Oregon Jobs Rate Dampens Bush Hopes

Oregon has the highest unemployment rate of any battleground state, 7.4 percent — a fact that has dampened President Bush's hopes of converting the state from Democratic to Republican.

Bush had big plans for the Western swing state after losing it by just 6,765 votes out of 1.5 million cast in 2000. It was one of six states settled by fewer than 10,000 votes — along with Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico won by Democrat Al Gore (search) and Florida and New Hampshire won by Bush.

Those others are still tossups, the focus of repeated candidate visits and millions of dollars in television advertising.

Not Oregon. Not anymore. Not unless the national race suddenly shifts from a dead heat to a Bush rout. After a spate of polls showing Democratic Sen. John Kerry (search) with a 5- to 10-point lead, Bush cut his Oregon advertising nearly in half this week. Kerry is still saturating the state with ads, but that could change, too.

Bush visited the state last week but has no plans to return.

Key to the race are Portland's two fastest-growing suburban counties, Washington and Clackamas, where Bush has focused his efforts in hopes of energizing GOP-leaning voters who stayed home on Election Day four years ago.

State issues could affect voter turnout. Ballot initiatives include one to ban gay marriage and another to expand the state's legal medical uses for marijuana.


7 — Electoral votes.

7.3 — Jobless rate — it was 4.8 percent when Bush took office.

56 — Percent of Oregon land owned by federal government.

9 — American Indian tribes and Indian casinos in Oregon.


— "I'm leaning toward Kerry. I don't love either one of them, but I think that the country would be better under his leadership. Bush's foreign relations need to be changed." — Carson Wright, 20, of Corvallis.

— "I'm going to vote for Bush and Cheney. There are moral issues, like abortion, where I come down on the side of Bush." — James Watson, 21, Portland college student.


Vice President Dick Cheney has visited Oregon five times this year but has no picture or statement in the official state Voters' Pamphlet, which is mailed to all households. The Bush-Cheney campaign said it decided to submit only an entry from President Bush to represent the ticket.


The Portland suburbs are the state's political barometer, where Bush and Democrat Al Gore ran close in 2000. There are signs the Medford-Ashland area — southern Oregon's major urban area and a magnet for California retirees — now is another place to watch. Bush trounced Gore there in 2000, but visits by Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards generated sizable crowds.


Ralph Nader as the Green Party contender attracted 10,000 people to one Portland rally, and he wound up with 5 percent of the election tally, while Democrat Al Gore defeated George Bush by less than one-half of 1 percent statewide. Nader is not on the ballot this year.