Monday, November 06, 2006

Swing County Clackamas Holding Dem Thru Sunday

Clackamas County is perhaps the ultimate swing county in the state of Oregon, with its high population density (3rd in county population behind Multnomah and Washington) despite large tracts of rural land. The county website has an outstanding interactive political map of the area; click here and then on the map to see an individual House district, and then on that to see a precinct map. That's pretty sweet. It's made for GOTV, which is awesome. Hand a kid a precinct pdf and a stack of fliers, and he's off.

Like Oregon in general, Clackamas is a county with great diversity, featuring many different types of white people--from small towns like Canby and Estacada, with broad rural land and forest hills, to working class cities like Milwaukie and Gladstone and Oregon City, to bedroom communities like West Linn and Happy Valley, to the ultrachic, latte liberal and libertarian conservative Lake Oswego. The county is pretty evenly balanced considering its size, with only a couple thousand votes between the two major parties, and 20+% independent voters.

The most important reason to watch is that by registration Clackamas has been trending slightly redder each election, in a mirror of Washington County, which is also net Republican but is closing the gap fast. Multnomah's lower registration penetration mutes its advantage of having more people, but they are the still the 800 lb gorilla of any Oregon election. What people sometimes miss is that together Clackamas and Washington offer as many voters as Multnomah, and a little bit more. How their profiles shift is of crucial impact to the statewide vote in general. The collar counties can be a check on Multnomah voting power; they can stem a tide but not break it; or they can form a massive electoral force that would decide statewide elections straight out.

At the end of September 2006 {pdf}, Republicans had 4,000 more voters than Democrats in Clackamas. According to a Dem party strategist for the county, the GOP had been winning the turnout war by about three points on average in recent elections. I knew that in many counties but not all, Democrats were running ahead on turnout totals through Friday, so I was interested in the update through Sunday's numbers. My previous information on the county was a 3 point edge, 43% to 40%. Now I'm told the spread is more like 47-42, which is yielding a net Democratic margin of over 1500 returned ballots.

I asked what might be the reason for such a flip, if current trends hold--the strategist said, "We've got a hell of a system. We've literally called almost the entire county." I asked about the influence of the DNC state field staff, and while they have not been key specifically for Clackamas candidates, there was some canvassing done for Ted and Hooley. The impression I got was that things are well under control regardless, with some really unusual things coming out of the analysis through Sunday. Strange things are possible, with Mike Caudle's district still showing a net Democratic ballot count in a hugely Republican district. And while a significant chunk of ballots are due in the next two days, current Democratic turnout leads will be difficult to overturn altogether, and that by itself would make it one of the more historic elections in modern Oregon politics.

Spend some time these next two days pushing people to vote. I walked in the rain yesterday with homemade reminders to stick in doors around the hood. I made some for Mrs. Joe, who says she'll take them around in a friend's hood. It doesn't change the world by itself, but the change doesn't happen without it.