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Posts published in July 2016

An Oregon poll to watch


(Information about icitizen From their website):

“The icitizen Oregon Poll provides a non-partisan, representative read of public opinion on pressing legislative and social issues in Oregon. This installment of the Oregon Poll examines November general election matchups, key ballot measures, as well as attitudes towards the state, the economy, and personal finances.”

Presidential Race: Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump: It’s 46% Clinton, 32% Trump, and 22% undecided. Clinton has held her base, and is outperforming voter registration by 3%. Independents are split.

Governors Race: While statewide, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 11%, Governor Kate Brown leads Dr. Bud Pierce by just seven points. It’s 42% Brown, 35% Pierce, and 23% undecided. However, if you take leaners into account, Brown leads 47% to 37% with 17% undecided. Dr. Pierce beats Brown among independent voters by 10 points but that won’t be enough. If Dr. Pierce is to win he’ll need to change some Brown leaners around because it’s highly unlikely he can win 85% of the undecideds. Brown is weak but at this point Pierce is either going to have to hope for some scandal, or come up with a better reason for his candidacy.

Oregon Secretary of State: Democrat Brad Avakian leads Republican Dennis Richardson in the race for Secretary of State 36% to 32%, with 32% undecided. Avakian is under performing and Richardson is over performing in relation to voter registrations. A full 15% of Democrats, 15% of Republicans and 46% of Independents/Others are undecided. However if the leaners all vote as they lean, and the Republican and Democratic undecideds all vote their party, Richardson would have to win 85% of the independent undecided voters to win.

State Treasurer: This is the big surprise in that it’s anybody’s race. In a three-way race it’s Democrat Tobias Read with 26%, Republican Jeff Gudman at 19% and Independent Party candidate Chris Telfer at 14% with 43% undecided. Adding in leaners and it’s Read with 31%, Gudman with 23% and Telfer with 17% with 29% undecided. Gudman seems very week based on the fact that a full 31% of Republicans are undecided. Assuming those undecided Republicans are considering Telfer, not Read, Telfer could be poised to vault over Gudman and challenge Read if she can establish herself as the Democratic Alternative.

Initiative Position 28 (IP28) which would impose a 2.5% business gross receipts revenues on Oregon sales in excess of $25 million, shows 65% in favor, 19% opposed, and 16% unsure. When voters were provided with messaging in support and against the measure, support went down to 55%. So that should be considered the initial voter support level. Common wisdom is that a tax measure needs 56-57% support initially to have a chance. IP 28 has a chance. If its as close as it appears it could be, this race will suck up a substantial portion of available Democratic donor dollars. Meaning if any of the State wide races becomes more competitive, the Democrat may not be able to count on a late influx of Public employee union funds.

The Race to Watch: State Treasurer. It appears to be the most unpredictable, the highest number of undecideds. There are three viable candidates, and Republican voters could shift support to Independent Telfer unless Gudman gets some traction. Because of the largely non partisan duties of Sate Treasurer, many moderate Democrats may be willing to support a qualified Independent candidate. And, if the anti establishment anger of the electorate continues, it could be a race that voters choose to vent their frustration.

Day one


Day one of the Republican National - that is, Trump - Convention went about as well as it realistically might have. Put otherwise: Not so well.

It started with the largest, most passionate floor conflict I've watched since at least the Democrats in 1980, maybe further back than that. It wound up the way these outside challenges almost always do. The Donald Trump forces were quick to quash the opposition (some of it seemingly led from Utah), and maybe too quick: There was some fury in the crowd. Delegations from two states, Iowa and Colorado, walked out.

On the wide shots, there seemed to be an awful lot of empty seats. That may be wrong for some reason or other, but the convention looked underpopulated compared to other conventions I've watched.

