Election 2008

Who Is Oregon? A Pre-Primary Tour

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Oregon is Obama country — for now. Sen. John McCain could give the Illinois senator trouble in November, one expert says. iStock hide caption

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Sen. Barack Obama is expected to do well in a state that political analyst Bill Lunch says is distinctive for both its emphasis on the environment and the odds it will be a battle ground state in November.

Portland's indie rock darlings The Decemberists helped the Illinois senator draw a record crowd Saturday of 75,000 ahead of Tuesday's primary vote in Oregon.

The setting for the rally — the Willamette River — probably wasn't a coincidence: As Lunch says, people in Oregon have strong opinions about their natural resources. "[The environment] is a very large issue and very polarized," says Lunch, who chairs the political science department at Oregon State University. "It's polarizing and prominent in a way it isn't in a lot of the country."

Lunch is also the longtime political analyst at Oregon Public Broadcasting and says Obama is poised to dominate the state's so-called Starbucks Democrats, whereas Sen. Hillary Clinton is in a better position to carry Oregon's Wal-Mart Democrats. Those are categories Lunch says he's borrowing from New York Times columnist David Brooks, who probably also knows that Oregon is home to the country's second Starbucks franchise.

But some of those latte drinkers are also fiscally conservative Republicans, says Lunch, and in November Obama may find himself holding the empty coffee cup. "Oregon's gone for Democrats on a consistent basis," Lunch says. "But Sen. John McCain is an appealing candidate for a significant number of voters who are in the middle of the electorate here."



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