Clinton visits tonight
Susan and Ken Muller's front lawn looks like the Democratic presidential contest in miniature. There's a lawn sign for Hillary Clinton and one for Barack Obama that sit side-by-side in the flower bed next to their front porch.
The Talent couple, who have recently started a new organic farm known as Rogue Valley Brambles, say they like both candidates, and the lawn signs just show they would be happy with either Obama or Clinton in the White House.
"Like a lot of Americans, we are undecided," said Susan, 29. "The candidates are so similar on policy issues that it comes down to a decision that is almost all about personality."
The couple are planning to go to the Clinton town hall at 8:30 tonight at the Olsrud Arena at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point as they try to make up their minds. The doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Both Obama and Clinton will be fighting for voters like the Mullers as Oregon takes center stage in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In a recent Rasmussen Reports telephone survey, Obama has a 12-point lead over Clinton in Oregon, with 51 percent of the votes compared to Clinton's 39 percent.
This survey of 867 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted on May 1. The sampling error is plus or minus 3 percent.
Obama leads in delegates overall but is depending on a strong showing in Oregon's May 20 primary to garner as many of the state's 65 delegates and superdelegates as possible. Clinton needs to narrow Obama's lead as she continues her drive to close the delegate gap.
"We know we are starting off behind here," said Julie Edwards, spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign in Oregon. "It will be a tough battle as our opponent has outspent us three to one or four to one in other states."
Edwards said the New York senator wants to have a conversation with Jackson County residents at the town hall to find out what they're most concerned about.
She said Clinton wants to work hard on issues such as bringing "green" jobs to the state and renewing the county payments program that has pumped $23 million in Jackson County.
Nick Shapiro, spokesman for the Obama campaign in Oregon, said this state could increase the Illinois senator's lead in delegates.
"May 20th might be the big day," said Shapiro.
Shapiro said Obama will be in Oregon Friday and Saturday, but locations haven't been announced.
Susan Muller said the attention on Oregon is unusual. "I don't think the voters here are used to being key players," she said.
With ballots in hand and 12 days left before the primary is over, the Mullers don't have much time to make up their minds. "It might come down to the wire," said Susan.
The Mullers said they would like Obama to come back to Jackson County so they could size him up as a person.
"I'm leaning more towards Obama and she's more towards Hillary," said Ken, 26.
But Susan said she wasn't happy with Clinton's stance on the so-called gas tax holiday because it doesn't answer the long-term problems that the U.S. faces over oil.
"Americans need to feel the pain of higher gas prices before they change their lifestyle," she said.
Susan said she is not particularly bothered by the uproar over Obama's former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
"Everyone makes bad choices — just look at Bill Clinton," she said. "I don't think we'll ever get somebody perfectly clean and pure."
Ken said he likely will make a choice after he reads the books written by the two candidates.
There is one thing he is sure about with either Clinton or Obama.
"Both are so much better than Bush," he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org