Watching via television is a tricky thing when evaluating audience response, but it seemed to me that the energy of the crowd seemed drained after that. Only a few speakers seemed to really draw it out.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, is a strong speaker and seemed to get the crowd stirred, but he was just about alone in doing that. The others were an unusual mix of military people, entertainers (a couple of little-known actors with less presence), a long stretch about Benghazi that was hard to follow and seemed by now beside the point. And a too-long speech by Trump's wife. (Speeches by spouses generally should be kept brief: A note for the Democratic convention to come.) Later in the day, audience responses and applause seemed, on TV at least, to be sparse and slight.

A political convention is where among other things the two parties get to critique each other. Certainly there was no lack of blasts from the GOP at the Democrats (no doubt to be returned next week), but what was missing was a lack of coherence about what the problem was. The Obama Administration was accused of being a failure all over the place, all over the world, generally, but the specifics were largely missing, or misrepresented. What exactly was it that the administration did that hurt the country's prospects so much? There were no real through themes, no takeaways.

And I can't wait for the fact checking to weigh in today's speeches. Iowa Senator Joni Ernest remarked during one of the many fear-fear-fear segments, "Terrorists from ISIS are in every one of our 50 states." Really? How could she know that? Does she know who they are?

That was only a shadow of what the retired general, Michael Flynn, had to say, warning us that we are imminent risk of national destruction from ISIS.

Something I think I have never heard from a political convention before: Demands - repeated demands - that the presidential nominee of the other party be imprisoned, even though convicted of no offenses at all. I'm fairly sure I never heard that from the Democrats in 2004. But I heard it repeatedly among the Republicans on Monday. And not, I suspect, for the last time.

And finally, the song they played upon adjournment: "Sweet Caroline." Really? Do they know who the song is about?

Three more days to go.

Professional politicians required


I’ve recently undergone serious surgery. (Is there any other kind?) But, before they wheeled me in, I told the physician I didn’t want him in the room at the time. I’d already asked the guy in the next suite of offices in the same building to handle the cutting and snipping. He sells mutual funds and has no medical background. But better him than those damned professional doctors.

Such is the current nutball thinking abroad in our land with all those poll responders who say they won’t vote for a presidential candidate who’s a “professional” politician. “NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY” is their mantra. So, they’re jumping on the loud, three-wheeled Trump bandwagon in record numbers. Suffice to say, a more unqualified, doomed-to-fail, ego-scratching candidate for the office of commander-in-chief has not appeared on a national ballot since that damned Palin woman.

If one knows nothing about how our political system works, if one is uninformed or misinformed by a favorite right-wing media, hasn’t spent the time to understand how our government works or is ignorant of the whole process and determined to stay that way, I can understand the dumb and dangerous response to national pollsters. But it would sure play hell with our country if that ignorance prevailed.

There are, I think, four major reasons for such misplaced anger. First, our higher and lower educational systems are graduating students who have absolutely no idea how our government works. I run into it every day in conversations with white collar, blue collar or no collar folks. Even many PhD’s are “civics challenged.” Simple queries about government form and function draw off-the-wall responses or blank stares. Too often - far to often - the response is “I have no idea” or “I don’t know.” Makes it damned tough to call yourself an educated voter or to cast an intelligent ballot.

The second reason for a sizeable part of the uneducated electorate being mad at “professional” politicians is they’ve elected too damned many of ‘em who should’ve never been candidates in the first place. We’ve filled our legislatures and congress with nice looking, smooth talking people. They either have no idea what their job descriptions are or they have singular agendas for or against something and don’t give two hoots in Hell for governing or anything else. They are strident, ignorant and dangerous voices with nothing to say. And, an elected platform on which to say it.

A third factor is loss of respect for anything challenging a person’s thinking. We’ve developed a media system and, in some cases an educational system - to which people can turn for reaffirmation of whatever philosophy they have. Fact or no fact. I get in more arguments lately when I challenge someone. Their favorite media source or favorite politician or even their favorite bartender has convinced them of the “rightness” of a certain view and no other facts need apply. Further, their challenge to me is to “convert” to their thinking. There is no middle ground. No acceptance of the right to disagree without being disagreeable. No thought they could be wrong.

