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Oregon Race to Replace David Wu Next Special to Watch

What happened in New Yorks 9th district Tuesday likely wont be re-created across the country in coastal Oregons 1st district, which is strongly Democratic and next in line for a special election.

But in this political environment, no one is feeling comfortable, and that includes the Democrats running for this seat. The race forces the party to hold yet another seat vacated by a Member who resigned in scandal, and the campaigns already in full swing took notice of Tuesdays Democratic drubbing.

The stunning defeat in a favorable district was used Wednesday in a fundraising solicitation by Republican candidate Rob Cornilles, and it has ensured that the eventual Democratic nominee in the race to succeed ex-Rep. David Wu wont take the Jan. 31, 2012, special election lightly. Roll Call rates the race as Likely Democratic.

There are plenty of reasons for what happened in New York 9 that are not broadly applicable here, one Oregon Democratic consultant said. But having said that, we are in a pretty cranky and volatile electorate on the broad strokes as well as in the specifics of the district. So it certainly amps up the significance of that national attention as much as anything in Oregon 1.

Jake Weigler, a consultant for Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, a Democratic candidate, said Tuesdays results were a good reminder that this will likely be a competitive general election.

Theres some specific foreign policy dynamics for the New York race that probably arent as applicable here, Weigler said. But the lesson were taking is that its important for our candidate to define himself and not run simply as a surrogate for the president.

Ties to President Barack Obama hurt the Democratic nominees in both the New York and Nevada specials Tuesday. Obamas approval rating in both districts was well below 50 percent. And like Nevada, Oregon has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

Salem-based GOP consultant Chuck Adams said recent statewide polling hes conducted has found voters anger to be the highest hes seen in 30 years. Still, as high a Democratic registration advantage as there is in the Brooklyn- and Queens-based New York district, this Portland-area district has seen better Democratic performance. Obama won it by 25 points in 2008, compared with an 11-point win in New Yorks 9th district.

The media market is also far more affordable, and the states mail-in voting changes the dynamic of voter turnout.

It is a very tough district for Republicans to win, generally speaking, by the numbers and demographics, Adams said. But then, whats tougher than New York? So there has got to be some hope for the Cornilles campaign after watching [Tuesday] nights result.

Democratic consultant Jim Ross said unemployment and Obamas unpopularity are issues in every district, but comparing the two races is like comparing the Columbia River to the Hudson. One big difference, he said, is candidate quality, an intensified attribute in special election sprints.

Oregon 1 has a better group of Democratic candidates who have been elected and supported by the core of the district for years, Ross said. These are skilled campaigners that wont make the gaffes on the budget deficit or other issues.

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