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Andy Ostroy Headshot

For Obama and Clinton, Oregon Holds All the Cards

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Ok, so if this were Vegas, the smart money would be on Sen. Barack Obama getting the nomination. In fact, even the most loyal of Sen. Hillary Clinton's supporters knows deep down it's gonna take nothing short of a miracle for her coronation to occur this August at the Democratic Convention in Denver. While there's still more primaries to go, and the race is indeed not technically over, it's pretty safe to say it's, well, over. That is of course unless something very interesting happens tomorrow in Oregon.

To be sure, Obama's facing tough challenges ahead if he cannot obtain the support of the white working class, Hillary's bread and butter. That said, if Obama becomes the party's nominee, he is certain to bring in millions of new voters this November. Inspired by his message of hope and change, young people and blacks have been turning out in record numbers to vote for him, and this support could possibly not only offset losses from poor and middle class whites, but could also help Illinois' junior Senator in redrawing the electoral map in key regions of the United States, particularly the South.

Despite her big win in West Virginia last week, Clinton is still viewed by most as having run out of steam. Though she continues to vow to fight till the end, that end could be very near. And Oregon holds all the cards. Oregon, which holds its primary Tuesday along with Kentucky, is split east and west among rural and urban voters respectively, but has been widely viewed as Obama-country for some time now. Like Washington, Minnesota, Iowa and others, it has many of the wealthier, more educated white "Starbucks" crowd that has been a cornerstone of Obama's success this year. As late as last week he led Clinton by 20 points, but new polls out today like Suffolk show that lead has dwindled to 4%. The RealClearPolitics average has him up by 10% still, but that indicator is not updated.

But the "Starbucks" crowd came aboard Obama's campaign early in the primary season, before the Rev. Wright implosion, before BitterGate, and before other controversies involving Obama and his wife (flag pin, pride, etc). Is Obama's hold on this group still as strong here in the middle of May? What if he loses Oregon tomorrow, or wins only by the barest of margins? What if the results show that Hillary gained on the Starbucks crowd, while Obama's support appreciably eroded? Would this enhance Hillary's narrative to the super-delegates? Would a measurable loss of support from one of his bread and butter constituencies -- combined with his huge lack of support among the white working class -- be just the watershed moment the super Ds are looking for to convince them that she's successfully made her case that she's the more electable candidate against the GOP's Sen. John McCain? That Obama is the one who has truly run out of steam? That, even with his tremendous field operation, he could not win this state when he was previously up by 20 points? In this crazy election year, anything can happen. Oregon is expecting a record 65% turnout tomorrow. That makes things even more unpredictable. On the one hand, it's a safe bet that the youth vote will be a large part of that turnout. But, will Hillary's supporters be coming out in droves as well?

Now the flip side to all this is if, as predicted, Obama wins the state handily. If that happens, and he demonstrates that his core support has not diminished, then her narrative will not change from yesterday, and for all intents and purposes, the race is indeed it certainly appears to be right now. Judging from how she has turned graceful in her campaigning these past couple of weeks, if she suffers a decisive blow in Oregon tomorrow, she'll likely just continue to quietly fade from the picture, or, perhaps finally quit her exhausting fight and go home to Chappaqua.