Obama “Only” Leads By Six In Oregon, But This Is Neither Surprising Nor Important

I’m seeing several bloggers on the right point to a new poll from The Oregonian as a sign that Romney campaign is surging:

President Barack Obama holds a relatively narrow lead of six points over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Oregon, according to a new poll conducted for The Oregonian.

Obama’s lead is considerably smaller than his margin of victory in Oregon four years ago and is a sign of how tight the presidential race has become across the nation.

In addition, the poll also found that an initiative to legalize marijuana, Measure 80 is failing, with 49 percent opposed and 42 percent in favor. Voters are even more strongly opposed to two pro-casino measures –82 and 83 — that even their sponsors gave up on.

A six point lead in a poll with a five point margin of error, and eight percent undecided with a week to go before the election. On the surface, that seems like a surprise because we’re talking about a state that hasn’t gone for a Republican since Ronald Reagan’s landslide in 1984. However, if you look at recent electoral history in Oregon, you’ll find that this isn’t entirely surprising. Four years ago, the President won the state by some sixteen points over John McCain. However, either years earlier in 2000, Al Gore barely won the state, garnering only about 7,000 voters more than George W. Bush. In 2004, Bush came within less than four points of John Kerry in the state. In both elections, the Democratic candidate failed to garner the majorities that Bill Clinton got in both 1992 and 1996. This isn’t to suggest that Oregon is a “purple” state, just that it appears to have become a bit more Republican over the past decade, most likely thanks to an influx of people moving from California to get away from that state’s economic and political mess. Obama’s huge victory there was therefore most likely an anomaly in the same way that his victories in Indiana and North Carolina back then were. Given this, I don’t think we should be at all surprised to see a poll showing the race in the single digits.

If I were a Romney supporter, though, I wouldn’t necessarily be touting this poll as evidence of anything. Most likely, the President is still going to win Oregon. The RealClearPolitics average has him with a +6.0 point lead, and the site also shows that this has been a single point race, ranging between six and nine points, since September. Unless you happen to be one of those people who believe that Romney is going to win in a landslide despite all the evidence, the fact that Romney is picking up support in Oregon isn’t going to help him win the election. For that, he needs to concentration on states like Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado. Oregon is essentially meaningless to the Electoral Math at this point.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Stonetools says:

    Romney’s problem is that while he is just about even with Obama in the national polls, his support is unevenly spread. He has giant leads in the Deep South, but in the battleground states he is even or losing slightlly. That’s been the case for months now, despite talk of ” Romentum”. I expect this to continue through the election.

  2. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Ah, Oregon. Arguably the best state in the country. It’s unfortunate it rains so much. If they had more sunshine I’d pack up and ship out. If they somehow jettisoned their loopy brigades it would be paradise up there.

    Regarding that poll, perhaps I have a different idea of what’s politically surprising. Incumbents who win reelection don’t collapse in states they won the first time around. If anything they tend materially to increase their cycle-over-cycle vote totals. When incumbents collapse in states they won the first time around it’s in connection not only with becoming former presidents, as opposed to 2nd term presidents, but with getting kicked to the curb.

    So when a guy like Obama wins Oregon in ’08 by a margin of 16.5 percentage points I would expect him at least to be in the same ballpark this time around. Maybe 12 points. Perhaps 10 points. I would not expect him to go from 16.5 points ahead down to 6 points ahead, especially in a newspaper poll that didn’t publish its internals. Unless of course Obama’s burnt toast and the super duper computer models are part of the largest and most sustained political dog & pony show in history.

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    Geographically Oregon is as red as Idaho. The entire eastern 2/3 of the state is bright red. The Portland and Eugene areas are blue and the rest is purple. So yes it is no surprise.

  4. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    IIRC, in the Bush/Gore election, Nader did surprisingly well in Portland to Eugene corridor, eroding Gore’s support. Perhaps with Gary Johnson as the Libertarian candidate, similar erosion for Romney support will happen the the eastern part of the state. In any event, roughly 65% of the electorate lives in 5 or 6 counties between Portland and Eugene, unless the distribution of population has changed significantly. Obama is unlikely to lose in that 65% zone.

  5. Brian says:

    Someday I hope all states matter, not just Ohio and Florida. Is anything that happens in Oregon “important”… to anyone in the East I guess not. But as Ron B pointed out Oregon is a very very Red state by square foot. “Red” voters are the hands on stewards of a vast majority on the land in Oregon. So yes, there are a lot more Blue voters in Portland and Eugene/Bend. But combined all of the land that they manage and actually care for directly could probably fit in one eastern Oregonians ranch.

  6. Davebo says:

    So yes, there are a lot more Blue voters in Portland and Eugene/Bend. But combined all of the land that they manage and actually care for directly could probably fit in one eastern Oregonians ranch.

    Of course the eastern Oregonians actually pay taxes to the state for the land they manage and care for directly.

    What costs more tax wise in Oregon? A 300 acre ranch with a 2,500 sq foot home and 7,000 square foot barn, or a 2,500 sq foot home on a 1/3rd acre lot?