite and presumed frontrunner?)

The Republican battle in the 5th District is a little different, a collection of drastic shifts, from an of-course presumption that veteran candidate and former legislator Kevin Mannix would take it, to a massive ramp up in ferocious advertising (coming up with truly creative branding of Mannix - as a tax increaser of all things?) by businessman Mike Erickson and polling putting Erickson in a clear lead. And then last week, Mannix' release of a two-year old e-mail alleging among other things that Erickson had paid for an abortion for a woman with whom he'd had a relationship several years back. There may be a reason Mannix didn't release it until near the end of a campaign when he appeared to headed down (and why incumbent Democrat Darlene Hooley, who had the mail last cycle, declined to use it): When you set off a bomb, you can't control where and who the explosion will hit. The weight of opinion by pundits (the Oregonian editorial page, for one) and activists over the last week has seemed to side with Mannix. But the hard truth is that no one will know how this plays until we see the ballot numbers. Our best guess? We suspect Mannix will prevail - that seems to be the feel in the air. But we also think about a long ramble last weekend in rural parts of the 5th, and noticing plenty of Erickson signage and hardly any for Mannix. No result (including a landslide for one or the other) will be a total shock here.

The whole explosive abortion angle has drawn significant national attention to the Oregon 5th too, and for good reason: This is, logically, a highly competitive district. But who will the Republicans present as a nominee? And what condition will they be in?

Much of interest to blog about here, in 24 hours or so . . .

UPDATE The stats on the Oregon pundit community's prediction - what you might consider the collective wisdom of the group - has been posted.

75,000

In mid-August 2004 we swung by a rally in Portland on the waterfront near downtown held by then-Democratic nominee John Kerry. It was enormous. Our eyeball estimate ran to somewhere over 20,000, but ground-level viewing was incomplete. Official estimates put the number at approaching 50,000.

Today's rally by candidate - not even yet nominee, and still strongly contested - Barack Obama drew, according to fire department estimates, about 75,000. It must be the largest single audience for a political rally ever in Oregon; it could be the largest ever in the Northwest (certainly bigger than any in Idaho).

That could represent close to a tenth of all the ballots cast, in both parties, in the current primary election. (So far, 582,998 ballots have been returned so far, so the number should hit three-quarters of a million or so; maybe more - probably around 100,000 more than four years ago.)

The numbers from Obama's last Oregon stop of the primary, at Pendleton, will of course be a lot smaller. But they'll be interesting to see, too.

Early and often

There's a fun general-purposes discussion on the primary wind-down on Oregon Media Insiders - an open thread in which writers talk about the campaigns and especially their interaction with the media.

One standout point came from a commenter who, in an Oregon election window of three weeks between ballot mailout and election day deadline, disapproves of early voting: "voting before election day is ill-advised. . . . I wonder how many Republicans are now wishing they could change their vote in the Mannix-Erickson race, and how many more will wish they could if it becomes clear who's lying. Another problem with early voting is that it short-circuits campaigns that depend on voter education (these tend to be liberal/progressive in nature). In the past decade I've seen several good candidates/measures go down to a close defeat (and several bad ones eke out a close victory) despite polls showing a clear trend in the other direction in the last days of the campaign. Surely early voting played a role in at least some of these outcomes."

A point of interest, though we take the opposite view: If enough people vote early, last-minute gotchas - which often constitutes much of the really ugly stuff - tends to get short-circuited. Generally speaking, voters are better off without it. By the time the ballots go out, pretty much all of what you need to know (or at is, is useful) about a candidate is already out there. Spreading out the voting tends to reflect a broader view of who and what the candidates are about, rather than just one 11th-hour punch to which the other side has little chance to respond.

As negative as this primary has been in Oregon, it might have been moreso with one-day voting. And at least, there's been plenty of time for give and take, rather than just the give.

Gregoire up

Once again, watch the trend line. Rasmussen Reports has a fresh poll out today on the Washington governor's race, but what's useful is how it compares to earlier results.

In late February, Rasmussen had Democratic incumbent Chris Gregoire at 46% and Republican challenger Dino Rossi at 47% - essentially a tie. In late March the results were nearly identical, except that Gregoire now led by one point. This week (a month and a half later), Gregoire is reported to have opened a 52%-41% lead over Rossi.

What happened?

Proving intent

washington courts What's in your shopping cart? What combination of products do you happen to have there? To what uses might it be put? And who's watching you while you're shopping? If these sound like questions bent toward paranoia, you probably haven't read today's Washington Supreme Court decision in Washington v. Montgomery.

This is a criminal case: Virgil Montgomery, 60, was convicted of possession of pseudoephedrine with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. That he and his shopping partner, Joyce Biby, 63, purchased pseudoephedrine - within several boxes of cold medicine - is undisputed. But how do you prove what the two of them planned to do with it?

Washington state law sets a pretty low bar for such proof, and there's the issue. (more…)

ID: Primaries to legislate by

The new blog Paleomedia at Boise last month did what we typically do here - picked out 10 top legislative primary contests in the Gem State. It was a reasonable list and worth your review (at the link), though there have been a few shifts of circumstance since, and we have a few alternative views. So, this list of 10 notable primary contests: Not in order of likelihood of incumbent ouster or the like, but rather in terms of interest - how much the results may tell us.

