Skip to comments.Kulongoski (D) clings to lead, poll shows [OR Governor]
Posted on 11/01/2002 6:31:10 AM PST by BlackRazor
Kulongoski clings to lead, poll shows
Democrat Ted Kulongoski continues to hold a measurable -- but by no means secure -- lead over Republican Kevin Mannix in the race for Oregon governor, according to a new poll conducted for The Oregonian and KATU (2).
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The statewide survey showed Kulongoski at 48 percent, with Mannix at 42 percent and Libertarian Tom Cox at 5 percent. The percentage of undecideds has dwindled since early October.
As a result, Kulongoski said he is confident of victory if the Democrats get their voters to mail their ballots by Tuesday's deadline.
Mannix, however, said the race is so close -- the poll's margin of error is 4 percentage points -- that he will win if he can persuade a relatively small number of additional voters to back him.
"I think this polling shows it's going down to the wire," Mannix said.
The Oct. 25-29 survey of 608 likely voters -- defined as those who have voted in at least two of the past four primary and general elections -- also showed that U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., is continuing to hold a big lead in his re-election race against Democrat Bill Bradbury.
Smith -- whose multimillion-dollar advertising campaign has pushed his approval ratings in Oregon above that of President Bush -- is supported by 55 percent of voters, to 36 percent for Bradbury.
Independent pollster Tim Hibbitts, who conducted the survey, said the national Democrats might have made the campaign competitive if they had poured money into the race early. That didn't happened, and now even 28 percent of Democratic voters say they back Smith.
The survey also tracks closely to a poll released Thursday by KGW (8). It showed Kulongoski leading at 46 percent, with 42 percent for Mannix. The poll's margin of error is 4 percentage points.
The gap between Kulongoski and Mannix has not appeared to change during the past month, with a series of polls showing the Democrat leading by 4 to 8 percentage points.
Mannix, who started far back in polls after emerging from a divisive three-way primary in May, seized on the issue of taxes in September after the Legislature placed a measure on the Jan. 28 ballot asking voters to temporarily raise income taxes to fill a budget shortfall.
While Kulongoski reluctantly supported the measure, Mannix emphasized his opposition and quickly cemented Republican support behind him.
But the tax issue didn't appear to make big inroads among independents and Democrats -- although 58 percent of those surveyed said they probably will or definitely will vote against the tax measure.
"Making the case on taxes got him in the ballgame, but it didn't get him the last five points he needed," Hibbitts said of Mannix.
In fact, while voters gave Mannix higher marks in holding down taxes and government spending, they were about equally split on who could best improve the economy. And Kulongoski had a clear edge with voters on education, the environment and social issues, such as abortion and gay rights.
Kulongoski attributed the closeness of the race to the "fairly even split between Republicans and Democrats" in Oregon. While Democrats have won most statewide races in the past decade, they've often done so by relatively small margins.
Now, Democrats are focused on their aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts, which have particularly been effective since the state shifted to all-mail elections in 2000. Because Democrats are concentrated in Portland and other urban areas, they're relatively easy to reach with door-to-door canvassing.
"One of the things we do have is a very good statewide organization," Kulongoski said. "And we're getting that vote out, and I think it's going to benefit me in the end."
Republicans say they beefed up voter-turnout efforts this year, and Mannix said he hopes to woo more voters with an ad campaign he started this week saying he's tougher on crime than Kulongoski.
A key component of Kulongoski's lead is his advantage among independent voters, 49 percent of whom back him, compared with 29 percent for Mannix. There's also a sharp geographical divide, with Kulongoski running strong in the Portland area and Mannix ahead in the rest of the state.
For much of the year, both candidates have struggled to become well-known among voters preoccupied by national and international events. A series of special legislative sessions to deal with budget problems also didn't help.
Now, neither candidate has particularly high marks with voters, with both holding unfavorable ratings that are about as high as their favorable ratings.
"These two candidates are the least popular gubernatorial candidates I've ever polled in Oregon" since starting in 1978, Hibbitts said. That probably stems from the many negative ads the candidates have run about each other, he said.
Cox, the Libertarian, said he thinks the poll understates the amount of support he'll receive Tuesday because it excludes occasional voters he believes tend to support him. Even if he receives the 5 percent of votes indicated in the poll, Cox said, that would more than double his party's best showing in an Oregon governor's race and increase the Libertarians' influence in state politics.
While Mannix has chafed at Cox's presence in the race, Hibbitts said he doesn't think Cox is taking a significant number of votes from the Republican. He said Cox draws from those who like his views on social issues and from voters who wouldn't back either major-party candidate.
The new poll once again showed difficult prospects for the Jan. 28 measure, which would raise income taxes by $725 million over the next three years. It is supported by only 37 percent of voters, and only a small percentage of those against the measure said they'd support it if they knew there would otherwise be reductions in services.
Oregon AFL-CIO President Tim Nesbitt, a chief backer of the measure, said he thought support could grow if voters learned more about possible program cuts. He said he and other backers would decide after Tuesday's election whether to fund a major campaign in favor of it.
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