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Antifa protests may have backfired in liberal Oregon, as far-left Democratic governor loses ground

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has been losing ground in the polls, a fact that some critics and former supporters attribute to her focusing on resisting President Donald Trump instead of on state issues. (Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

Oregon's far-left Democratic governor who was expected to easily win re-election in November has been losing ground in her campaign, and Antifa and the #Resistance movement may be partly to blame.

Who are the candidates?

Incumbent Gov. Kate Brown has been in office since 2015 in solidly blue Oregon, one of the most left-wing states in the nation. She has been a leading anti-Trump liberal and was the first openly bisexual to be elected governor in the U.S.

Brown has based much of her campaign on opposing President Donald Trump. In June, she strengthened the state's sanctuary laws, in direct opposition to Trump's immigration policies. Last summer, she signed a bill making her state the first to offer free abortions for all by requiring health insurers to cover abortions.

Brown's opponent, Republican state Rep. Knute Buehler, is also no fan of Trump. He wrote in Ohio Gov. John Kasich's name on his ballot in 2016. But he has made a point to focus his campaign on state issues instead of national ones. So far, that seems to be resonating with voters.

What do the polls say?

Brown's prospects have slowly been dropping off all year. In January, a poll by Portland-based DHM research had Brown leading Buehler (who at that point had not yet won the GOP nomination) by 17 percentage points (46 percent to 29 percent).

In February, Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball rated this election as "likely Democratic."

By July, Buehler had pulled even (45 percent to 45 percent) with Brown in a poll conducted by Gravis Marketing. Oregon pollsters said that they had seen similar data. That same Gravis poll showed that only 19 percent of respondents strongly approved of Brown's performance as governor (26 percent somewhat approved) while 36 percent strongly disapproved (11 percent somewhat disapproved). However, 49 percent of respondents in that Gravis poll preferred the Democratic Party, while only 37 preferred the GOP.

On Aug. 2, a poll released by Clout Research showed Buehler pulling into the lead, 43.1 percent to 41.9 percent.

Since then, both the Cook Political Report and Sabato have changed their predictions from "likely Democratic" to "leans Democratic."

But why?

One factor in Brown's drop in the polls could be how closely she's linked her campaign to the movement trying to resist Trump.

The Washington Times spoke with a former Brown supporter who said that he was appalled when he saw Antifa protesters climb onto the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Portland, tear down the American flag, and wave the Antifa flag in his place.

“It just goes to a lack of true leadership because that’s chaos. I feel like the state is in chaos. And it feels awful,” the supporter, Ben West, said. “It’s not the Oregon I know and grew up in.”

On paper, West should be one of Brown's staunchest supporters. He and his now husband were plaintiffs in Oregon's gay-marriage lawsuit, and he voted for Brown in her last election. However, he has grown weary of Brown's lack of leadership.

“She’s had an opportunity but we’re continuing to spiral down,” West told the Times. “The ship is sinking and the captain is nowhere to be found.”

The race will still likely go to Brown, but the polls point to voter fatigue with Brown's approach to governing and with the Antifa movement.

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