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Not So Special

House Race Hotline (subscriber) takes a closer look at the anticipated outcome in Oregon's 1st District, where ballots are due today in the all-mail special election.

After late, underdog surges in the New York specials last year, Democrats received a mild scare two weeks ago when Rob Cornilles's campaign released a poll showing the Republican within the margin of error, though still behind. But most everything since then points to a snoozer when balloting closes Jan. 31.

-- Yes, the National Republican Congressional Committee went up with a coordinated expenditure for Cornilles soon after the poll, but that was its only involvement in the campaign, and it was limited. The real money came from uncapped independent expenditures, like the $1 million+ the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent to boost Suzanne Bonamici. The NRCC never indicated a willingness to make that kind of investment.

-- Last week, each campaign released closing TV ads, and it's not hard to see who's ahead based on their messages. Cornilles attacked Bonamici's connections to former Rep. David Wu, a tactic he bypassed earlier. Meanwhile, Cornilles didn't feature in Bonamici's last, purely positive ad.

-- Ballots went out Jan. 13 for the all-mail election, and over 30 percent were returned by this past weekend. Bonamici's campaign said last week that Democrats have a 16-point edge ballot returns, compared to an 11-point registration edge. That gap will drop as rural, GOP-leaning counties tally more ballots, but Democrats may end up over-represented in the final tally, a great sign for Bonamici.

Not every special election was made equal. This one started to look exciting a few weeks ago, but House race junkies will have to wait until the special election to fill Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's, D-Ariz., seat for more intrigue. Oregon 1st District is playing to its Democratic-leaning type.

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