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Second District challenger sees (slim) hope in new poll

Jamie McLeod-Skinner hopes enthusiasm carries her to victory against U.S. Rep. Greg Walden despite mounting odds.

COURTESY PHOTO - Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner sees positive numbers in a new poll showing her far behind Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.SALEM — Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner, challenging longtime Congressman Greg Walden, R-Hood River, in Oregon's Second Congressional District, is touting new poll numbers showing her opponent with less than 50 percent support among surveyed voters.

But the figures show she's still behind. The poll, commissioned by the campaign, shows 40 percent of respondents favored her, and 49 percent favored Walden. About 5 percent of those surveyed were undecided and 7 percent favored the Independent candidate, Mark Roberts.

Patinkin Research Strategies surveyed about 400 likely voters in the district. The poll's margin of error is 5 percent. About 25 percent of respondents who identified as independent remained undecided, according to the poll.

"McLeod-Skinner has been able to translate deep enthusiasm among Democratic voters and donors into (a) one million dollar campaign effort boosted by over 2,500 volunteers across the district in her effort to unseat Walden," a memo from pollsters provided to the Oregon Capital Bureau states. "However, more support will be necessary in order to push the center-right targets identified above into Jamie's camp over the next two weeks."

PMG/EO MEDIA/SRIn a statement, McLeod-Skinner touted the numbers as evidence of support for her platform against Walden, who helped design a failed plan last year to repeal the Affordable Care Act. "The numbers that are starting to come out reflect what we've seen throughout this campaign," McLeod-Skinner said in a statement. "People are frustrated by what the current representative has done to threaten their access to affordable health care."

Walden has outraised McLeod-Skinner nearly 5-to-1, with about $4.9 million in campaign contributions.

And a McLeod-Skinner victory is a tall order in a district that's been labeled as a Likely" Republican victory by Ipsos polling and "Safe" Republican district by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections also label it a "Safe R" district.

GREG WALDENNate Silver's politics and sports news site, FiveThirtyEight.com, pegs McLeod-Skinner's chances of winning the race at 0.5 percent. FiveThirtyEight expects Walden to clinch about 59 percent of the vote. But the Democrat's campaign said that recent fundraising momentum and demographic changes in the district may work in her favor come election night. McLeod-Skinner has raised significantly more than prior Walden challengers — about $1.06 million as of late September.

The district, which includes southwest Oregon and covers central and eastern Oregon, has seen its population grow about 7 percent since 2010, according to the McLeod-Skinner campaign. Most of that growth, especially in cities like Medford and Bend, is people moving to the district from places like Portland, Seattle and California.

The number of nonaffiliated voters in the district (182,434) exceeds the number of registered Democrats (143,317), according to September figures from the state Elections Division. Republicans dominate the district with 188,755 registered voters. There are another 28,576 voters in the district who identify as members of the Independent Party.

The poll released found that while 87 percent of Republicans surveyed supported Walden, 9 percent of them supported McLeod-Skinner. Meanwhile, 94 percent of Democrats surveyed said they supported McLeod-Skinner.

A spokesman for Walden said the campaign was "confident" in the incumbent's re-election. "Greg Walden has a proven record of serving as a strong voice for rural Oregon in Congress," Justin Discigil, a spokesman for Walden, said in a prepared statement. "That is why Greg's campaign has the backing of thousands of local supporters in Oregon and we are confident in his re-election in November."

Reporter Claire Withycombe: cwithycombe@eomediagroup.com or 503-385-4903. Withycombe is a reporter for the East Oregonian working for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.