Finally, we’ve created a political system where winning is the goal - not filling an office with someone who both understands and can do the job. Go with someone who can win - not necessarily someone more qualified. Both parties do it but Republicans have become masters of the process. Cruz, Lee, Cotton, Ghomert, Bachman, King, McCarthy et al. are just a few who’ve contributed nothing - will contribute nothing - and who’ll muck up the process every day of their tenure in office.

People have a right to be mad at “professional” politicians. But they have a prior - and larger - responsibility to assure an intelligent and qualified person is elected and given the opportunity to become “professional” by fulfilling the duties of that office in a “professional” manner. If they don’t, chase ‘em out. Then find another real professional.

Imagine a Trump presidency. Who would be in his cabinet? Would it be a John Kerry or a Colin Powell at the State Department to conduct delicate but dangerous negotiations with nations we oppose? Would there be an intelligent and experienced vice president to assure smooth continuity of an administration? What professional voice would be at Treasury to guide the country’s money policies? At the Pentagon? Well, so far we've got Mike Pence who's as scary as Trump.

Professional politicians - really professional with no quotation marks - are necessary at all levels for this country to survive. The political stakes are no longer simple enough for just anyone to fill elected office. Our universities should be turning out trained, talented and qualified graduates ready for careers in public service - careers in politics. We need “best and brightest” in the Capitol, the White House, city hall and the court house. To a very large extent, we’re in the divided and uncontrollable mess we find ourselves because we made poor choices. Wrong choices. Tragic choices in too many elections.

No, I had the surgeon do the cutting and snipping. He’s a professional and right for the job. Upon recovery, I may wander over to the office next door and talk to the fella there about an investment opportunity. He’s a professional, too.

Right people in the right jobs. Seems simple enough. Why have we screwed it up so many times at the polls? Because a lot of folks were not “professional” in their voting. And look at the mess we’ve got!

Patent pending


Did it come as something of a shock to the executives at Micron Technology when one of the leading research universities in the world, Harvard, decided to file suit against it?

The question is a little generic, since the suit filed on June 24 apparently came after Harvard had sent letters and other communications. But the more non-specific answer – which Micron hasn’t given; it has not said much about the case – may tell something about the larger issue of patents and their sometimes sweeping impact.

The case arose after Micron and another company, GlobalFoundries (which also is in Harvard’s legal sights) began using a new technology which allows for placing extremely thin metal films on other substances, which can expand the reach of computing possibilities. We don’t yet know whether Micron or GF would argue they independently came up with the process, or whether they would contend it is different from others. But Harvard said that it is the same as one developed by a team led by one of its professors, Roy G. Gordon, in the late 1990s and early in the next decade.

On becoming aware Micron was using what it thought was the same approach, Harvard said it “reached out to each of the companies outside of the context of litigation and invited them to engage in good faith licensing discussions. The companies have refused to engage and have, so far, continued their infringement without licensing rights to use the patented technology.”

Patent law, or the use of it, has been changing in the last few decades, and concerns about it have been growing as well. The popular conception of patents probably relates to the classic entrepreneurial inventor in the home basement who’s come up with a brilliant new mousetrap, and wants to make sure someone else doesn’t steal his great idea. Or, at least, that he can benefit from it. The idea is to encourage invention, and also to encourage the use of the invention to benefit society. Many patents are now held by large organizations, developed by people who work for them.

Harvard’s statement on the new lawsuit said it “recognizes that the public’s interest may be best served in some circumstances by the application of legal protection to the innovations of Harvard inventors so that these technologies may be developed into useful products.” If reading that makes you feel like you’ve looped around the curves of a pretzel, you may not be alone.

Also this: “The Gordon laboratory’s research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation. The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, a federal law, enables universities to hold patents on federally funded research and to participate in technology transfer activities that help ensure inventions become useful products that benefit society. Harvard invests significant resources into research infrastructure and activities, technology development, and the cost of filing and maintaining patents.”

