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OR: Obama and Merkley

It’s a measure of Oregon Senator Gordon Smith‘s residual support in Oregon that he is able to run so far ahead of his party’s presidential nominee, John McCain.

As this is written, with about 45% of the vote counted, Obama is romping in Oregon with 56% to 41% for McCain. His 77% in Mulnomah County isn’t especially remarkable, but his 52% in Deschutes County (Bend) certainly is, and so is his 53% in Jackson County (Medford). Is congressional district 2 in the verge of purpledom? With 87% of the vote counted, he’s narrowly ahead in Yamhill County – and that is no doubt a shock to a lot of people. At this point, he seems to be carrying 16 counties. Only Deschutes and Wasco east of the Cascades, true, but highly impressive anyway. Few Oregon Democrats manage that.

Bringing us to the exciting Senate race between Republican Smith, the two-term senator, and Democrat Jeff Merkley, who is now leading by a single percentage point (48% to 47%). Merkley’s lead is built out of the traditional Democratic counties plus the tri-met area: Multnomah of course (68%, notably less than Obama), plus Washington, Clackamas, Columbia, Clatsop, Hood River, Lincoln, Benton and Lane. Three small rural counties (Sherman, Gilliam, Morrow) haven’t reported yet, but they’re almost certainly Smith counties.

Merkley [corrected to reflect intent, as noted in a comment] probably has a slim edge, since only 28% of Multnomah’s vote is yet in, one of the smaller reporting percentages around the state – odds are it will be just enough to see him through. What seems clear is that polling that led a lot of people to see Merkley running away with this race (not, it should be said, that he ever gave any indication he thought that was true) probably should have been taken in a more conservative light.

Dang, this thing is close.

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