First things first. Before discussing the general election in November 2012, there is a special election to fill the term of David “Tigerboy” Wu in the 1st Congressional District. Many, usually those on the Left, have pointed to this race, like every other special election held thus far usually in response to a resignation over some sex-related scandal, a bellweather for the November elections. Of course, when a Republican happens to win in a liberal, metropolitan district, that “bellweather” status is usually forgotten and the Democratic loss downplayed. But, such is the hypocritical mind of the Liberal. This special election is using the old 1st District map which is decidedly Democratic. That may explain why a morally corrupt Democrat can win the district because complaints against Wu were nothing new. That being said, Republicans should not be discouraged by a loss on January 31st. In fact, the RNCC has spent little money here for two reasons: the bigger fight is in November and the Republican candidate, Rob Cornilles, is largely self-funded. Conversely, the DNCC has sunk $1 million into this race. Perhaps they are not taking anything for granted, or maybe they hear phantom footsteps that no one else hears. Regardless, Suzanne Bonamici will most likely win this race.
Since there is no statewide race in November, the emphasis will be on the President and the Congressional districts. For President, Obama will carry the state and take its 7 electoral votes. In 2008, he carried the state with 56.8% of the vote. Also, this is one state where Obama’s popuularity has not taken a serious hit and remains in the 50% range. In fact, he is currently polling 12 points against his nearest hypothetical opponent- Mitt Romney.
Regarding redistricting, before moving to the aforementioned 1st District, it pays to look at the other districts and where they stand. Currently, the Congressional delegation is 4-1 Democratic. In effect, this reflects the two Oregons- one east of the Cascades and the more liberal sections west of the Cascades. Still, within these liberal sections are conservative conclaves, especially the rural areas and that along the border with northern California.
Greg Walden is the lone Republican and represents the vast 2nd district which comprises about two-thirds of the state’s area. Originally, Democrats had the audacity to draw Walden’s home county out of the 2nd District. This was perhaps one of the most bodacious attempts at partisan gerrymandering this redistricting cycle. It was so bad that Democrats and the liberal press in Portland cried foul. As a result, very little changes in this Cook rated PVI +10 Republican district. Most likely, Walden’s opponent will be “the other guy” as it has been in the past considering that in 2010 he won with 74% of the vote.
Oregon’s 3rd District could have changed more dramatically than what the final product left. However, the new district takes chunks of Portland from the 1st and 5th districts and gave up much of Multnomah County. To the south, it gave up the Democratic-leaning suburbs of Clackamas County and trades them for Republican leaning, less populated sections of Clackamas County. However, the net result is no change. Earl Blumenauer represents this district and is so safe that in 2010, he was one of a very few candidates who actually uttered Obama’s name on the campaign trail. Republicans will most likely run Delia Lopez again, but with the same results. The 4th District in the southwestern part of the state- a huge chunk of land- is represented by Pete DeFazio. In 2010, he won with 54.5% of the vote over Republican Art Robinson, his most likely opponent in 2012. However, making the task a little harder for Robinson is the fact that the college town of Corvallis, which has been a Democratic/Liberal stronghold in the 5th District, is now in the 4th District. Hence, a nominal Democratic district becomes more Democratic. However, the 4th really did not need this help as long as DeFazio is there. Perhaps, Democrats were thinking long term when they redrew the district.
Unfortunately, removing Corvallis and the liberal southwest part of Portland out of the 5th District has made Democratic incumbent even more vulnerable than before. With few targets for Republicans after the 2010 elections, all eyes were set on defeating Schrader and the RNCC should be salivating over this race, especially now. Schrader barely survived in 2010 over Scott Bruun who is weighing a rematch in 2012. Since teh district runs through some fairly red territory, even before redistricting, there are other viable Republican candidates to take on Schrader (Bill Kennemer and Brian Boquist have been mentioned). Expect lots of money to pour into this race from both sides. The DNCC probably has Schrader at the top of their list of most vulnerable incumbents to defend. And considering they may win unanticipated seats in Texas (pending Supreme Court review) and definitely some seats in California and Illinois, a loss in Oregon would make those victories a little more hollow. Conversely, the time is ripe for a Republican to win this seat for the first time since 1994.
Which brings us back to the 1st District, currently vacant, but most likely to be held by Democrat Suzanne Bonamici come January 31st after the special election. She will then most likely run in November for a full term against Rob Cornilles again, who is the strongest Republican candidate to give it a third try. Unfortunately, the third time will not be a charm. Redistricting was essentially a wash in this area. Although giving up most of downtown Portland, it retained heavily Democratic Washington and Clatsop counties. In exchange for its losses, it gained nominal Republican territory in Columbia and Yarnhill counties. It was not exactly what the GOP was hoping for, but the best they can do. Hence, in November Cornilles should be a little closer than he was in January, but Bonamici should win again. What redistricting does is make this seat more competitive for Republicans in the future so that with population shifts, it is quite possible this will be a Republican seat in 2016. Baby steps first.
With no statewide offices at stake and any possible Obama coat tail effect negated by redistricting, one would have to predict at this time that Republicans will flip the 5th District and unseat Kurt Schrader and the race will be expensive with a lot on the line. All other incumbents will win re-election, and Obama will carry the state.
The running count is:
Obama with 23 electoral votes to the GOP’s 19;
A net gain of three House seats (WA-1, UT-2, OR-5)
No change in the Senate;
Net gain of two Governors (WA, MT)