Oregon's changing politics

How Biden won Oregon with the widest Democratic margin since 2008

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Although the Beaver State was heavily contested in 2000 and 2004, since 2008 it has emerged as a reliable part of the Democratic column. Since Oregon has only a few congressional districts, let’s look at the past three presidential elections by State House District. This will give us a clearer overview of the state’s evolving politics.

In 2012, President Obama easily carried Oregon and won 39/60 State House districts. Obama kept the margins down in many of the more rural districts and his overwhelming dominance in Portland powered him to victory.

Flash forward four years later and Hillary Clinton carries the state by a slightly reduced margin. The shift among rural and blue-collar voters is quite evident. Clinton lost ground in exurban districts northwest of Portland and along the coast. The coastline of the Pacific Northwest is quite interesting and Oregon is no exception. Democrats for many years proved dominant there because they were able to assemble a winning coalition of hippie esque voters and white working-class ones as well. When Donald Trump arrived on the scene, this coalition fell apart.

Joe Biden pushed the statewide margin up to 16% last year and flipped back three Obama/Trump State House districts. Biden made gains in northwest Oregon not by winning back blue-collar voters but by picking up more suburbanites. Northwest Oregon stretches from the Portland suburbs to rural communities and places like Astoria.

Biden was able to return to near Obama level margins on parts of the coast but didn’t really make inroads in eastern Oregon, with the exception of Deschutes County. Home to the city of Bend, Deschutes is the only county in eastern Oregon that is trending towards Democrats. Biden crushed it in HD-54, which is home to most of Bend and Democrats handily ousted Republican State Rep. Cheri Holt. Biden carried 39/60 House districts but traded the blue-collar HD-9 along the coast for suburban HD-24.

Biden was a best of both worlds candidate for Oregon Democrats this year. Clawing back some degree of support among blue-collar whites and expanding margins in the Portland suburbs powered him to the best Dem performance since Obama 2008.


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