A Sickly Pale Blue

When maps using red and blue came out a few election cycle back, many Republicans were upset because the color assigned our party was one long associated with Marxism while blue seemed to be closely associated with patriotism -- as in "He's a True Blue American." This week those colors may be taking on a different meaning as several states on the electoral vote maps fade from once bold blue to a shade that brings to mind terms such as hypoxemia or cyanosis -- the lack of vital oxygen in the system.  Today comes the news that Oregon might be the next Obama state to fade to that unhealthy pale shade. In a poll commissioned by The Oregonian of 405 likely voters with a margin of error of 5 percent

President Barack Obama holds a relatively narrow lead of six points over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Oregon, according to a new poll conducted for The Oregonian.

Obama's lead is considerably smaller than his margin of victory in Oregon four years ago and is a sign of how tight the presidential race has become across the nation.

Obama won Oregon in 2008 by over 16 points, 56.75% to  40.40%

A few weeks back I picked out three states considered solid blue as possible upsets waiting to happen- Minnesota, Maine and Oregon.  Minnesota is now considered in play.  My reasoning was that these states lack large urban black communities to act as a firewall against the loss of suburban or working class white voters.  A candidate who will win 90+% of the vote in a big enough core of urban precincts becomes very hard to beat even if there is a preference cascade elsewhere in the state electorate. These states also lack large urban mass transportation networks, so most voters in them drive and are thus extremely sensitive to gasoline prices.  Add in that 3.82 % of Oregon's population is Mormon and there is an outside chance this election could offer a surprise in that state.  

I also wondered about New Mexico, which is fairly similar except for the presence of a large Hispanic population.  New Mexico was very much in play in 2000 and 2004 but Obama won over enough Hispanics to make it an easy win in 2008.  Will it again become a swing state?  Hispanic support for Obama isn't what it was in 2008.  Plus as with Oregon, Mormons make up a big enough block of voters at 3.25% of the population that political organizing efforts by some of them in support of Romney could have a significant effect. 

While Mormons are politically diverse, Romney's campaign may be striking the same chords that Kennedy's campaign did among Catholics in 1960 as a source of legitimacy for a religion reviled in some circles.  Near me I have seen Mormons using their well-earned reputation for being very good neighbors as a launching pad for a low key pitch to support Romney.   By the church's  very top down structure, Mormons are well organized to begin with.  That makes it easy for like-minded Mormons to organize for political activities. Because of the Mormon Church's emphasis on missionary work, these volunteers often have prior experience at approaching and engaging strangers.   In terms of effectiveness, who would you want knocking on doors for a candidate in your neighborhood?  A group of clean, modestly dressed, sober, polite and respectful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or the Chicago Democrats left wing Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky organized to work for Obama in Wisconsin?

With more states possibly coming into play, I suspect the results by county map may end up resembling the one from 1988 when George H.W. Bush ruled the suburbs.  Obama will most certainly carry every large city plus those relative handful of rural counties dominated by either by college communities or Indian reservations. The rest of the country may all pretty much go to Romney.

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