If anyone had told me there could be a less exciting candidate for Governor than Ron Saxton, I never would have believed it. But, over a year and a half out from the election, the Oregon Republican establishment is already lining up behind Allen Alley.
Saxton and Alley are both highly capable men who would make good governors. Both men know the halls of business and of Salem. Both men are veteran dealmakers who can work both sides of the political aisle. Both men, one on one, are personable and engaging.
Neither man, however, has that elusive “˜star quality.’
A candidate needs three things to win an election — money, an excited base to beat the streets, and charisma. If your party has a significant lead in voter registrations you can get by on two, or sometimes even one, of the three.
In 2006 Democrats outnumbered Republicans by only 60,000 in Oregon, but Saxton just didn’t have the charisma or a base excited enough to move enough of the state’s 434,000 non affiliated voters his way. Ted Kulongoski may be boring as hell, but one of the advantages of being a union stooge (provided you don’t miss your immortal soul) is access to virtually unlimited union dollars and footsoldiers.
With Democrats now outnumbering Republicans 930,000 to 692,000 it’s going to take a lot more than one helluva a voter registration drive to deliver the governor’s office to the Republicans in 2010. It’s going to take most of the state’s 431,000 non-affiliated voters. Even if Oregon continues to have unemployment five points higher than the national rate, it’s going to take a candidate with the charisma of Barak Obama or Sarah Palin to excite the base and win over independents.
The election is over a year and a half off, the primary is over a year away and there’s only one declared Republican candidate. Isn’t it a little too soon to be lining up behind a candidate?