A question may be coming to mind, which Harvard also usefully posed in its statement: “If Harvard intends groundbreaking technologies to make an impact in the world, why file suit against companies that are making use of the technology?” The answer was that unlicensed use of the technology “can devalue the contributions and efforts of researchers who have often devoted their careers to solving important technological challenges.”

In a purely financial way, maybe. But that seems to be the limits of what much of patent law is about these days. The forthcoming legal replies from Micron will be worth watching.

Minimum wage consequences


OK, I admit this happened just once, and I don't fly very often anymore and I expect airport service to suck. But changing air-planes at Sea-Tac airport in Seattle was an eye-opener.

After a very rough flight down from Vancouver Island I was hungry and thirsty. Sat down at Wolfgang Puck's at SEA, plopped open a book, and awaited service.

Forty-five minutes later a waiter appeared -- the place was not busy. I can understand busy, having once been a hash-slinger and barkeep myself.

(Rules to food- and beverage-service people: If you're swamped, at least just make eye contact with your unattended arrivals. We are a patient lot but dammit, let us know you know we're there.)

None was forthcoming and they were not very busy. Forty-five minutes after my 45-minute wait to place an order, which was not complicated, nothing had arrived nor had any further eye-contact even be made.

The woman sitting next to me endured the same experience -- again at the classiest restaurant in the Seattle airport.

My flight was called so 45 minutes later I had to leave, having awaited an hour and a half to be fed. So no meal, no service, and bloody-well no tip nor $15/hour. You got nothing, except someone to sue. I've had far kinder treatment in Paris.

Now the remaining few earning $15/hour for service work are asking for a reduction in their hours so they don't lose their welfare and subsidised housing. Jesus H.!

I never again will visit a Wolfgang Puck's venue, nor will I buy one of his products off the grocery shelf, which are also now quite over-priced. I wonder how many college-hungry kids might like those jobs at Sea-Tac, for $10 an hour or even $7.50, just so they could advance their lives.

Looking toward Cleveland


There’s an old song that goes: Once to every person and nation comes the moment to decide - in the struggle for truth and justice---for the good or evil side. It ends with an exhortation: Twist that darkness into light!

Long-time readers know that on several occasions I have cited the 19th century Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, who wrote a brilliant essay entitled “The fallacy of the either/or.” His thesis is that there are very few either/or’s in life, that life is too nuanced, there are too many ambiguities and variables at play for most any proposition to be reduced down to a simple black or white, yes or no.

It appears though that the nation, as well as voters are approaching one of those rare moments, that we’re standing on the edge of a precipice looking deep into a canyon of regression, rampant racism, fear, chauvinistic nationalism, self-glorification, and greed.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear - Donald Trump is borderline insane. There is no way he should be the GOP nominee for President. An essay by Richard North Patterson, entitled “Too Sick to Lead: The Lethal Personality Disorder of Donald Trump,” which appeared in the Huffington Post, should be required reading for every American.

It recounts in excruciating detail calls made over a number of years to various media outlets by a thinly disguised Donald Trump masquerading as Trump’s press agent and calling himself John Miller. As the press flak Trump brags about his sexual prowess, the movie stars panting to be in his bed. He brags about his success as a businessman, his athletic exploits.

It is positively sick and absolutely disgusting. It disqualifies him in every sense of the word. This goes so far beyond excessive narcissism and ego-mania.

One session between “Miller” and a media outlet was recorded and is unmistakably Trump’s voice. Trump denies it is his voice and says it is a voice imitator, and that there are hundreds out there trying to capitalize. Only problem is this was in the 90’s when few knew who Trump was and also was before his television show.

Somehow this was just a one-day story with little follow up by other media.

All of this is known to the GOP’s national leadership. The irony is what also is known is that the Republicans are on the cusp of the trifecta they have long sought - control of the Congress, the Supreme Court and the White House - if they nominate someone besides Trump.

