Local pundits say Oregons primary battle could color other races

Election 2008 - Jim Moore and Russ Dondero weigh in on Barack, Hillary and the 'Florida factor'

Who would have thought, back in January, that Oregon's May primary would matter in the presidential race?

But here we are, closing out March with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fighting for every delegate they can find. So, what are the effects of this looming clash of Democrats?

To find out we asked our resident Pacific University political pundits, professor Jim Moore and former professor Russ Dondero.

News-Times: Can Oregon expect visits from Obama, Clinton or both before the May 20 primary?

Moore: Yes, especially if Clinton wins in Pennsylvania, as expected.

How about McCain?

Dondero: I suspect he will be here to test the waters. Show the flag and do some fund-raising at some point before May 20.

Democrats in Florida and Michigan are pushing the national party to acknowledge their votes by re-staging primaries? Would do-overs in Florida and Michigan change the importance of Oregon's primary?

Dondero: Given the likelihood that the re-dos will happen in June, it will minimize the ultimate strategic impact of Oregon's vote but not diminish its tactical importance. Each team needs to keep momentum going its way. This is especially the case for Obama since he's done very well in the smaller states like Oregon while Clinton has focused on a big state strategy. If Obama loses in Pennsylvania, he'll be looking for states to regain momentum.

There are few seriously contested Republican primaries statewide, and John McCain has sewn up the presidential nomination. If Republicans don't show up, and tax-and-spend Democrats do, how will that affect other races?

Moore: It will probably help money measures and other Democratic candidates. However, in the past election cycles we have seen these connections become strong (2006) and weak (most elections from 1996-2004). We will not know how strong the connection is until September.

Victoria Taft, KPAM radio's conservative talk show host, is encouraging GOP voters to change their registrations and vote for Clinton. Will that have much effect?

Dondero: The pattern so far across the nation suggests GOP turnout will be lower than normal and that the 'Vote for Hillary' tactic will be marginal in a close primary state.

What about the idea that no interest in the primary hurts you in November? Is there any chance that a big contingent of Oregon's Republican voters will sit out the whole election cycle?

Moore: The long months between the primary and the general election generally mean that the dynamics of the primary are forgotten by September. Then it becomes a contest of candidates, issues, and voter turnout - all completely divorced from the dynamics of the primary.