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An Oregon Oddity?

4:16 PM, May 19, 2008 • By GARY ANDRES
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Brian Schaffner points out a potential oddity in this week's Oregon primary. The state has a vote-by-mail system, so while the election's tomorrow, many of Oregon's citizens have already voted. That makes polling a little more challenging. So here's the interesting twist in two recent surveys. While Obama holds a healthy lead among those who say they intend to vote, the race appears much closer among those who say they've already cast their ballots.

This is true in both a Survey USA poll and in this American Research Group survey. Both show a statistical tie among those who already have voted. According to Schaffner:

In the Survey USA poll (conducted 5/9-11), 43% reported that they had already mailed in their ballots and Obama's lead in this group was just 49-48% (well within the margin of error). On the other hand, among those who intended to vote but had not yet done so, Obama [held] a 58-38% lead. Similarly, the American Research Group survey (conducted 5/14-15) indicated that Obama was tied with Clinton at 49% among the 58% of Oregon Democrats who already mailed in their ballots (the higher figure for those who had already voted makes sense given that the poll was conducted a few days later than the Survey USA poll). Among those who intended to vote but had not yet done so, Obama led 52-40%. Thus, if these two polls are correct, Obama and Clinton are in a dead heat among the votes that are already in and Obama is relying on those who have not yet cast their ballots to generate the big margin he is expected to win by.

In addition to Clinton's strong performance among voters who have cast their ballots, the most recent polling at Pollster.com and survey results posted on Real Clear Politics show the race closing in most recent surveys. Instead of his previous near double-digit lead, Obama is ahead by just four or five points in most current polls.

Moreover, as many who followed the primary exit polls closely have pointed out, Senator Clinton has consistently done well among late-deciders -- another factor that might cause the race to close. These findings might reflect Oregonians taking a second look at Clinton -- or perhaps they tell pollsters they plan to vote for Obama, but then reconsider and mail in a Clinton ballot. I still think the odds of Senator Clinton winning Oregon are long, but this oddity in the numbers among those who have already voted and her ability to close well may keep this race competitive.