All through the primary season polls consistently indicated Ohio Governor John Kasich, for example, would defeat Hillary Clinton in a head to head race. It is clear that many Democrats even are not happy with Mrs. Clinton as their stand-bearer. Her astronomically high “cannot be trusted” number has GOP consultants salivating.

These “beltway bandits” firmly believe just about any Republican horse, except Trump’s, can defeat the presumptive Democratic nominee. Many D’s share the fear.

Thus, there are those praying that a solid majority of the GOP delegates will see their historic time has come and will stand up to demand that their nominee be considered morally upstanding and a person of high character, something Trump decidedly is not.

They hopefully hear their fellow Americans begging they be given a choice and a real shot at taking the White House. A viewer will be able to tell if something is afoot if on the first roll call of the states one sees the Alaska and Alabama delegations scrambling around with no one initially taking the mic to be recognized by the chair.

If Republican delegates do not step up to this “once to every person and nation” moment, shame on them. It will then be incumbent on every voter to understand the risks associated with having a borderline sanity case in the White House are unacceptable.

Regardless of party one will have to examine their conscience, recognize the imperative of standing up for values, people and character and vote accordingly. The darkness has to be twisted into light!

Oregon voter status quo?


“Phase one” of Motor Voter, which registered just the people who had new DMV contact starting January 1, 2016, showed that of those who chose to join a party a majority opted for the Democratic Party. It was thought by some that Motor Voter would be a boon to the Democrats and the data foretold a coming Democratic super majority.

Then “phase two” of motor voter started. In phase two, the Secretary of State went back to 2014 DMV contacts and registered those people as well. Phase two statistics came out this week and they showed that the Republican Party outpaced the Democrats in new motor voter membership.

Of course, only 18,230 of the 206,554 new motor voters (or 8.8%) joined a party anyway, but assuming those that didn’t join a party are either not going to vote, or are fairly represented politically with those that did affiliate with a political party, will motor voter make fundamental changes in Oregon’s political landscape? The answer is no. At least not as between the Democratic and Republican balance (or imbalance) of power.

There is evidence that more voters are opting for the Independent Party or minor political parties. But it’s not a groundswell yet. And there’s no way of knowing if there is an actual groundswell of voters who are going to opt out of party membership, or if the number of non affiliated voters is simply a function of motor voter having separated the act of registration from the act of selecting a political party.

The raw data doesn’t tell us a lot about trends, since it only includes voters who registered with a party under motor voter. And because of the way motor voter works, many more voters remain NAV. Clearly using the pre motor voter and post motor voter NAV numbers is very misleading.

So, In order to normalize the percentages, I went back to pre motor voter registration records and found that the “average” percentage of voters under our old system who chose to remain NAV was 23.4%. Therefore I included an additional 23.4% as NAV’s to accurately reflect that historical average. And here is what we find.

If there is a trend, it’s that the Democratic party is still slightly weakened, and the Independent Party is growing in strength. As a percentage motor voter shows a 30% growth in affiliation for the Independent Party (from 4.9% to 6.4%). However, that rate of growth isn’t reflected in the statewide statistics, since so many motor voters are being registered NAV it will dilute all parties market shares. And the Democratic weakness in new motor voters is likely being offset by the influx of voters who wanted to participate in the historic May Democratic Primary and the November general elections.

Here are the main impacts motor voter will have on voting

More people will be able to vote. We’ll see how many of the phase two motor voters will actually vote in November, but few would argue that having more people vote is a bad thing.
Membership in political parties will plummet over time. Because motor voter divorces the act of registration from the act of selecting party membership, after this historic election, it seems pretty clear that all political parties will shrink in size.
The Independent Party is likely to revert to minor party status after 2020 and some minor parties may be dissolved by State action. Minor and major party status is based in whole or in part on what percentage of total voters a political party represents. With motor voter causing 90% of voters to register as NAV, largely due to separating registration from party selection, we’re going to see total voters spike, and party membership plummet. With 200,000 new motor voters, the IPO would have had to gain 10,000 new members to retain it’s 5% share and major party status. Over the past two months, the IPO has gained less than 1,000 new members. Even though as you can see in the tables above, it’s actually growing at a faster rate as a share of total party voters than the Democratic and Republican Parties.
But here’s the biggest problem. Motor voter will cause a crisis in Oregon Democracy.

