Romney, Edwards lead in Oregon money race


Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and one-time North Carolina Sen. John Edwards may be lagging in the national polls of presidential hopefuls.

But the two are handily winning the money race in Oregon, outraising their rivals in the state by margins of about 4-to-1 and 2-to-1, respectively.

According to new figures compiled by the Federal Election Commission, Romney, a Republican, has raised the most money in Oregon so far: $325,010, as of the end of June, just days after he visited the state for a private luncheon with donors.

Edwards, meanwhile, topped the Democratic contenders, with $208,448; he is the only one of the leading Democrats in the race to make a public visit to Oregon so far, with the town hall he headlined in Portland in May.

Neither, though, has managed to make much of a dent with the wider Oregon electorate. A March poll by independent Portland pollster Mike Riley found just 5 percent of Oregon Republicans said they were Romney supporters, far behind former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the top vote-getter with 33 percent.

In the same poll, just 8 percent of registered Democrats said they planned to vote for Edwards, while front-runner Hillary Clinton, a New York senator, drew support from 31 percent of those polled. Riley questioned 478 likely voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 7 percentage points.

And overall, Oregon has not been a major player so far in the money chase. Oregonians have contributed just over $1 million to the presidential contenders so far, about four-tenths of one percent of the overall total of $265 million. contrast, in just the last three months, New Yorkers have donated $17.3 million to presidential candidates.

Considering that lack of deep pockets, and with the state's primary set for May 20, months after the likely nominees are expected to emerge, Oregon probably won't see much of the major contestants for the next eight months or so.

So far, Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich has paid the most attention to Oregon, notching three visits. He's also the only presidential hopeful to venture beyond the Portland metro area, with a trip to Eugene, though Edwards has reportedly been airing television ads there.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, also a Democrat, has visited Portland for a fundraiser, and Giuliani popped by for a brief meet-and-greet at a downtown Portland deli in June, before heading to Seattle.

There's been no visit yet from Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who has so far raised $76,105 in Oregon, though McCain counts the state's most prominent Republican, Sen. Gordon Smith, as one of his supporters.

Clinton, and the other high-profile Democrat in the race, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, have also not visited Oregon yet, despite raising $126,888 and $116,177 from Oregonians, respectively.

Most of the top-tier candidates don't seem to have much of a field organization in the state yet. At this stage of a presidential race, attention is generally focused on the four early primary states: New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada.

But Patricia Phillips, grass-roots volunteer coordinator for "Oregon Obama," said she's been in touch with the candidate's West Coast political director, and that the Illinois Democrat may head to Oregon in the fall.

In the meantime, momentum has been building locally for her candidate, Phillips said, with plenty of Oregonians who were on the Howard Dean bandwagon in 2004 signing up with Obama.

Romney's good showing, meanwhile, may be partly due to his Mormon faith; Oregon, like many other Western states, has a flourishing Mormon community. Romney has also tapped some of the state's most skilled fundraisers to serve on his state finance team, including Charles "Butch" Swindells, one of President Bush's top moneymen on the West Coast.

"Romney is a personable guy, who has shown that a Republican can win in a Democratically controlled state," said Riley, the Portland pollster. "That probably makes him appear attractive to Oregon Republicans, who are tired of being painted as the party of extremism."

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