There are 29 contested primaries in Idaho (not a high number when the excuse given for sweeping Republican dominance is that, well, the primaries function for the sifting out. Well no, not very well.) We'll note PaleoMedia ranking too. Incumbents marked with *.

bullet 1 - District 14 House A: Mike Moyle*, Star; Nancy Merrill, Eagle. (PM: not listed) This admittedly is a little weird, since Merrill has practically no chance of winning: She is a write-in candidate, and just recently announced as such. What's curious here (would be interesting to look inside her mental processes) is that Merrill, a former mayor of Eagle (the major community in this district) was apparently considering a serious on-ballot run against Moyle, the House majority leader, before dropping out of that. Maybe this gets too subtle for interest by anyone but the poli sci crowd, but we'll be watching to see just how many write-in votes - meaning, how many in-party protesters to Moyle and his rural-based approach to legislating - Merill does get. (more…)

Breaking bad news

Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson

Kevin Mannix

Kevin Mannix

The hottest Oregon race at this moment is a U.S. House hot enough to break through to the national political dialogue, and hot enough that the Oregonian seems to suggest one of the two main contenders drop. Whichever is in the wrong, that is.

The 5th District Republican nomination race - contenders being businessman and 2006 nominee Mike Erickson and former legislator and state office candidate Kevin Mannix - has become nearly unpredictable. It could take another twist, of course, if one of the candidates turns out to have a teflon shield against the newly-dropped bomb. But . . .

The bomb was Mannix' release of an e-mail, and followup statements (supported by the writer of the mail) saying that Erickson (who has run on a strong pro-life campaign) in 2000 impregnated a much younger woman and paid for her abortion; there are subsidiary charges (such as cocaine use) as well. Erickson has denied the substance, and argues Mannix is releasing the material because he is behind in the polls (which he seems to be); otherwise, he has maintained a low profile since the story broke. Mannix said he wanted to show what kind of person Erickson is. Mannix met with the Oregonian on Tuesday, and the paper said in an editorial today that "for the moment he appears to have the superior credibility."

A few thoughts. (more…)

Guesswork in the air

Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley

Steve Novick

Steve Novick

The big battle this morning over at Blue Oregon has to do with the latest polling results - two of them - in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary.

The Portland Tribune and KPTV-TV poll (Davis/Hibbits poll, 4.8% MOE) has attorney Steve Novick leading House Speaker Jeff Merkley 29%-23%. The other, third in a series of SurveyUSA polls (MOE 4%), has Merkley moving in a lead (after being behind previously), 31%-27%.

Two things jump out from both of these polls.

One is the high percentages still being attributed to the other, lesser-known candidates. Candy Neville has turned in some solid debate performances, but she doesn't have a large-scale campaign, and we'd be stunned if she got the 11% SUSA now projects (Hibbitts' 3% seems closer to the mark), and the others aren't likely to reach much past a percentage point each.

More striking is the large number of still-undecided voters - 43% according to Hibbitts, 24% according to SUSA.

Bearing in mind the margins of error, the high votes for the other candidates and the massive undecideds, the take-away from these polls seems obvious: No one knows what the hell is going to happen.

If asked

Can't pass this one up. The Hill newspaper at D.C. asked all of the U.S. senators - all but the three running for president - what they would say if asked to join a ticket and run for vice president.

A few suggested that, sure, if asked, they'd probably do it, or at least give it serious thought. (Great answer from Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson: “I would not be so presumptuous as to think I’d even thought about that. And I’d have to talk to my wife. Hey, that’s an honest answer.” And it doubtless is.)

Senators Gordon Smith of Oregon and Mike Crapo of Idaho simply dismissed the prospect; Patty Murray of Washington said she would be "honored" but figure the prospect unlikely. Maria Cantwell of Washington: “Does that include any sports picks or anything like that? … I would certainly consider it.”

Ron Wyden of Oregon had a more involved answer: “I have a unique perspective on this. I am the only senator to have announced I am not running for president because there should be someone here to serve as the Senate’s designated driver. I intend to stay in that position. The Senate needs a designated driver to stay behind and work on healthcare.”

But first place for top answer goes to Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig (whose recent background surely needs no description here). Succinct: “I would say ‘No, Hillary.’ ”

Too late the explosion?

The three-week mail-in stretch for Oregon voters, the period from when they get their ballots to the deadline for submitting them, has subsidiary effects, including the difficulty of running a hard last-minute attack on one's opponent. Those 11th-hour bashings usually depend on the opposition getting little chance to respond; but what do you do when voting takes place over a three-week window?

Kevin Mannix, and his Republican primary opponent in the Oregon 5th House District, Mike Erickson, may find out. Today, Mannix released an e-mail (though only the first name of the sender) who alleges that Erickson used cocaine during wild boat parties several years back, and also paid for the abortion of a woman he had impregnated. Mannix says his campaign checked out the information and stands by it. Erickson says it simply isn't true.

The primary election deadline is a week from tomorrow. Ballot returns so far are estimated at 13%.

The release comes just as polling seems to be showing Erickson moving decisively ahead of Mannix, who had been the presumed frontrunner.

This has been a stunningly roughhouse Oregon primary season. And this big of roughness may set the new mark.