Many voters already feel that the political elite don’t listen to them. Now with motor voter reducing the Democratic and Republican membership to their more vocal and active partisans, Oregon’s closed primary system, and safe Democratic and Republican districts, we’re going to have fewer and fewer voters actually deciding our legislative races. And those that remain in the major parties and vote in the partisan primaries are going to more and more consist of the Party’s financial base and the most politically orthodox.

While such a system works in favor of insiders, the financial base, and those already elected to office, it doesn’t lead to faith in our election system.

National doors


“You can’t control what’s happening, but you can control how you react.” Not sure where I read that - or when - but the words have become more personally important given recent political and social violence in our country.

While the phrase is certainly true, so is this: I’m having more trouble controlling my reactions. As violence escalates and our national political stew rots, efforts to control reactions to them have taken more personal strength and have sapped more willpower to keep my reactions under control.

Violence in our society is not new. But, in the last couple of decades, it’s become more prevalent - more pervasive - more deadly. Now, with the bloodshed of recent days flowing across our nation, it seems to have picked up intensity and has become more far-reaching - involving more and more of us.

One fact is extremely clear: we are in a national state of flux in all segments of our society and we are never - never - going back to where we were even four or five years ago. In anything.

It’s hard to describe. One way I’ve come to visualize it, is to imagine the largest, thickest bank vault door ever built, slowly closing on our nation, blocking from sight everything comfortable and familiar. At the same time, imagine a door of similar size beginning to open to reveal - reveal - what? That we don’t know, but you can be sure it will be a country and a society unlike anything we’ve ever known.

Here are some examples. We twice elected a President of mixed race. From day one, he’s been blocked, undercut and pilloried while doing his job. His performance in office can be debated, but one thing cannot: he’s been the target of the most vicious racism we’ve seen directed at a national public figure. Oh, it’s not called “racism.” No. It’s been couched in more politically acceptable terms like “typical two-party politics,” “liberal versus conservative” and “the normal friction found when one party occupies the White House and the other control the majorities in Congress.” Pure B.S.

I strongly believe the vision of a “black” man in the White House has become an excuse for racists and extremists of all stripes to come out from under their rocks and openly challenge authority without reprisal. Whether it’s Bundy or the NRA, Mitch McConnell, the apparent revival of the KKK or quickening pace of murdering Black Americans, it’s less about politics and more about race.

Another case: the dissolution of the National Republican Party. In about four decades, the cancer of extremist thought and the purging of anything different have gutted the GOP. The emergence of a dangerous buffoon like Trump is not surprising. He and the GOP have been looking for each other for years. The only questions is “what took so long?” And states with Tea Party-backed governors have seen resources squandered and several are so awash in debt they’re considering bankruptcy. Kansas, anyone? Michigan? Arkansas? North Carolina? Florida? Texas?

Another: Democrats have failed miserably to create a “loyal” opposition, have not been effective dealing as a minority party in Congress and have not built a “bench” team of up-and-coming people to challenge the majority for years to come. Anywhere.

Another: Both parties are becoming less viable as national representatives of voters at-large. Both are losing members. Both are less in-touch with Americans than just five-10 years ago. That trend will continue. A week ago, the respected IPSOS polling firm found 21% of registered voters - more than one-in-five - want someone other than the leading presidential candidates of both parties. That number will go up before November. Bet on it.

In some instances, this nation is close to becoming one run from the streets. The Dallas police killings and the documented and recent unwarranted police murders of several black men are galvanizing people of more races than just Black America. Whatever accountability - if any - that comes as a result of these slaughters will come because people in the streets stayed in the streets and demanded it. That’s not how an effective and lasting society works for all but that’s where we are. It will get louder and more violent in those streets until justice comes. In whatever form.

