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Oregon Events Reflect Candidates' Campaigns
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Oregon Events Reflect Candidates' Campaigns

Election 2008: On the Campaign Trail


So this endless primary campaign, we're almost at the end finally. Just six contests left, one of them is Oregon where Barack Obama has a lead in the polls. Both he and Hillary Clinton were there yesterday and Senator Obama is still there today. NPR's Ina Jaffe tagged along with both of them, and Ina, things don't look so good for Senator Clinton. Obama has surged to a clear lead in superdelegates. Is that changing the tone of their campaign events?

INA JAFFE: It seems to be. I mean the two events I went to yesterday could not have been more different. They were almost metaphors for the way the campaigns are going at this point. For example, the Hillary Clinton event in the morning, she returned to her signature issue of healthcare. It was held at a children's hospital in Portland, outdoors in a courtyard. It was gray, it was dreary, the temperatures were in the 40s and there were just a few dozen chairs set out and some of them were empty. And the ones that were filled were mostly filled with sick children and their parents. They got there early, she's an hour late, so some of these kids are sitting in wheelchairs or hooked up to IVs. The hospital eventually passed out blankets for everybody. So anyway, she finally arrives and the event was a panel discussion with some of these parents. She gently repeated her criticism of Barack Obama's healthcare plan charging it wouldn't cover everyone like hers would.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): An artificial distinction between children and adults is unworkable. You have to have a seamless healthcare system which covers every single person. My plan does, my opponent's plan doesn't.

JAFFE: Anyway, then after 10 or 15 minutes she wrapped it up because everyone was so cold.

SEABROOK: So I take it Senator Obama's events are - went a little bit better than that.

JAFFE: Totally different story. Just a few hours later and about an hour and a half south of Portland, in the city of Albany, the sun is shining, the sky is cloudless, it's so warm I could leave my jacket in the car and hours before the door open, hundreds of people are lined up, waiting to get in and they're happy, and some have brought food, and they're getting to know their neighbors, and people are walking up and down the line pleading for extra tickets because the 3,000 or so the campaign released are long gone. And there are very few undecided voters here. And on top of that, Obama has family in the house, his brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, just became head basketball coach of nearby Oregon State and he introduced the Senator. And unlike some of Obama's big rallies where he speaks and roughs up the crowd and then he leaves, he spent a lot of time taking questions from audience at this one.

Unidentified Man: Would you increase the funding for stem cell research?

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): Yes. The first step is to sign the bill that authorizes the use of additional stem cell lines that George Bush has vetoed twice now.

SEABROOK: So Ina, I gather Obama's been letting up a little bit on Hillary Clinton.

JAFFE: Oh, in Albany he didn't even mention her. The closest he came was pledging that the Democrats would be unified come November. He saved all his criticism for John McCain going after him on the war in Iraq and on the economy. And here's something interesting Andrea. You know, that Obama's raised amazing amounts of money, sometimes outspending Hillary Clinton three or four to one, and she's had to lend her campaign around $11 million of her and her husband's personal fortune. Well, anyway, yesterday, Obama hinted that once the nomination contest is officially over and presuming he's the nominee that he might help her retire her campaign debt for the sake of party unity.

SEABROOK: One of the fun things about Oregon is that it's the only state in the nation that votes entirely by mail. Ten days from now here on NPR we won't be saying Oregon voters are going to polling places today because there are no polling places.

JAFFE: That's right. They can either mail back their ballots or drop them in special boxes. It's even legal for campaigns to come and collect the ballots, which I have to tell you as a native-born Chicagoan, I find utterly shocking but it seems to work for them.

SEABROOK: NPR's Ina Jaffe following the Democrats in Oregon. Thanks very much.

JAFFE: You're welcome.

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