President and Mrs. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele are making the rounds in the Pacific Northwest this month to campaign for House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates. The mid-term elections are set for November 2nd and races in Oregon and Washington are shaping up to be high valued targets that are crucial to the balance of power in Washington.
Democrats hold a 39-seat majority in the U.S. House and a 9-seat advantage in the Senate. Senior Democrats are being dispatched throughout the Northwest to help candidates in tough races, energize a dissatisfied Democratic base and save their endangered congressional majorities.
Biden was in Tacoma last week to support Senator Patty Murray, who faces a tough battle against Republican Dino Rossi. President Obama and First Lady Michelle are expected to make separate campaign stops for Murray later in in the month. Obama will come to Oregon October 20 to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber, who several polls show trailing GOP newcomer Chris Dudley. This will be the President's first time in Oregon since his campaign in 2008.
Steele rolled all over Oregon yesterday as part of his 48-state "Fire Pelosi" bus tour. Steele's bus made stops in Medford, Eugene and Portland . Republicans continue to ride the wave of economic discontent and persistently poor job statistics, which pose serious political obstacles for Democrats everywhere in the country.
At each stop, Steele urged attendees to support Dudley and long-shot GOP Senate candidate Jim Huffman, who is running against Senator Ron Wyden. Wyden is ahead in the polls, but not entirely comfortable in an atmosphere where many American voters are turning against all incumbents.
Down-ticket candidates hope to gain from these national political figures. In addition to Murray, Kitzhaber and Dudley, there are four top-tier congressional matchups in the Northwest. First-term Oregon Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader faces a stiff challenge in Oregon's 5th Congressional Disgtrict, where polls show Republican Scott Bruun has closed an eight point gap and is now within the margin of error. Both candidates have put up a barrage of attack TV ads.
Veteran Democratic Congressman David Wu is in a little better shape because of the sheer registration advantage for Democrats in the 1st District, but his opponent Rob Cornilles is waging a vigorous campaign that won an endorsement from The Oregonian and has begun to activate establishment as well as new-wave Republicans in the suburbs outside Portland. Cornilles is counting on low Democratic turnout and under-voting for Wu to pull an upset.
In Washington, Democratic Congressman Rick Larsen in Washington's 2nd District is in a dead heat with GOP challenger John Koster. Retiring Congressman Brian Baird's open seat in SW Washington is also a top prize for Republicans. Republican Jaime Herrera is polling ahead of Democrat Denny Heck and could reclaim the 3rd District seat for Republicans for the first time since Linda Smith won it in 1996.