Maybe worst of all, the November election will have little, if any, positive effect on all this. The day after will be just as disruptive, just as raucous, just as violent and just as filled with national seething as the day before.

No one individual has all the answers to our national quandary. No one can make good on “taking the country back.” Our nation is in the throes of great change in every area of society - change that, at the moment, is undirected and uncoordinated.

One huge vault door has closed. The other is slowly opening. Behind that one is our national future. Unseen. Unknown. Out of full sight. But the first glimpses are not comforting. Not comforting at all.

A Northwestern veep?


Take none of what follows as a prediction, but I will say this: The Northwest is home to the single most logical vice presidential pick in the country, in either party.

I eliminate the Donald Trump-Republican side here, because I have no idea who the most logical vice presidential nominee there might be. (For a host of reasons, not Senator Mike Crapo, who made a list of prospects by columnist Ann Coulter.)

On the Hillary Clinton-Democratic side, the calculus is easier, and by combining assets and liabilities Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley rises toward the top. He is not among the most-mentioned names, but all of those better-knowns come with problems attached. The choice of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren would thrill some people but would stir new controversy (the two-woman ticket) while putting her Senate seat at partisan risk at a time when Democrats have hopes of retaking the Senate. That same Senate problem applies to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who’s close to the Clintons, has financial and other issues and would aggravate the Bernie Sanders contingent. Sanders himself is a non-starter, as Clinton has made clear, not least because he has not worked in the party vineyards. Other prospects have little or no serious experience as a candidate for high office.

Merkley was the only senator to endorse Sanders, which made him beloved within that contingent, but he did that without trashing Clinton, who he has since endorsed. Picking Merkley would be a signal from Clinton that she can overcome her issues of insularity, and expand her enthusiasm quotient on the left. (Of coursse, if she’s as insular as reputed, Merkley’s Sanders link would be a disqualifer.) The risks would be small. Merkley is a loyal Democrat, has run as such since his first election to the Oregon House in 1998, and has helped other Democratic campaigns.

In demeanor, he has a low-key, “aw-shucks” manner (in person he comes across more like Crapo than an of the others in the Idaho delegation) which would neatly balance Clinton’s presentation, but he’s also a skilled speaker and debater. He rose quickly into Oregon House of Representatives leadership, and showed political chops by leading the campaign effort that switched control of the chamber from Republican to Democratic ad made him speaker. Like Oregon’s other senator, Ron Wyden, he’s held town halls in every county in the state each year he’s been in the Senate (he’s now in his second term). His background, as he routinely reminds Oregonians, is as the son of a Myrtle Creek mill worker, and his interest in practical economics grows out of that.

If elected as vice president, Oregonians would choose his replacement in a special election. Given Oregon’s politics, Democrats probably would not have to worry about losing the seat.

His easy manner led many Oregon Democrats to figure him for an unambitious centrist, and he has cooperated with a variety on other senators on sundry issues, including Idaho’s Republicans on regional topics like wildfire prevention. He also, however, has been a liberal activist on economic and other issues (his highest national profile probably has been on the subject of filibuster reform) which is why the Sanders backers would approve of him.

What few Oregonians probably know, and Merkley seldom mentions, is that he has a strong foreign relations and defense background as well. After a stretch in the office of (Republican) Senator Mark Hatfield, Merkley worked for a variety of international non-profit and other organizations around the world, spending time in Ghana, Mexico, Italy, India and elsewhere. After that he became a presidential management fellow at the Department of Defense, working in Caspar Weinberger’s administrative offices on defense process and strategy. And after that, at the Congressional Budget Office as a nuclear arms analyst. He discusses defense and foreign relations policy with ease.

Merkley’s name, as a veep prospect, has come up so far only on the periphery, and to reiterate, I make no predictions here. But the case for hism is strong enough that you shouldn’t be shocked if you hear it again.