5 Questions About the Kentucky and Oregon Primaries ~ Post No. 052008-1

By Greg Giroux

1. How many delegates are at stake?

Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton will split 103 delegates on Tuesday that are “pledged” to support either candidate – the delegates are almost evenly split between Kentucky (51) and Oregon (52). In each state, 34 of those delegates are awarded at the congressional district level. The rest of the pledged delegates – at-large delegates and pledged party leaders and elected officials – will be distributed to Obama and Clinton based on how they do in the statewide vote.

2. Who is favored to win?

A split decision is expected, with Clinton favored to win Kentucky and Obama favored to win Oregon. Part of Kentucky is in the Appalachian region, where Clinton has dominated the vote among working-class whites. Oregon also is largely white, but it is more culturally liberal than Kentucky and tends to favor liberal candidates who portray themselves as political outsiders. That bodes well for Obama.

3. When do the polls close – and when can we expect results?

In Kentucky, the polls close at 6 p.m. local time. Most of the state – including Louisville, Frankfort and Lexington – is in the eastern time zone, and the returns from those counties will start coming in shortly after the polls close. The western part of the state, including most of the 1st District and parts of the 2nd District, is in the central time zone, and so results from that area of the state will come in after 7 p.m. eastern time.

Not only does Kentucky end its voting earlier in than every other state – Indiana also closes its polls at 6 p.m. local time – the state’s system of reporting vote totals is very efficient. Clinton’s lead in Kentucky is so substantial that the television networks surely will make an early projection in favor of Clinton, but a large majority of the vote should be tallied before most people go to bed on the east coast.

In Oregon, there really isn’t a traditional poll closing time because the state has a “vote-by-mail” primary. Most ballots were mailed earlier this month to registered voters. Oregon law requires all ballots be received by county election officials by 8 p.m. local time (11 p.m. eastern time). Voters on Tuesday can go cast their ballot in their county elections office if they so choose. The state has already been counting the ballots and is expected to release results shortly after 11 p.m. eastern time.

4. What will the Kentucky and Oregon results mean for Clinton and Obama?

Obama on Tuesday will clinch a majority of the 3,253 pledged delegates. According to an Associated Press tally, Obama leads Clinton among pledged delegates by 1,610 to 1,443. That means Obama is just 17 delegates away from a majority of pledged delegates. With 103 pledged delegates at stake, Obama isn’t going to have a problem winning 17 of them.

“A clear majority of elected delegates will send an unmistakable message – the people have spoken, and they are ready for change,” David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, said Monday in an e-mail message to supporters.

Obama on Tuesday will not clinch a majority of the 4,049 convention delegates, a total that includes 796 unpledged “superdelegates.” That’s because than there are fewer pledged delegates in the states that have yet to vote than superdelegates who have not yet announced their support. More superdelegates probably will announce their support for Obama later this week, as they have done about every day for the past few weeks.

Clinton will spend primary night in Louisville, where she’ll probably thank her supporters in Kentucky and contend that she’ll remain in the race through the end of the Democratic voting on June 3 in South Dakota and Montana. She may again assert that she would be the stronger Democratic candidate in the fall general election, and probably will criticize McCain and steer clear from direct attacks on Obama. Clinton probably will again call for the recognition and seating of national convention delegations from Florida and Michigan, where Clinton won primary elections in January that have not been officially recognized by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The rule-making panel of the DNC will resolve the issue at a meeting on May 31.

Obama, meanwhile, will appear Tuesday night in Des Moines, the capital of Iowa – the state where Obama prevailed in first-round caucuses on January 3 that kicked off the Democratic voting. The Obama campaign has resisted characterizations of the Iowa appearance as a “victory lap,” and the Clinton campaign has pointed out that the race won’t be over after Tuesday’s vote.

“While Sen. Obama inaccurately declares himself the nominee, Sen. Clinton will continue to work hard, campaigning for every vote in the upcoming states and making the case that she will be the best nominee to take on John McCain and be our next president,” Howard Wolfson, the communications director for Clinton’s campaign, said in a statement Monday.

5. What else is on the ballot on Tuesday in Kentucky and Oregon?

The Obama-Clinton race has overshadowed Democratic contests that will determine nominees to two Republican senators who are favored to win new terms, but could face very close races – Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is the Senate Minority Leader, and Gordon Smith of Oregon.

In Kentucky, the top two Democrats on the eight-candidate ballot are Bruce Lunsford and Greg Fischer, both wealthy businessmen. Lunsford, an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2007, is expected to win. (One of the eight Democrats, Iraq War veteran Andrew Horne, withdrew from the race in February and is backing Lunsford).

In Oregon, state House Speaker Jeff Merkley and liberal activist Steve Novick are vying to oppose Smith, who is seeking a third term. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Democrats, prefers Merkley, but Novick is running a vigorous campaign.

There also are primaries for U.S. House seats.

In the Louisville-based 3rd District, Republicans are expected to nominate former Rep. Anne M. Northup to challenge Democratic Rep. John A. Yarmuth, who defeated Northup in 2006 as she sought a sixth term. In Kentucky’s 2nd District, where Republican Rep. Ron Lewis is retiring, the Republicans are expected to nominate state Sen. Brett Guthrie to face the winner of a Democratic primary that includes state Sen. David Boswell and Reid Haire, the elected judge-executive in the county that includes Owensboro.

In Oregon, Democratic Rep. Darlene Hooley is not seeking re-election in the 5th District, which includes the state capital of Salem and is a rare “open” Democratic district. The five-candidate Democratic field includes state Sen. Kurt Schrader and Steve Marks, a former chief of staff to Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber (1995-2003). The two Republican candidates are Mike Erickson, a businessman who lost to Hooley in 2006, and Kevin Mannix, a lawyer and former state legislator who was the losing Republican nominee for governor in 2002.

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