Dukakis Likely to Win Big in Oregon : Solid Base Seen Offsetting Jackson Popularity in Primary Today
Jesse Jackson has drawn the crowds but Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis is expected to get the bigger share of the 45 Democratic presidential delegates at stake today in Oregon’s primary.
“Jesse Jackson’s appearances here are the most electrifying events since I have been in politics,” Oregon Democratic Rep. Ron Wyden said.
About 14,000 people turned out last week for Jackson at the University of Oregon in Eugene, one of the biggest crowds he has drawn anywhere in the country.
And, in southern Oregon, which is much more conservative than Eugene and Portland, Jackson stunned local observers by attracting a crowd of 4,000 to a speech in Jackson County.
Suburban Vote Key
But, Wyden and others say, when it comes time to vote today, Dukakis will probably beat Jackson for two reasons: His emphasis on education and government efficiency appeals to the state’s sizable suburban vote and the black population here is so small--about 1%--that Jackson will not have the solid base that he has started from in many states.
About 375,000 Democrats are expected to vote in the primary, only about 5% of them black. But Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts expects Jackson to get at least 25% of the vote, giving him a substantial white vote.
The fact that Dukakis looks like the inevitable Democratic nominee is not rated as such a factor. Oregonians are notorious for bucking trends. In 1968, for example, Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota upset Sen. Robert F. Kennedy of New York here, the only primary Kennedy lost that year.
On the Republican side, Vice President George Bush could have taken Oregon for granted but he has made several visits here because the entire West Coast--Oregon, Washington and California--is expected to be a battleground in the fall.
Democrats Score Points
Thus Bush used his trips here this month to attack the Democrats, and Dukakis and Jackson went after Bush. And, on one issue at least, the Democrats scored some points.
The Reagan Administration has been pushing the privatization of the state’s Bonneville Power Administration, but local Democrats charge that would greatly increase utility rates.
Bush conceded that battle the other day and said he thought the sale of Bonneville was not a good idea.
But, in a preview of what is to come when the candidates return in the fall, Wyden said: “George Bush is going to find out that it is not so easy to back away from this issue with Oregonians. He says he opposes it now but once again, he sat there quietly when the Reagan Administration was proposing this and said nothing.”
Drug abuse and crime have become big issues in Oregon, and Jackson’s eloquent attacks on drugs played well here, a fact that should help the Democrats in the fall even if Jackson is not on the ticket.
But Jackson, despite the enthusiastic response he engenders, has clearly been frustrated by polls showing Dukakis the likely Democratic winner.
Fires Brutal Broadside
The other day, Jackson fired off one of his most brutal broadsides against Dukakis, saying: “Like Bush, Dukakis almost brags about putting forth no plans. Like Bush, Dukakis says, ‘I have not said anything concrete to anybody about anything.’ ”
For his part, Dukakis continues to take the high road in the Democratic race and is clearly looking at Oregon as part of the West Coast element in his fall strategy.
That is smart, according to Hibbitts, who believes that the popularity of the Democratic governors in Oregon and Washington, as well as other factors, make these states winnable for the Democrats in November.
“Oregon and Washington usually vote alike in the presidential race,” Hibbitts said, “so you have to look at them as a 17-vote electoral bloc.”
(Oregon has seven electoral votes and Washington, whose caucuses Dukakis won on Super Tuesday, has 10.)
“When you add that 17 to California’s 47 electoral votes, you’re looking at a good chunk to fight over in November on the West Coast. I think Dukakis could definitely carry Oregon and Washington over Bush,” Hibbitts said.
Population: 2,698,000 (1986 est.)
Registered voters: 1,502,000. About 95% white, 2% Latino, 1% Asian, 1% black, 1% Indian; 48% are Democrats, 39% are Republicans.
Economy: Diversified manufacturing, agriculture, lumber and wood products, tourism. Unemployment rate (March): 5.9%.
Major cities: Portland, 365,000; Eugene, 105,000; Salem (capital), 90,000.
Forty-five Democratic and 32 Republican convention delegates are at stake in today’s primary. Both parties will award delegates to presidential candidates in proportion to the primary vote. Polls close at 8 p.m. PDT.