EUGENE, Oregon – When President Barack Obama visits the “City of Roses” today, he may not attract the reported 75,000 that turned out during his last visit to Portland in May 2008. “But, he will rock the place,” say supporters. Democrat governor candidate John Kitzhaber hosts the president for a scheduled 4 p.m. rally at Portland’s Oregon Convention Center.
Obama “magic” needed as Oregon sinks into an even deeper recession
Governor hopeful John Kitzhaber has waited a long time for what’s been dubbed “Obama Power” to return to Oregon and help fend off the mighty Republican machine that’s aiming to take the governor’s seat while also upsetting Oregon’s Democratic candidates for both the Senate and House races.
The recession has hit Oregon hard, with the Eugene region suffering plenty.
Oregon unemployment is near 12% and the second-worst in the nation. Oregon also has the highest per-capita rate of homelessness in the country. And, with Oregon’s lumber and wood projects industry still on the ropes after two years of recession and a continuing national housing crisis.
“Extreme right-wing factions have taken over the agenda for the Republican Party. They want to rollback the minimum wage, rollback health care, rollback civil rights and women’s rights. They want to return to the Bush agenda that benefits the ultra wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.”
Oregon’s Democrats have issued this view as to why they need help from today’s visit by Obama.
At the same time, Republicans continue to maintain huge leads here in Oregon and across the country in recent polls by major news organizations and national polling establishments. One news analyst even compared the upcoming elections to “a Category 4 hurricane” for the Democrats as losers in this 2010 election.
Obama respected in Oregon as a leader of “change”
While the Democrats may be hurting in the polls today, President Obama’s job-approval rating among registered voters in Oregon is well over the current national rating for the president that stands at 47% thinking he’s doing a good job.
Obama won Oregon in the 2008 election with nearly 60% of the vote. He also won Washington and California for a clean sweep of the West coast states.
Still, it’s apples and oranges these days, say political analysis, when comparing the Obama victories of 2008 with today’s pending elections.
“They blame Obama as simple as that. They know the Republicans don’t really have a plan to get us out of this recession, but it’s politics and all politics are local when it comes to jobs and people out of work. Voters will roll the dice and choose Republicans or even Tea Party extremists because they’re hurting right now and that seems to be the only choice,” says Jim Barker, a retired political science teacher in Portland.
Barker also noted that “today’s visit by the president will make history,” because Obama is visiting the state with the worst economic situation in the country,” explained Barker. “We can’t get any lower than we’ve gotten in terms of two plus years of double-digit unemployment state wide, and the distinction of being tops in the country for homeless. We have more people living rough here in Oregon than many third world countries. Obama must address this and what he says today will have national implications.”
As for Oregon being a bastion for Democrats. That’s not always been the case, says Barker.
Oregon, with its pioneer background that goes back 150 years when Oregon first entered statehood, was traditionally a Republican state. But that changed during the 1988 elections when Oregon went against the national trend and the Democrats won for the first time since 1964. Michael Dukakis received 51.28% of the Oregon vote over Republican George Bush.
Clinton also won the Oregon vote in the 1992 election and again during the 1996 election.
“Every since, Oregon has been Democrat all the way. Today’s visit by the president will help sure that record up,” Barker added.